The Orange Girl does not exist without its partner producers. Let's then turn the spotlight on them so you can get to know more about them. First up is Luigi Grillo, from the Azienda Agricola Airone, a farm dedicated to aromatic and healing herbs, with a special focus on spontaneous plants and native varieties.
Keeping reading to discover how Luigi is staying positive and what we can look forward to from him.
What inspired you to launch your organic herb farm?
It has been a long journey. First, I had an increasing desire of a life change to rediscover my connection to nature and the peasant culture. I think today many people are looking for such a change. Then, I found my passion for herbs and their natural healing power. I have looked for a piece of land for a long time and when I found this place full of thyme, sage, cistus and fennel, surrounded by the hills of Iblei Mountains, then I said "Okay, this is the right place for me".
What’s your favourite part of your job at the farm?
Learning that not everything goes as planned. My grandfather said "All under Heaven". For me, this means that even when a drought occurs or a heavy rainfall happens, I try to keep calm and just let it go. But there is neither resignation nor passivity in these words. I'm constantly learning to listen to nature to follow the beat and feel its rhythm.
What does farming thoughtfully mean to you?
I would say protecting the environment as well as avoiding the unsustainable use of biodiversity, but I would not say trivial things. Farming thoughtfully is perhaps to have a precise idea of sustainable agriculture and to be true to yourself even in hard times, while keeping that idea intact. Each time I pick up my herbs I do it as if I had to drink my herbal tea or make my aromatic meal, this is my simple way to be thoughtful at farming.
What was the most challenging aspect about running your farm during pandemia?
From a commercial point of view, several projects with our customers stopped. In Italy, the herb shops remained closed to the public due to the government decision. Also, there was a time when costs for deliveries increased and transportation of goods became quite complicated.
©Foto by Davide Grillo
What changes did you make recently in an effort to be more sustainable?
There are always many aspects to consider in the definition of sustainability and they are not always so evident. A farm is sustainable when farming practises are applied with respect of the environment. However, we should also care about economic sustainability in agriculture. Sorry, I didn't mean to be too philosophical!
Now I will be very direct and specific. This year I built a solar herb dryer which is now operational. In addition, during this pandemic period, I planned a garden to feed my family and offer some vegetables to friends as well. This is the way my grandparents did before and it is today the way I live my life sustainably.
What’s keeping you grounded and positive?
During the coronavirus outbreak many people suffered from cabin fever, the feeling of stress from isolation and staying at home for extended time. My family and I felt free instead. Even though we missed social relationships, we felt like being protected by our choice to live in the countryside. We are currently realising the pragmatic benefits of country living, while taking this opportunity to get back to basics and deepen our relationship to nature. Also, this experience did make me confident in a better world.
You are also a part-time IT professor. How do you apply advanced technology to your organic farming operation?
Technology can help farming operations as long as it is accessible to small farmers, both in terms of costs and in terms of skills. But that said, I developed my own tools to support traceability and certification requirements. It enables my business to maintain a digital record of data and facilitate auditing processes for certification. I have also been testing some self-produced energy options to get energy efficiency and energy saving at the farm.
What can our consumers look forward to from you?
I would be happy to host them at my farm in Sicily !! :-)