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Paolo Organic Farmer and “Sotto i Pini” B & B Owner

September 10, 2012

As I sat down to talk with Paolo, overlooking his farm, I asked, “What is the best element in what you do?”  He answered, without a blink, “Sharing ideals and work with others.” Paolo has been associated with the World Wide Opportunities in Organic Farming (WWOOF) organization for 14 months and this has brought new life to his farming experience.  However, farming is a venture Paolo started after having worked in the IT world until the year 2002; on his old job he travelled extensively in the western part of Sicily and, one day, he felt the need to put down roots.  He had a large house in the country and decided to stop work and refurbish the country home, starting a business.  In 2003, the B & B was born and the farming business had taken off just a few months earlier.

Thanks to his neighbors, Paolo discovered the organic farmers’ markets and at that point he stopped working with local businesses and started selling directly at the markets.  Now,  he is very happy to belong to this network and this world. He works on a vineyard, grows plums, cherries and other fruits; he has olive trees, hazel nuts and walnuts. For the last three years, he has been managing an avocado farm which had been exporting its produce to France for about 35 years.       

As I had arrived right after lunch time, I found the three WWOOFers that were staying at Paolo’s still seated at the table in the garden.  I enjoyed talking to them as two were from England and the third was from Colorado.  In discussing the purpose of the WWOOF program, Paolo stated it is an exchange program; participants exchange labor for the opportunity to experience a new culture, authentic cuisine, acquire a new language, and the farming methods and practices.  Paolo gets help on his farm but he, too, has the chance to practice the language of his WWOOF guests, thus another example of sharing.

In asking Paolo which goals he has set for himself, he stated that food self-sufficiency is his top goal, followed by a sustainable lifestyle that can also offer a model for others who are interested in change.  Some other goals are saving water and recycling. 

At the end, we walked around some of the vegetable beds on mounds he had created.  He grows a large variety of vegetables and has followed the Hugel Method, which he briefly explained.  At the base of the mound are tree trunks, then branches, leaves, fronds, covered by soil, a layer of cardboard and straw.  In applying the irrigation system, the hose lying on the mound, one can chose to place it either above or under the cardboard.  There are pro and con to each method. The pro in having the hose above the cardboard is that if there is a problem with the irrigation system it is easier to access the hose, but the con is that the water will run off the cardboard and, consequently, there will be a greater consumption of water.  When placing the hose under the cardboard the pro is that you need less water, but if there is a problem, one has to pull apart the cardboard and the mounds, so Paolo chose to adopt both methods.

In conclusion, Paolo mentioned the philosophy lying behind his B & B.  The B & B objective is to intend it as a place with a family atmosphere, with no strict rules regarding breakfast or coming and going.  One should feel like one is staying a t a friend’s house and following this principle, many times guests are asked to join in family events, as occurred recently during a birthday celebration.  The B & B, “Sotto I Pini”,  in Pisano, Zafferana Etnea.  

Just before leaving, I stopped and watched Paolo as he was interacting with the wild cats.  He was finally able to get a wild cat to eat from his hand.  The cat had been roaming his area for one month and had never allowed him to get close to it. 

From → I Siquillyahni

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