Italy Food Roots, a newly-established organisation in Rome, is dedicated to taking people to farms with the intention of “getting to know your farmers”.
Although affiliated with the ever-increasing interest in healthy food, the group goes one step further by moving the emphasis from the final food product to its source, offering first-hand access to the local Italian farmer or factory. By promoting the “farm-to-table” movement, the organisation allows guests to put food-related questions directly to the farmers.
The process is both enlightening and fun, according to the group's co-founder Louise Vinciguerra. “We’ve learned – and are learning – that farmers take pride in guiding you through their process and better than that – they love telling you their stories.”
So far the group has been charmed by farmer Orlando Leonardi, the co-owner of Frantoio Leonardi, located in Configni in the Sabina area of northern Lazio. “Orlando and his family have 1,000 olive trees and produce their own extra virgin olive oil as well as running the locally renowned olive mill where seasonally locals come to press their own olives to make olive oil,” said Vinciguerra.
“We have also visited a cheese factory in Poggio Mirteto where we saw sheep being milked, later processed to create Pecorino cheese and fresh ricotta – said Vinciguerra – we have also been asparagus picking with farmer Carlo, who we will be visiting again to pick Table grapes.”
Future farm trips will focus on seasonal nuts, mushrooms, a trip to another olive press and even some local beer breweries.
Vinciguerra says that while the group is currently not making any money from the venture, it hopes to develop it into a profitable enterprise in the future. For the moment however it is focusing on building up relationships with farmers, learning about the local market and observing people's (“often surprising”) reactions to life on the farm.
The group's next outing is on Saturday 28 September when it heads off to Colonna, south-east of Rome. There farmer Carlo Giuliani will show his guests the correct way to pick grapes at Prato Rinaldo, a co-operative whose farmers cultivate seasonal foods such as asparagus, grapes and kiwi, selling the produce to local schools.
The grape-picking exercise will be followed by a local meal at the 52nd annual Grape Sagra. Full details can be found on the group's Facebook event page.