Terre Frumentarie: Case Study n.1

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Terre Frumentarie: Case Study n.1 

Made by Dario Ruggiero (Founder and Coordinator of the web-site www.lteconomy.it/en), with the collaboration of Giuseppe Li Rosi (Owner of the farm "Terre Frumentarie") - October 2014 



What a “native seed” is? How does it benefit our health and the health of our lands? Before I met Giuseppe Li Rosi, I had never imagined that there are so many varieties of wheat and that the characteristics of these varieties are closely related to the features of the places where they have been traditionally grown. I did not know that the quality of "gluten" (the matter that allows you to turn the flour into pasta, bread and so on) varies from wheat to wheat and that the gluten of "ancient wheat" (the wheat traditionally grown in a given territory) is far more digestible than the gluten of "modern wheat" (the one used to produce pasta and bread we usually find on supermarket shelves). Finally, I was completely unaware of the fact that cultivating non-native wheat in a certain land can seriously damage the fertility of the soil: in order to make the soil suitable for that non-native wheat we need to make a massive use of chemicals in terms of fertilizers and pesticides. 
“Terre Frumentarie” is an eco-business experiment of considerable interest. It aims to: 1) produce high-quality food, with an high level of marketability; 2) preserve and improve soil fertility by using organic farming techniques, as well as, new innovative eco-sustainable agricultural techniques. With regard to the first feature (produce high-quality food), “Terre Frumentarie” cultivates only Sicilian ancient wheat, whose nutritional and digestibility qualities are far higher than those of modern wheat. With regard to the second feature (preserve and improve soil fertility), the use of organic farming, crop rotation and the technique of “Evolutionary Genetic Improvement” ensures that the fertility of soil is preserved or even improved.

The Long Term Economy recognizes high value in those initiatives that aim to preserve or increase the value (especially in terms of natural capital) of a certain asset/land in a long term perspective. Li Rosi has managed to combine the need to produce marketable goods (therefore, goods whose production is economically sustainable) with the need to preserve and increase the value of the land in the long run (in Li Rosi’s farm soil fertility is preserved or even increased, while the quality and specificity of the products  raises the farm’s economic value). It is for these reasons that "Terre Frumentarie" is a company which complies with the Long Term Economy’s principles. Li Rosi’s farm deserves in all respects the title of "pro-Long Term Economy company."
(Founder and Coordinator of the web-site www.lteconomy.it/en) 
Raddusa (CT), August 9, 2014: on the left Giuseppe Li Rosi (owner of the farm “Terre Frumentarie”- http://www.terrefrumentarie.it/); on the right Dario Ruggiero (Founder and Coordinator of the web-site www.lteconomy.it/en)


Thanks are due to Dr. Giuseppe Li Rosi (Owner of the farm "Terre Frumentarie") and to Dr. Gianfranco Venora, Managing Director of the "Stazione Consorziale Sperimentale di Granicoltura per la Sicilia" (Caltagirone, Sicily) 

Terre Frumentarie: a Snapshot on the Company 
The Story 
The Types of Wheat 
The "Evolutionary Genetic Improvement Technique" 
The "Stazione Consorziale Sperimentale di Granicoltura per la Sicilia" 
Terre Frumentarie's Network: "Terre e Tradizioni" and the 35 Scilian Farms 
Terre Frumentarie's Future Perspectives 

Terre Frumentarie: a Snapshot on the Company 

"Terre Frumentarie" is a one-man farm, based in Raddusa, in the province of Catania in Sicily, owned and headed by Giuseppe Li Rosi. This farm consists of approximately 220 hectares, including 2.5 hectares of olive groves, 4 of figs of India trees,  and the remaining part used for “seeding.” These latter 200 hectares are spitted in two sections: one intended for the cultivation of cereals and the other one for legumes (changing allocation from year to year). That is the so called “crop rotation,” that Li Rosi uses in order to preserve soil fertility.
The peculiar features

