Conservazione della biodiversità delle piante di interesse alimentare con accoglienza turistica negli edifici storici aziendali in pietra a secco recuperati.
Recupero e conservazione delle acque meteoriche ad uso irriguo mediante il ripristino della rete delle cisterne
Uso parsimonioso dell’acqua e ricerca delle piante adatte all’aridocoltura (Fico, melograno, pero, gelso, pomodori regina e pendolino ecc.).
Comunicazione e divulgazione.
Pomona ONLUS - National Association for the Enhancement of Biodiversity - ItaliaCandidato guida
Conservation of biodiversity of food plants with the possibility to accommodate tourists in restored dry stone historical buildings situated within the property. The conservatory includes more than 800 varieties of fruit trees, mainly developed before 1950. Among these there are about 350 accessions of the species ficus carica. Collection and storage of rainwater for irrigation purposes through the restoration of the old cistern system. Responsible water use and plant research for dry farming (fig, pomegranate, pear, mulberry, regina and pendolino tomatoes, etc.). Communication and publicizing through: pomological exhibitions, guided tours to the collections, activities to increase awareness around the environmental issue of chemical free soil, air and water. Environmental education for students of every age.
Festival of the Senses - ItaliaPartner dell'iniziativa
Special cultural festival three days long in the second half of august, which offers sane and sensible, beautiful and seductive things, in order to refresh our senses, far from the anaesthetic pollution that the information noise forces upon us every day. Ancient manor farms and historical abodes of the Valle d'Itria, Puglia region, will be, in this occasion, exceptionally open to the public: privileged places where to listen for three days rare and creative reflections on the world of senses. Well-known Italian and foreign scholars will give interesting talks on the theme chosen for this year. There will be itinerant lectures, slow-moving excursions, tactile exhibitions, bio-diversity, re-design of the traditions, delicious food and occasions for seeing in a new perspective and enjoying the sensuality of Puglia.
Association Nationale des Croqueurs de Pommes - FranciaPartner dell'iniziativa
Our Association promotes the preservation of threatened regional fruit varieties. It includes 63 local associations, for a total of approximately 8000 members in France and neighbouring countries. Our main activities are pomology (knowledge of fruit varieties) and arboriculture (pruning, grafting, orchard care).
Territorialists Society - ItaliaPartner dell'iniziativa
Founded in 2010, the Territorialists Society is made up of Italian and foreign academics, researchers and experts in different disciplines which all deal with the environment. The association aims at developing the fundamental role of the environment and its resources in the context of future local and global socio-economical organizations. With these objectives the Society carries out multidisciplinary research for the integration of the environmental sciences in cognitive and practical contexts; it has an Observatory of good practice for the innovatory development of the environmental heritage and publishes with Firenze University Press “Scienze del territorio”, a scientific magazine, whose issues result from previous international meetings.
Local Action Group Valle d'Itria - ItaliaPartner dell'iniziativa
The Valle d’Itria G.A.L. , Local Action Group, is a privately owned limited liability consortium which was founded on the 4.12.09 by the public administration of Cisternino, Martina Franca and Locorotondo and private shareholders with both individual and collective interests. The G.A.L was originally set up to manage the interests of the PSL (Local Development Plan) , a regional project worth more than 11 million euros which is allocated to professionals in rural areas to help increase the potential for development. The mission of the GAL Valle d’Itria is to plan and implement local activities which are in line with the developmental strategies of the region by using social economic stakeholders. The GAL will, through the PSL "Create a local developmental strategy based on the exploration of the inherent potential of the Valle d’Itria using existing businesses, and the creation of new production resources, the growth of the multifunctional role of business and the integration of different economic sectors and the social –cultural partnership between all these".
Center for Research, Experimentation and Training in Agriculture "Basile Caramia" - ItaliaPartner dell'iniziativa
Re. Ge. Fru. P is a European funded project for the recovery of the Apulian fruit germplasm. It aims at protecting the biodiversity heritage of traditional Apulian fruit trees cvs, which are threatened by extinction. The coordination of this regional activity is managed by CRSA and the Botanical Conservatory participates in the project as second most important Apulian curator, after the University of Bari. CRSA is a non-profit research organization which promotes rural development and carries out certifications for varieties of grapevines, citrus and stone fruits, as well as various types of analyses for soil, food products and wines. The organization offers technical assistance in agriculture, experiments with the most advanced production technologies and it has also collections of vitis vinifera and other local fruit tree cvs. CRSA cooperates in a large network of international scientific institutions from 18 different European countries, North Africa and China.
