Bosco Falconeria is a truly amazing place, located around an hour west of Palermo. The Sicilian farm covers over 35 acres of land, which have been cultivated according to the principles of organic agriculture since 1989. Alongside various fruit and vegetable varieties, the owners of the farm grow wine grapes and produce extra virgin olive oil. We talked with Natalia Simeti, manager of the farm, founded in 1933, and great-granddaughter of the original founder, about her daily work on the field.
Natalia and her father Antonio Simeti
“The earth here is red, rich in iron, grass-green in winter,
sunburnt in summer. The gentle hills overlook the sea and the distant mountains: a patchwork of vineyards and olive groves,
of fields and fruit orchards.”
You studied art history in Rome and trained as a museum educator in the United States. Tell us, why did you decide to move back to Sicily and take over the management of the farm?
Natalia: After some years abroad, I finally took a job at a small cultural institution in Palermo. More and more regularly, I spent the weekends on the farm and supported my parents in their work, until I moved back about 10 years ago, together with my Finnish husband Rami. I think it was the lifelong, deep connection to this place that my parents have brought back to life; that’s why I made the decision to take over running the farm.
The farm obtained official organic certification at an early stage - already in 1989. What was the motivation behind this?
Natalia: My father Antonio has always been a passionate agronomist but it was my mother who brought back information about organic farming from the States in the early 80s. The safeguarding of biodiversity and the improvement of soil by green or organic fertilizing were the principal reasons behind my parents’ decision to choose a form of agriculture, which is sustainable for the environment and for human beings.
You put great value on biodiversity. Tell us about your different produce.
Natalia: We produce organic extra virgin olive oil, organic red and white wine and since 2016, our own organic vinegar. Scattered across the farm you can find a wide variety of vegetables, legumes and fruit trees such as clementine, grapefruit, pear, fig, cherry and peach.
How do your working methods differ from conventional agriculture?
Natalia: We practice a form of organic agriculture that we define as “by subtraction”. We not only replace synthetic products used in conventional agriculture with green fertilizers, which are allowed in organic farming. But we also try to intervene as little as possible in the processes of nature, so as not to disturb the natural balance of plants, soil and animal life. We work from season to season and dispense with cold frames and artificial mulching within our vegetable production. When cultivating our olive groves and vineyards, it is important for us to avoid as many mechanical processes as possible and to reintroduce traditional forms of pruning.
Why is local produce often more expensive than their imported, conventional counterparts?
Natalia: Local groceries are mostly produced by small companies, like us, in small quantities to relatively high costs for wages, production, logistics, local taxes etc. Large producers, on the contrary, reduce their costs through mass production and loose regulations in the producing countries. These products will probably save you some money, but someone else will have to pay the price for it. Low wages, unpaid overtime, pollution and illegal logging are not unusual and occur every day.
Where do we find your products?
Natalia: We deliver our products to several shops in Palermo, such as NaturaSi and Emporio La Mela. Upon request, we also ship our olive oil, our wines and legumes.
For more info visit the Bosco Falconeria website .
And for more FOOD stories from Italy, see our other stories from the country .
Photos: THE FRANK STORY