Terre Frumentarie has two main features: it cultivates only “native wheat” (since 2000); 2) this wheat is cultivated with "organic methods" in order to preserve the fertility and resilience of the land. After a careful selection, Giuseppe Li Rosi has chosen to grow the following varieties of ancient Sicilian wheat: Timilìa, Farro Lungo and Maiorca.
For three years, the farm has been testing the so called "Evolutionary Genetic Improvement technique." This technique consists in growing together a mix of different seed varieties in order to select the kinds of wheat that best suits the characteristics of the soil and the local microclimate (see the specific section). Of the 100 hectares used for the cultivation of wheat in “Terre Frumentarie,” about 50 hectares are intended for Timilìa, 20 for Maiorca, 15 for Farro Lungo  and 15 for  the Evolutionary Genetic Improvement technique.
The Supply Chain and the Market
The end product of "Terre Frumentarie" is "flour," made exclusively from its own ancient wheat. The flour is sold (in exclusivity) only to one customer: "Terre e Tradizioni." It is Terre e Tradizioni which maxes products for the end-customer (such as pasta, biscuits and so on) (see the specific section). "Terre Frumentarie," has also planned to ensure the “font” of seeds (that is the base from which seeds are multiplied) to Terre e Tradizioni. Terre Frumentarie is a one-man farm with one fixed-employee and some seasonal staff. It realizes an annual turnover of approximately €100 thousand. The production phases are planned as follow: 1) seeding period (November-February); 2) harvest (June-July); 3) preparation for seeding (August-October).

Terre Frumentarie and its supply chain  
Source: LTEconomy, based on the interview with Giuseppe Li Rosi (August 2014)
The story

The Idea

Giuseppe Li Rosi has inherited the farm from his father. The idea of using an alternative model for the cultivation of wheat emerged in the "90s, when Li Rosi realized that, in order to produce in a totally organic way, changing the process by which wheat is cultivated is not enough. He needed other kinds of seeds, different from the conventional (modern) ones: conventional seeds need the use of chemicals in order to grow (for fertilization and control of pests); with the use of conventional seeds the model could have never been completely organic.
The introduction of the first ancient seeds

It was for this reason that, Li Rosi, in 2000 (when he was leading the farm together with his father), turned to the bank of Germo-plasma of the "Stazione Consorziale Sperimentale di Granicoltura per la Sicilia" (see the specific section) in order to get the samples of "native wheat" necessary to implement his project. That was the onset: some hectares of Li Rosi’s farm began to host the first seeds of Timilìa, Maiorca and Farro Lungo.
The production of ancient seeds become structural

In 2005
, Li Rosi inherited part of the land and became, along with his mother, the owner of the farm. He set the brand "Terre Frumentarie" in 2010 and, since 2011 all the farm’s crop has been made of "ancient wheat." Sure of the quality of his wheat, Li Rosi incremented his commercial push, and, in partnership with a company based in Central Italy, created the l.t.d. “Terre e Tradizioni,” whose function is to manufacture and sell products made from Terre Frumentarie’s flour (see the specific section). 

Terre Frumentarie: Story and Mile Stones
Source: LTEconomy, based on the interview with Giuseppe Li Rosi (August 2014)

The types of wheat

Ancient wheat (or native wheat) is the kind of wheat that has evolved for hundreds (or even thousands) of years in a given land/territory; it is the wheat that best matches the climate and ecological characteristics of that particular territory. In Sicily, the “Stazione Consorziale Sperimentale di Granicoltura per la Sicilia di Caltagirone” (see the specific section) has identified (and stores) more than 50 varieties of ancient wheat.
Given its characteristics, ancient wheat does not need the large amount of inputs (fertilizers, pesticides) and processing required by conventional (or modern) wheat. Furthermore, due to its higher biomass (modern wheat is just 90 cm high, while the height of native wheat ranges from 1.5 to 2.2 meters), it better withstands the adverse effects of weeds. Finally, the deeper roots of native wheat  allows it to access to micronutrients normally not accessible to modern wheat.
Another specific feature of ancient wheat is the "quality of gluten:" in modern wheat gluten is classified as "strong/tenacious" (in order to speed industrial processes, the industry of pasta has asked for wheat with ever-stronger gluten); conversely, the gluten of native wheat is classified as "weak/scarce" (sometimes it is also used the term “poor” to define the characteristic of the gluten of native wheat). In essence, the gluten in ancient wheat is much more "soft and elastic," and it is the kind of gluten to which our gut has been accustomed for 9.000 years.
It is true, productivity (in terms of the amount of grains produced per hectare) in an ancient wheat-based organic farm fall by about 50%. Nevertheless, that does not affect the margins of profit; on the contrary, profitability increases as a consequence of two factors:

1)      Costs cut: the production of ancient wheat needs far less inputs: first, basic seeds are produced internally (farmers don’t have to buy external seeds each year); secondly, the use of chemicals is drastically reduced or even eliminated. Therefore, there is a considerable reduction of costs.