The Botanical Conservatory I giardini di Pomona pursues the goal of matching the conservation of the biodiversity with a new model of low-impact rural tourism, promoting the traditional landscape through new activities. Among them: conservation of the biodiversity created and now endangered by humans, helping visitors to become more familiar with nature and thus enabling them to discover its complexity, richness and beauty; recovery of the system once used for the collection and storage of rainwater for irrigation purposes through the restoration and renewed use of the cistern system, the clearing of the cisterns from debris and the repair of leaks; educational activities; sustainable accommodation in restored historical buildings; protection of the rural landscape through the preservation of the traditional plantation layout (planting in rows) and the restoration of the dry-stone walls of existing historical buildings; promotion of traditional cultivars in the gastronomy sector.
This project aims at proposing a small-scale model fit for being replicated at will and suitable to enable – after an initial investment – the conservation of the biodiversity of edible plants thanks to tourism. I wanted to verify what I had already ascertained in the ten years before organizing pomological exhibitions meant for the public: the biodiversity of edible plants has a big appeal.
People move to see the common heritage of varieties selected by hundreds of generations of farmers in the past 12/14 thousand years. Looking at the different fruits one can imagine their rich tastes. This is a reassuring element of the collective imaginary because it chases away the spectre of hunger that has always haunted humans. Thus, an orchard is a long-lasting fruit bank. But if it attracts tourism that creates wealth, we can say that tourism can support the conservation of biodiversity!
The Conservatory is known for its international fig tree collection including 350 accessions. A fig is a rustic and flexible plant. Unlike the apples, pears, cherries and hazels that grow in regions further north and don’t grow well in Apulia, all the varieties of northern figs find a perfect habitat down here. So, I am recovering this species still as crucial to the future of human nutrition as in the past. Suitable for dryland farming, it can withstand salty air and brackish water, it needs no bees or other pollinators for pollination and produces – in some varieties – different fruits at different times on the same tree.
Undemanding plants with a generous yield, figs are rarely attacked by diseases and can endure the worst pruning mistakes by beginners or even the total lack of pruning without stopping producing fruit. They don’t require phytosanitary treatments and provide an always wholesome, tasty and energy-giving food. Easy to dry, figs can thus be preserved for a long time.
Collecting germplasm up north was becoming increasingly difficult (the cultivars had either been saved in heritage orchards or had disappeared). Thus, I moved with my wife to Apulia, where there is such an abundance of traditional varieties that genetic erosion still seems to be no issue. Looked at with suspicion (I was planting figs while local farmers were uprooting them), when I opened the Garden this initial distrust turned into curiosity.
Upon my arrival I began my work to locate, propagate, plant in heritage orchards, grow and evaluate varieties, planting out in 10 years approximately 800 cultivars of fruit-bearing trees. Now, considering the constant growth in the number of visitors (894 guided tours from 01.01 to 06.07.2014 when the tourist season has just begun), curiosity has turned into interest. Press and schools have been those most eagerly welcoming the initiative, while institutions have been the most reluctant.
Who is going to benefit from our work are – in a broad sense – the future generations. We are well aware of our work. Today the loss of a variety is forever, because the factors that generated it cannot be reproduced. We don’t know what might prove useful tomorrow, therefore we preserve. Our work, rooted in the past, is all oriented towards the future, though. For this reason we are an educational farm. Humankind needs to get back to ecology, thinking of the home we share and respecting all the elements that form it in their chaotic complexity. A well-tested system that has made life possible on our planet for hundreds of millions of years.
Other people who may benefit from our project are the farmers with whom we share our research on the drying of fruit (kaki, feijoa), which enables a speculation in time and/or selling to wholesalers under better conditions. A last group benefiting from all this are the other custodians. Sharing the same goal supports us in times of discouragement.
