“Metti bòn, cava bòn!” (= Put good in, get good out!). This was the philosophy of “Nonna Caterina”, great-grandmother of the Lo Franco brothers who run Fattoria La Vialla, a regenerative, biodynamic farm and wine estate in Tuscany. Already a farm over two centuries ago, in 1978 it was retrieved from abandon and taken into safekeeping by the Lo Franco Family, who brought it back to life constantly bearing in mind the teachings of their “Nonna”.The governing principle is to respect nature and to contribute towards a better and healthier condition of the land and the people that they work with while reducing the estate's ‘ecological footprint’. For over 44 years La Vialla has been using regenerative agriculture and organic-biodynamic methods to cultivate and foster over 2000 hectares of land and forest (with the largest Demeter certified surface area in Italy, including over 988 ha of woodland). It produces its own wine, extra virgin olive oil, pecorino cheese, appetizers, sauces, pasta, vinegar, honey, biscuits, and other sweet delicacies – directly from vineyard to bottle, from vegetable patch to jar, packaging and shipping directly to the end consumer.
La Vialla has proven that vertical integrated farming is possible also on a larger scale, it shows that agricultural activities can be successful and viable without making withdrawals from the larger ecological system and while always establishing cycles of regeneration. La Vialla can be seen as an example of what it means to be ecological and sustainable, it is possible to meet both environmental and productivity requirements. With the help of the Lo Franco Family Foundation, it has been possible to convert a total of 787 hectares of land to organic and biodynamic agriculture as well as supporting other 122 small farms in their transition to organic-biodynamic farming.
La Vialla’s main focus:
- Soil fertility and biodiversity (see more on www.lavialla.com/fertilesoil).
- Care and retrieval of land belonging to old, abandoned farmsteads and of woodland (regenerative agriculture).
- Annual planting of grapevines, olive and fruit trees, hedgerows, and reforestation of woods, to protect and increase biodiversity and sustainable production.
- Research on ancient plant varieties, especially in the vineyards, to maintain and promote biodiversity.
- Careful and parsimonious management of resources, recycling of all the materials used.
- Use of the photovoltaic plant and green energy.
- Phyto-purification of wastewater and harvesting rainwater for irrigation.
- New “climate neutral” buildings (e.g. the olive mill). - Continuous research to constantly improve all areas
- Use of recycled and recyclable packaging, elimination of plastic.
- Constant increase in the use of ecological and rail transportation.
- Circular economy.
- Zero food waste through direct value chain.
- The latest “ecological footprint” balance sheet ( La Vialla started measuring its carbon footprint in 2008), regarding 2018, shows that the amount of CO2 fixed in the ground or avoided through careful resource management, photovoltaic systems, constructed wetlands, carbon dioxide absorbed in woodlands, crops and the soil thanks to biodynamic agriculture, as well as emission compensation through environmental projects, exceeds the quantity of CO2 emitted by the production activities, for a total of 5,282.43 tonnes of CO2e. In the last five-year period, from 2014 to 2018, the figure amounts to 20,605.75 tCO2e.
- Supporting other farms in their conversion to organic-biodynamic agriculture through theoretical and practical courses, with visits to the farms and at La Vialla for training, as well as formative assistance. This also includes some food garden projects in Togo, Burkina Faso ,Tanzania, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda as well as Kenia.
Our plans for the Future:
- Continuation of the ongoing work, safeguarding biodiversity, soil fertility and ecosystems is fundamental to climate resilient development. In recent years we have seen that due to our biodynamic practices our plants, crops, grapevines and olive trees are much more resilient.
- Carrying on using and improving food production methods with two clear and complementary outcomes: the production of high-quality food and the continuous improvement/ balancing of the surrounding natural ecosystem.
- Continuing research on how to improve systems already in place and mitigate the effects of climate change.
- Exploring other regenerative practices such as no till, syntropic agriculture.
- Implementing nano sensors in vineyards and vegetable fields for data collection, precision irrigation and field decision-making, as well as for long-term study of soil health and nutrient density.
- Introducing a small herd of cattle for restoring hillside grasslands.
- Finalization of the research on the “reduction of copper in viticulture” project. The experiments were initiated at La Vialla in 2006 and in 2020 La Vialla began a collaboration with CREA, in order to officially verify the data and check the vines’ state of health. The most effective technique, with the copper reduced by 50%, will gradually be applied in all the vineyards. CREA will publish the conclusions - currently being finalised - in order to make the use of this new agronomic technique, which is more respectful of the soil, easily replicable and inexpensive (all of which are not to be taken for granted), available to other companies.
Text by: Anette Mueller
Learn more about Fattoria La Vialla here.
The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030, led by the United Nations Environment Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and partners, covers terrestrial as well as coastal and marine ecosystems. As global call to action, it will draw together political support, scientific research and financial muscle to massively scale up restoration. Find out how you can contribute to the UN Decade. Follow #GenerationRestoration.