Gianfranco Cunsolo

Gianfranco Cunsolo, Italy

Our business is located near the town of Vittoria in the South East of Sicily.  Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and although part of Italy, it is very much an autonomous region. The island is renowned for its unique culture, particularly regarding the arts and the wonderful local cuisine.  This comes as no surprise since much of the economy is based around pure agricultural products especially vegetables and fruits (oranges and lemons).

Here in Vittoria I grow cucumbers and organic tomatoes. Not the standard tomatoes but a wonderful specialty we call “wild tomatoes”.  These are best described as a broad assortment of small sized, very tasty and colourful tomato varieties, packed in a 200 gram tray.

Last summer, I was on Italian television, where they made a programme about my Wild Wonder tomatoes. You can watch it by clicking here.

 

Interview

Can you tell us why you became an organic grower?

After finishing high school I started to work on my fathers farm.  At the time he was running a flower business and working there was a logical step for me.  Nevertheless, due to the fact that we were using a lot of insecticides, pesticides and other agro chemicals, I began to realise that this was not the business I wanted to be involved in. I wanted a radical change and after some research, I decided that organic farming was the future.  In the year 2000 I started renting an organic farm which I consequently bought in 2006.  The following year I built a new greenhouse.  Today, I am very proud of what we have built up and that my delicious and colourful tomatoes can be bought throughout Europe!

Why are there so many organic farms in Sicily?

There are four main reasons why. Firstly: Sicily is a volcanic island (Mt. Etna is a good example).  This rich and fertile volcanic soil is ideal for organic agriculture. Secondly: Sicily is situated in the southern Mediterranean, no more than 150 kilometres from the North-African coast, and therefore has the benefit of sunshine for much of the year. Even the winter months are mild. Thirdly: Sicilians are strong agricultural roots going back centuries (before agro chemicals were invented). Finally: politics also plays a role:  In 2003 and 2004, the Italian government wanted to stimulate organic agriculture in Southern Italy and on the Islands (Sicily, Sardinia) and offered state subsidies. In some regions this aid is no longer available and some farms have left the organic control system. Nevertheless, most of them continued to farm organically, even though they are selling their products with no label in the non-organic market. It is important to note that no market oriented farm went back to the conventional system.

How many varieties of tomatoes do you grow and what is your favourite ? 

I grow around 16 different varieties of tomatoes.  Some of them have great names like Snowberry, Red Zebra, Yellow Pear, Brownberry and Santorange!  More information can be found under products / wild wonders. I have two favourites.  Firstly: the Yellow Pear, because of its beautiful colour and fresh taste. I use this myself for salads, because it gives the dish a lot of extra taste and colour. I am also very fond of my Caprese tomatoes ideal for one of our most famous recipes Caprese Siciliana (tomatoes, mozzarella, fresh basil and olive oil!)

Can you tell us something about your employees?
We have a very international workforce: Local Sicilians, Tunisians and Romanians.  Many of our employees have been working with me for a long time and we are a very close team.  A good relationship with my employees is vital for me and I try and help them out as much as I can. In return I have a hard working and motivated workforce.

What is your mission/purpose in life?

I want to be an example for other growers/friends and encourage them to switch to organic production.  This is because I firmly believe that life is more than just paying the mortgage. I want to inspire others to respect everything around us.

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What am I growing?

Geolocation is 36.9500323, 14.53721680000001

Sustainability flower

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Where to find?

Map

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