Francesco Minonne, a friend, co-author of the book “Fichi di Puglia”, biologist, like me a passionate “ancient” fruit researcher and collaborator with the Botanical Garden of the University of Salento (with which we cooperate). On-farm collaborators Nderek Hila, at first, and Francesco Salamina, later, without whose care and work the Conservatory wouldn’t exist. Pasquale Venerito and the friends of the Association Passoditerra for their efforts in recovering biodiversity in Ceglie Messapica (BR). The contributions of neighbours and all those who have offered voluntary support in setting up the collections through their own varieties: the milk-woman, the carpenter, the plumber, the nurse, other farmers, etc. The towns of Diso and San Michele Salentino hosting each year pomological exhibitions focusing on figs. GAL Valle d’Itria and the University of Bari with the project REGEFRUP that includes Pomona as the second most important conservatory regarding Apulian varieties.
Financial difficulties caused me sleepless nights. We moved to Apulia in 2004, sure that there would be EU funds for biodiversity in the 2007-2013 programme. I sold my property in Milan and bought some trulli with annexes and 3 ha of pastureland, then 6 ha of adjacent land. I had enough funds to get – making a sparing use of resources – to 2008. I started preparing the soil and planting out the collections with the cultivars grown in pots in Milan, aware of the fact that for the following 4/5 years there would be nothing to see nor fruit to sell.
In 2008 begin the difficulties. Operating costs swallow up hundreds of Euros each day. I can neither go forward nor backward. We are desperate. I am positive about the quality of the project, but I’m afraid I can’t go on for the necessary time to start seeing the results. My sister supports me generously, then I obtain a loan to refurbish the trulli which I mean to rent. The EU funds needed to increase the cistern capacity arrive only in 2014!
Where there used to be collapsed dry-stone walls and bramble thickets now thrive the gardens of Pomona – the goddess of fruit. The austere Apulian landscape, with its neat pattern of fields and orchards, its dry-stone buildings and walls and its system of cisterns and vats for the collection and storage of rainwater has guided our choices.
Our focus on water and the increasing salinization of the water table induced us to repair leaking cisterns, use drip irrigation systems for young plants, search for old hardy plant species suitable for dryland farming (figs, pomegranates, almonds, pears, mulberries). It also contributed to our decision to grow plants on grassy fields, use compost as fertilizer, eliminate chemicals for a poison-free soil, keep patches of Mediterranean scrub to preserve the complexity of nature and favour the reproduction of beneficial insects, aware of the fact that only a healthy and vital soil can generate healthy and vital plants.
To locally publicize our experience we decided at the very beginning to run a column on the local monthly paper in which to report on the activities of the Conservatory. Then we created the Green Sundays: a cycle of highly attended lectures on topics concerning nature and ranging from seeds, to bees, to historical Italian citrus fruits.
We organized meeting days on roses and graminaceous plants and workshops on permaculture, aromatherapy and the distillation from aromatic herbs held by external experts. Even if the world of farming is conservative by nature, since the setting up of Ficusnet – the Mediterranean network of the towns of figs, which we contributed to promote and spread – many things have changed and figs and pomegranates are becoming more popular once again if compared to their sales in the more recent past. Small farmers here and elsewhere in southern Italy are beginning to associate for the distribution of their products and new business opportunities are taking shape.
Several channels were used for communication: locally, through lectures, meetings, presentations of the book Fichi di Puglia but above all by word of mouth following to our guided tours; in these tours we always stress the importance of involving all our senses and try to convey our love for fruits, flowers, branches and share our discoveries with those who think figs are just green or black while they come in thousand colours. Crucial are the social networks my wife Martine takes care of every day: our face book page I giardini di Pomona and the blog on “La repubblica di Bari” Nei giardini di Pomona as well as the positive comments of Tripadvisor.
Among the broader media, the following have written about us: in the national press – Gardenia, Interni and Vogue Italia; abroad – the Telegraph Magazine, New York Times and Officiel Voyage; among radio and TV programmes - Geo and the regional news. An essential role has been played by the guides Dumont, La Guide du Routard and Petit Futé.