GOJI DEL MUGELLO
In 2017, listening to Radio Toscana, Erica found out about the ReStartApp residential training, and decided to enroll. The Goji del Mugello project won the first prize. «During the course I had the opportunity to share ideas and discuss with other entrepreneurs, much more qualified than me in the agricultural sector. Receiving training in that field was vital». Erica did the internship required by the course curriculum in Due Carrare (Padua), at the foot of the Colli Euganei hills, where Goji Capo – a business growing organic Goji berries – was founded, in Villa Capodaglio. “Later, we purchased our first plants from them, and today they are still supporting us with cultivation techniques”, says Erica explaining that Goji Lycium Barbarum (this is the name of the plant from which the berries are obtained) does not need any specific treatments. It suffers in case of excessive moisture – this is why it adapts so easily to the Apennine environment -, appreciates the wind, and may be attacked by stink-bugs (“which, however, was not the case with our plants” points out Erica). The Pini family treats the plants with manure and organic fertilisers, and the farm has been a certified organic farm from the very beginning.
Azienda agricola Pini has been a certified organic farm since the very beginning, verified by the certification body CCPB. The orchard where Goji Lycium Barbarum plants are grown had been left fallow for a long time. In these cases, the law allows the business owner to ask for a retroactive recognition of the conversion period, which, in the agricultural sector, is normally three years. «We had to prove that the land had not been farmed for years and that there are no potential sources of contamination near our plot. These statements, of course, need to be supported by analytical data». The certification was granted because the plants, which we purchased from Goji Capo at €5.50 each, were organic too.
When the entire system starts production, the harvested berries should weigh at least 350 grams per plant, and could even reach one kilogram per plant – overall, at least two tons. «The berries are picked manually and can be eaten fresh, even though we normally see them dried. Our project envisages processing, too – highlights Erica – We are now experimenting with some recipes». This is why, besides the Goji Lycium Barbarum plants, also Nanchino Cherry trees, and typically round-shaped Nashi pear trees – as well shrubs of raspberries and blackberries – can be found on the plot of land in Grezzanello. «We are planning to turn the berries into preserves, mixing them with other Chinese fruits or Italian red fruits. Last year we prepared a really tasty Goji and fig jam» she says.
Beyond the stream there is another plot of land owned by the family, ready to host another orchard once the experimentation stage is completed. A half-hectare vineyard, instead, will be planted near the Goji rows. «A grape jam or juice with Goji berries could be interesting, too » reflects Erica.
The projects of Azienda Agricola Pini (this is the name of the start-up established by Erica at the end of 2017) also envisage the restoration of an old watermill along stream Pesciola, which could become a processing laboratory. For the time being, however, Erica is considering relying on the processing plant belonging to De Lunica, the leading fruit and vegetable reseller in the area, who, over the last few years, has implemented an important supply chain project in Mugello involving about forty farms scattered over a 70-kilometre radius from Vicchio. «They opened a laboratory for the processing of organic products, so my first step will be to ask them for help. I have already talked to them, and they said they’d be willing to do it. Another option for us – should we decide not to process everything ourselves or be unable to do so – is to sell our fresh products to Goji Capo».