Italy is rich in fertile lands; its geographical, climatic and geo-morphological diversity make it the country with the highest biodiversity in Europe. In fact, Italy alone, hosts half of the plant and a third of the animal species present throughout the continent. A natural heritage that translates into the possibility of giving life to unrivaled farming businesses, which are envied even abroad.
Among these, we visited one of the major excellences in this sector which is the Agricola Zambelli. It has a long-standing family history and has contributed over the years to the Italian tradition in the treatment and processing of the soil and its products. The estate, divided equally between Valeria and her brother Flavio stretches over 800 hectares of land between Upper Lazio, Umbria and Tuscany, divided into vineyards, olive groves and 80% in arable land.
Speaking with us is Dr. Valeria Zambelli, a young and determined entrepreneur who with the support of her husband Tiziano carries on the family business created by her father Giovanni Zambelli at the end of the 60s with passion and a great sense of responsibility. In our interview with her we try to learn more about the great agricultural tradition of her family and, in some way, also that of Italy.
“Our working philosophy – she immediately explains – has always been to face change head on. Those who work the land are aware of this more than others, because they are used to adapt and accommodate to changes, starting with the climate and the state of the land, which from one year to another can lend itself to one cultivation rather than to another, but also constantly monitoring the trend of Italian and foreign markets, and the price of wheat each time quoted on the stock exchange, which also varies a lot due to many factors”.
What is the secret of your quality?
“I firmly believe that our strength is primarily to use our own labor and machinery without delegating anything to third parties- We also consider an advantage our practice to involve the whole family whenever important decisions, for example which strategies to deploy to maintain the highest quality standards, must be pondered and executed.
In other words, I would say that flexibility is central to the management of such a complex company. Flexibility to be always ready to manage the unexpected, from the weather conditions to the chemistry of the land, to the diseases that can cause significant damage to crops; and finally, as I said, to know how to ride out the ‘struggles’ of the global market. We, Italian producers are penalized by imported products, especially those from Canada, because, by using weed-killers that are forbidden in Italy, they manage to keep the price of wheat much lower. To protect Made in Italy produce and agricultural entrepreneurs, associations such as Colfagricoltura have posed the problem of us farmers to the attention of the Ministry of Agricultural Food and Forestry Policies, and so the latter has tried to stem this problem by making agreements with Italian pasta producers requiring them to use a percentage of wheat to be purchased in Italy. But this percentage is still very low. We hope that in the near future the legislation will be stricter towards the foreign product, thus supporting Italian companies and encouraging an increase in the sale of Italian products grown and sold in Italy, in full compliance with EU regulations. ”
Is it a bit of a gamble to do agriculture today, in Italy?
“Being an agricultural entrepreneur today is a gamble especially if you are looking for excellence: the work of the entrepreneur is a bit like that of a parent, and I also say that as a mother; the company becomes like a child who needs daily, continuous care, without ever sparing yourself.
The biggest challenge for me is to overcome the initial fears, linked to the unknown that we inevitably face in our work. It is always necessary to put oneself to the test, and to face the challenges that follow one another with the right mix of experience and development, between tradition and innovation. ”
What would you recommend to a young person who wants to become an agricultural entrepreneur?
“I realize that we are a countertrend, in an era, where young people always have their hands on tablets, iPads and smartphones. But I would like to advise them to regain contact with the earth, with nature. Go to a field, feel the scent of the vines, the growing grapes, to touch the ears of wheat with one’s own hands is an experience that has no equal.
I believe that the right balance between technology and nature can be the answer to the success and future of new generations. ”