Località il Piano, Italy

Località il Piano is a 30 hectare family-run organic and agroforestry farm in central Italy, operating since 2001. The first thing Darcy Gordon and Adolfo Rosati did was to plant fruit trees, as many as possible and of as many varieties as possible! Currently, about 1500 different varieties of fruit are cultivated on the farm, including many kinds of apples, pears, peaches, plums, persimmons, cherries, kiwis, black, red and white currants, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, gojiberries, juneberries, medlars, quince, hazelnuts, walnuts, chestnuts, mulberries, pomegranates, strawberries, almonds, olives, and different varieties of both wine and table grapes.

An extensive forest garden or “food forest” is a collection of more unusual edible species including sorbs, raisin trees, jujubes, wild persimmons, honey locust, elderberries, aronia berries. The orchards are grazed by geese and Comisana dairy sheep, while Alpine goats and Jersey cows are kept out to prevent damage to the fruit trees. All animals rotate through pastures and the forest, grazing on native grasses, forest trees and acorns.

In the summer, forest trees are thinned, providing forage as well as wood for winter heating. Hens weed and fertilize the vineyard, aided by the sheep in fall, winter and spring, before the grapevines sprout. Wild asparagus are grown both under olive trees and under the wine grapes. Artichokes are also cultivated under the vineyard, growing in fall winter and spring when the grapes are dormant. A large no-till vegetable and herb garden completes the farm: manure from the dairy animals is used to prepare the transplanting beds, in a thick enough layer to kill present weeds and prevent further weeds from germinating. Transplants are then planted in the soil by opening small holes in the manure layer and filling it with compost. Farm products including fruit and vegetables, eggs, meat, dairy products (blue cheese, camembert, chevre, feta, yogurt, etc.) are sold weekly in town to consumers through a WhatsApp group, and to the guests staying in the two agriturismo apartments, with the rest donated to local charities. 

In the farm, circularity is a strong commitment: whey from cheesemaking goes to the pig, pomace from pressing apples goes to the cows and goats, crop residues from vegetables and fruit goes to the different animal species, turning first into forage and then into manure. Unblemished products are sold fresh, while others are processed (dried figs and persimmons are big ones, but soups, jams, baked goods and breads, including acorn bread, are also occasionally offered). Products are sold in glass containers that the customers return, or in paper bags. Adolfo takes the products to town, where he goes to work anyway, with zero additional kilometers. 

Since hand labor is the limiting factor on this farm, systems are designed to require the bare minimum amount of human work from outside the family (though a lot of work within the family!). As much as possible, crops, varieties and systems needing little labor are preferred. Animals, managed with both permanent and mobile fencing, do most of the weeding and fertilizing. Extra seasonal help comes from interns and WWOOFers (i.e. volunteers adhering to the WWOOF program: World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). 

The farm also offers educational group activities like classes on identifying and cooking wild edible species, tastings of farm products, cheese making from barn to fork, cider-making and other agricultural activities. Often an informal meal with farm products is provided, sometimes pizza cooked in the woodfired oven and made with vegetables and cheeses, picked and produced together with the guests just few minutes earlier.