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Giambattista Mastropierro: the right compromise

"The love for nature, the care for the trees, the pleasure of seeing the fruits coming up and growing... all this is the result of a “farmer’s” soul, passionate and irrational as love itself"

Giambattista Mastropierro, 50 years old, agronomist, is married with a child. He started his career teaching in a high school, then he was in charge of farming development and irrigation services within the “Consorzio di Bonifica Terre d’Apulia” (a consortium dealing with the drainages of the soils), rising in the present day to the direction of the Farming and Forest section.
Together with the Inea and the Mipaaf institutes, he took part in some studies concerning the use of water resources within the southern Italy countires; those studies have been published both in the national territory and throughout the EU.

Since 1995 he is been leading the “Oleificio Cooperativo Goccia di Sole Molfetta srl”, in the province of Bari, promoting and increasing the value of Apulian extra virgin olive oil, imposing and spreading the brand in Italy and abroad and gaining several awards.

He is also a member of the Direction of Fedagri- Confcooperative Puglia. In 2007, the company Oleificio Cooperativo Goccia di Sole Molfetta srl received the recognition of O.P., producers’ organization.

Why do you decide to make business in farming?
The choice has been naturally forced, being born in a family with farming tradition and working as an agronomist; the result is that the passion for this subject persuades me to believe in the hidden capacities of my territory and its own products. I might say I’m satisfied for contributing, in a certain way, in making them well-known in Italy as well as abroad.

Do you feel more a peasant, a farmer or a business man?
You can be born for farming, but you can only end up a business man. The love for nature, the care for the trees, the pleasure of seeing the fruits coming up and growing...all this is the result of a “farmer’s” soul, passionate and irrational as love itself. On the other hand, processing, promoting and selling those products at the right price is strictly linked to the rational part, the one belonging to the business man. It’s an interesting fight, but the two souls in agriculture might find the right compromise for a balanced co-existence.

A definition of farming
Technically, it may be described as the rational use of both environmental and vegetal factors, aimed to produce foods. It’s an economical activity based on a balanced interaction between man and environment. Theoretically, it should be the best job in the world: working in contact with nature and managing its events. Unfortunately, I have to say that beyond this bucolic vision, we often have to face and overcome the frustration coming from the negative and never encouraging economical results.

An adjective for defining the world of farming
An adjective or a univocal description of Italian farming seems restrictive. Within our country, there are so many ways of performing agriculture. This is the result of varied territorial and cultural differences. Confused, lost are the only adjectives these different situations have in common. Farming activities are still seen in contraposition to the urban ones, as if a sort of makeshift and not as structurally important for the economy of a country.
What’s more, recently it is also oppressed by plenty of captious bureaucratic fulfilments, often useless, that make the already precarious budget heavier, testing and debilitating hardly the ancestral farmers’ wisdom.

keyword for the future of farming
Process and product innovation, quality, market research. In a word, the primary sector of today must necessarily “live” the region, and think in terms of productive chain, otherwise it will be more and more marginalized. We’re living a competitiveness crisis, we have to match excellent and certified products with a strong territorial identity against those one featured by uncertain origin and quality. Though independent, the added value should stay within the productive chain, in order to relate with other productive or research fields, shaping dormant or unusual business scenarios. I mean for example, increasing the income through the exploitation of the residuals, in order to produce alternative energy, natural medicines and cosmetics.

A model man
My grandpa, Gaetano Olivieri. He was an innovation forerunner. At the beginning of 20th century, he was recruited by Jatta, a company placed in Ruvo di Puglia, (the same of the national archeological museum, I mean) passing from a simple technician to the general manager. In several stony, barren and dry soils all around the severe Murge plateau in Bari, he succeeded in sowing some fine vines such as the Aleatico, the Pampanuto, the “Uva di Troia”, on quite a lot rootstocks resistant to the phylloxera, which had previously decimated the vine plantations all around Apulia region. This successful enterprise persuaded the Jatta family to establish a wine cellar in situ, for processing, bottling and subsequently exporting in Germany (in spite of the war). For this activity, Giuseppe Tassinari, the then Ministry of Agricultural policies, acknowledged them several tokens of credit as well as one of the first itinerant teaching post aimed to spread the innovative farming techniques throughout southern Italy. I like reminding it, I owe him this, for it represents a little contribution to the history of our farming.

Someone to…go to the hell.
The question is embarrassing, not just for labeling or diplomacy purposes, but because I’m spoilt for choice. There have been so many people doing few things or nothing at all for farming field in the last decade. I can say that the last two ministers in chronological order may risk equally.

A book concerning the rural world you’d suggest to read
“Il cafone all’Inferno , by Tommaso Fiore, a classic of southern Italian literature, focusing on the still up-to-dated condition of southern Italy, where tradition and modernity merged together into an absolutely no virtuous league.

Your favorite book
The Little Prince, is suitable for every age; its main lesson is that the essential is invisible to the eye.

Your favorite song or composition
I belong to the generation of Beatles, Pink Floyd, and Genesis and as I like classic guitar, I suggest these three tracks:
“Blackbird” (Beatles), “Concerto de Aranjuez” (Rodrigo) and “Asturias” (Albeniz), that my son performs very well. In my opinion, the first is the synthesis of baronets’ genius, while the other two stand for the musical expression of the pathos of southern Italian countries in sunny summers. Close your eyes and let the notes drive you magically….

Your unforgettable movie
“Nuovo Cinema Paradiso”: a perfect combination among screenplay, dialogues and soundtrack. It’s a really good story, so common for plenty of my fellow countrymen: I personally lived some of those scenes when I was young! The lesson is that the passions must be totally lived, you don’t have to dominate them, the fear of facing is a brake that can leave deeper regrets than incurable scars.

What would you like to find after passing away?
I’m not practising but I do my best to live according the values of Christian religion in my everyday life. I hope to be happy and serene at God’s presence, with no big regrets, aware of having left some traces of useful as well as repeatable practices and values. Deeply, I think that if life has had a sense through our sons, enthusiasm and diligence, the passing away couldn’t be considered something definitive.

by T N
02 may 2011, Food Notes > The Farmers