About the Podera Midolla Farm
The Podera Midolla Farm resides within the calm and peaceful land of Montalbano in West Toscana, Italy. This is where Leonardo da Vinci is said to have spent his younger years, The Podera Midolla, Farm originally belonged to Antonella Rastrelli’s great grandfather. However, twenty years ago it was so run down it almost wasn’t a farm. Antonella was shocked about the farm’s condition, and promised herself that she would restore the farm’s beauty, so she quit her job to become an organic olive farmer.
In February 2008, Antonella finished refurbishing the buildings within the farm’s buildings and started agro tourist activities. Antonella wanted to maintain nature at its purest so that the next generation has something to inherit, Just as she was beginning her tours, a Shumei Staff Member in Italy learned about Antonella. And had the chance to meet her, It was obvious, that Antonella was the one who could produce the best olive oil for the Miho Museum in Japan.
Since the Podere Midolla farm is located 350 meters (1148 feet) above sea level, it is difficult for olive fruit flies to reach the olives. Because the farm was in a great location to try the Shumei Natural Agriculture method, Antonella and Shumei agreed to try farming together to produce olive oil.
Without using any chemicals or fertilizers, the farm produced a stable harvest of olives from 2008 to 2013, The oil quickly received much praise from around the world. The highest quality olive oil was delivered to the Miho Museum as requested, and was loved by the people visiting the museum’s restaurant.
The first challenge arose in 2014. Olive fruit flies broke out all over Toscana, and this time, the Podere Midolla Farm could not escape them. They ate almost all the olives on the farm, leaving no harvest, not even enough for one bottle of olive oil.
In 2015, they were able to beat the olive fruit flies and started producing their amazing olive oils once again; however they had trouble bringing the olive volume back. No matter what they tried, for the next 2 years, they could not figure out why they were not able to produce the same amount of olives th at they had before.
The farm reached out to Shumei for help . People from Shumei Natural Agriculture and discovered two things:
- Because the farm had been using machines and due to lack of care, the soil had become so hard that it could no longer breathe, so no air nor water could circulate. It needed to be brought back to its natural state.
- A traditional pruning method does not work well with trees that have been grown through the Natural Agriculture method. The way the trees were pruned needed to be changed so that the tree’s hormones would become active, bringing out the power and potential that the trees naturally held.
From this experience, Antonella learned the philosophy of “Living with Nature” and “Rrespecting Nature. ” At one point there was a decrease in the harvest, but by understanding and practicing the philosophy, she was able to bring back the harvest amount in 2018.
Antonella spoke at the June 2016 Natural Agriculture Conference:
“I started using the Shumei Natural Agriculture Method in 2008. I can’t scientifically prove what impact the Natural Agriculture method had on the crops. Everything that happens on the farm is brought about by nature, and it is not in our hands to prevent or promote what takes place. Looking back at my years on the farm, it is amazing to find out that although the trees are getting older every year, the olive oils’ flavor, smell, quality and even nutritional figures have all improved.”
The olive oils produced by Antonella through the Shumei Natural Agriculture method is truly amazing. The quality is so good that many of her customers say they’re better than organic olive oils, and purchase multiple bottles at once, and so by summer, the stock is usually gone. When you see those reactions in a person, you can tell that Shumei Natural Agriculture works.
It is possible to produce the best quality olive oils through the Shumei Natural Agriculture method. For the first years, the transition from organic farming usually goes smoothly. However, like Antonella mentioned, “Natural Agriculture meant changing her mind and heart.” It gives opportunities and challenges to truly understand that “nature teaches all” and that s each individual needs to create the best.
Practicing the Shumei Natural Agriculture method does not mean that nothing is done to the crops. armers and gardeners need to observe nature, understand what it needs, and act accordingly. Observation is the important factor, and relies greatly on personal experience and knowledge. One grower cannot exactly follow what other farmers are doing. Each needs to observe to understand what is going on, and why. Observation makes people appreciate Nature and the harvest given by God.
As Antonella said in her speech, “I do admit that all roads are bumpy sometimes. But despite the challenges, my heart is still full of hope. I really do believe that the Shumei Natural Agriculture method is one way to make this world a better place. ”
Antonella has worked hard to gain her understanding of nature while forming partnerships in the West Toscana region. Today, she has five other farms joining her in the Shumei Natural Agriculture project with a total of over 9000 olive trees. That number may still be small, but it is continuing to grow one olive tree at a time.