bolsena, lazio, italia
Italian olive growing – the immense heritage of olive trees, farmers and olive-pressers that populate the peninsula right down to the southernmost islands – is experiencing a moment of extreme difficulty. The crisis is linked to the process of industrialization of olive cultivation, with the creation of new mechanized plants and increasingly technological processes, which have made oils of quality no longer competitive.
The age of olive trees – hundreds or even thousands of years old, spread across the peninsula – further contribute to making the production of Italian extra virgin olive oil even more demanding and costly. Thus, the market, orientated towards the lowest price, increasingly rewards low quality oils.
For this reason Slow Food has created a national Presidium that promotes the environmental, landscape, health and economic value of Italian extra virgin olive oil. It is a national project because producers of extra virgin oil all over Italy, in different areas of production, face the same critical situation.
The olive growers who join the national Presidium for Italian extra virgin olive oil must have olive groves with cultivars that are indigenous to the area and managed without synthetic fertilizers or herbicides. In the cases where treatment is necessary, products with low environmental impact and that guarantee no residue on the final product are permitted. On sloped or difficult terrain, the work in the fields must follow good agronomic practices to avoid erosion and landslides. Furthermore, seeing as pruning and harvesting the olives from centuries-old plants is more labor intensive compared to just planting younger specimens, as a way of discouraging the abandonment of the oldest olive plants, joining the Presidium requires that at least 80% of the plants are at least 100 years old. Finally, producers must use a narrative label to sufficiently recount and promote their stories, territory and work.
Areas of Italy traditionally used for olive growing.