2)      Premium Price: due to its higher quality, ancient wheat can be sold at a higher price compared with modern wheat. The premium price more than offsets the loss of revenue caused by lower productivity. In short, the farm’s revenues do not incur a reduction.
The ancient wheat grown in "Terre Frumentarie"

“Terre Frumentarie” allocates 50% of its arable land to the production of Timilìa; 20% is for Maiorca, 15% is intended for Farro Lungo and 15% for Evolutionary wheat. 
Terre Frumentarie: arable land broken by types of ancient wheat
Source: LTEconomy, based on the interview with Giuseppe Li Rosi (August 2014)


is one of the oldest varieties of wheat in Sicily; it is a “Marzuolo Wheat” (i.e., it can also be sown in March); Timilìa gives its first crops in three months and grows without problems also in marginal lands, with a minimum amount of external inputs. The flour made from Timilìa is highly versatile: it can be used to produce different types of wheat-based foods (biscuits, pizzas, cakes, pasta and bread). Products made from Timilìa are very appreciated by the end consumer; thanks to their delicious flavor, delicate smell and big variety they are highly preferred by the palate of the most selected customers. Timilìa occupies 50% of Terre Frumentarie’s arable land.

is the quintessential wheat in Sicily, so much so that traditional Sicilian recipes of cakes don’t indicate the "00" or "0" flour as basic ingredient, but they explicitly mention Maiorca. As Timilìa, Maiorca does not need many inputs to grow; its productivity (in terms of grains per hectare) is higher than that of Timilìa; its ear has no arista and its grains have a light color, close to white. The flour made from Maiorca is very soft; it is considered by most confectioners the best flour to make cakes and biscuits. Maiorca was once also used as a basic element to make hosts. Maiorca occupies 20% of Terre Frumentarie’s arable land.
Farro Lungo

Farro Lungo
is the oldest Sicilian varieties of wheat: in some areas it is also called "settecentanni" (i.e. 7 hundred years old). Bread and pasta made from Farro Lungo are very good. The gluten index (35-40) is slightly higher than the one found in Maiorca and Timilìa; however, this index is 50% lower than the one normally found in modern grains (80-95); therefore, Farro Lungo, as Maiorca and Timilìa, has an high level of digestibility. Farro Lungo occupies 15% of Terre Frumentarie’s arable land.
Evolutionary Wheat

15% of Terre Frumentarie’s arable land is used to test the so called “Evolutionary Genetic Improvement model” (see the specific section). Giuseppe Li Rosi plants many varieties of wheat; the composition and the quality of the crop, changes from year to year, as it is made from the varieties that best match the climate and organic characteristics of that area in each specific year. Therefore, flour made from evolutionary wheat varies from year to year; the first results are very stimulating; in the first year of production, flour showed high quality and a great leaving quality.
Timilìa: ear and grains (August 2014)
Source: Terre Frumentarie

Terre Frumentarie’s Network: “Terre e Tradizioni” and the 35 Sicilian Farms

The origine

"Terre e Tradizioni” is a company originated from the joint efforts of Giuseppe Li Rosi (wheat producer) and Angelo Suffia who, emigrated in Emilia Romagna, is now a master-pasta maker. The two pioneering entrepreneurs tried to produce pasta made from ancient wheat-based flour; after several attempts they succeeded in creating pasta made from flour of Timilìa, which, since the first time it was proposed to the market, got considerable appreciation from end-consumers. Since the first participation in the exhibition of the "SANA," more and more distributors of organic food have asked for pasta made from flour of Timilìa. Over the past few years, other Sicilian farmers have turned to the production of ancient wheat and in July 2012 the company “Terre e Tradizioni“ was established.
Fusilli from flour of Timilìa
Source: Terre e Tradizioni - http://terretradizioni.it/

The network

Now “Terre e Tradizioni” is an l.t.d. with the headquarter based in Catania and the administrative office in Verona. Currently, the raw material for the wheat-based products made and sold by “Terre e Tradizioni” is provided by a network of 30-35 farms located in Sicily (which all together cover a land size of 500 hectares) which, as Giuseppe Li Rosi, cultivate organic Sicilian ancient wheat.
All companies in the network have organic certification; therefore, all products sold by “Terre e Tradizioni” are strictly organic. Over the last two years the range of products sold by “Terre e Tradizoni” has widen; currently there are 120 items on the market (including pasta, sauces, legumes, soups, plun-cake, jams and so on), classified in three main product-lines (breakfast, lunch, dinner); the number of items is expected to increase to 200 over the next year. “Terre e Tradizioni’s” retailing network covers almost all Italian regions.

Read more on the PDF version....

This is a short version of tha case study. The full version (25 pages) is available on the PDF version, with much information and other pictures and figures about Terre Frumentarie and its network.
Download the PDF 
For other details on “Terre Frumentarie,” please see also the interview with “Giuseppe Li Rosi,” owner of the farm.