Saturday, 6 July 2013

All things Organic and food safety

We are very keen to start as we mean to go on. So, in this particular case that means starting off running the farm organically. Since we have owned it, no chemicals have been anywhere near it but in order to call our olive oil organic we have to be certified by one of the authorised certification bodies. 

As usual the CIA (Confederazione Italiana Agricoltori) were incredably helpful and provided a list for us to choose our certification organisation. It seemed some people locally were certified by ICEA and as they also certify farmstays we chose them. I filled in a raft of forms and then we had to wait for an inspection by one of their bods. It got delayed as we were back in Le Marche to finally sell our house there. But eventually the big day dawned warm and sunny. 

We met the gentleman outside the cafè (after picking up the keys to our cantina  to store out belongings, from our new landlady) in Apricale. He was an odd-looking bunny - part hiker, part eco-warrior right down to his hobbit feet  (walking sandals) and socks. He was very pleasant and after a false start - he had left his car keys on the bar table - we headed off to the farm. It is only 5 minutes from the town so didn't take long. Paul had so far only taken our new Panda 4x4 off-road with him in it. Now there were three it scraped its underside rather alarmingly on the white road. We really must do something about that!

It turns out our inspector is no layman but a graduate in 'olivicoltura'. He very much liked our little farm and thought the soil and position should give excellent oil. It is always nice to hear that! He judged our place to be perfectly suited to organic farming as we are near no industry, roads or in fact any other sort of pollution. He left us with a raft of documents we have to maintain. They are to list our organic purchases and sales to prove we only used certified products or plants. He hinted that he was somewhat disillusioned with the whole certification process. His take was that is was a money-making exercise which the unscrupulous could easily exploit. I have to admit that now I understand a bit more about the process I can see his point! 

Anyway, the major bind for us (apart from only buying organic plants from now on) is that we have to be the first press of the day at the mill so that our organic oil is not contaminated by non-organic. That should prove fun. We are now 'in conversion' for the next 3 years and only once we have passed that period can we call our products organic and quote our certification number and use the ICEA log:

Paul and I have also been attending a Food Safety course aimed at farmers. It is being run by the excellent CIA and lectures are by the local health authority. The test at the end however was a very Italian affair whereby the paper was distributed, we chose our answers from the multiple choice options and then they lecturers told us the correct answers. Then they collected our papers! Only in Italy......