In Loppiano, November means olives, oil mill, and oil. During these days we see many family groups that work among the olive trees, armed with nets, rakes and crates. We also talked about it with Dario Petrucci, who coordinates the olive harvest and the production of oil for the Cooperative Loppiano Prima.
In the Andean culture, they call it minga. It is a pre-Columbian tradition, communitarian and reciprocal in character, and indicates the collaboration between neighbors for social benefit. So, when it is harvest time, everyone works in the field of one of them, then everyone goes to another… In these days, there are a lot of these experiences in Loppiano. The olive trees are scattered throughout the entire territory of the little town, and it is often necessary to help one another so as not to disperse all of God’s gifts.
So, for example, Colomba, who lives in Casa Emmaus, invited those who wanted to collaborate with the harvest in exchange for a good lunch (in the grounds around the house there are many olive trees). More than twenty people arrived: young people, religious men and women, priests, families … In the open air, well spaced out, equipped with personal protective equipment, the olive harvest has become an opportunity to experience the family atmosphere so characteristic of Loppiano.
However, if you walk along the streets of Loppiano, especially on weekends, you can find a lot of groups busy at work: around the house of the Piazza family; near S. Vito; above, towards the castle; and so on… Then, a bottle of new oil, the green one, is a frequent and much appreciated gift in these days among neighbors.
There are also those who dedicate themselves to this harvest and to the production of oil on a large scale. We are talking about the Cooperative Loppiano Prima, which has been taking care of the lands of the little city since 1973, the year of its foundation.
Dario Petrucci tells us about the preparations for this harvest:
“The scarcity of rains this summer has slowed down the growth of the olives, but the dreaded fly has not arrived. In fact, we were prepared by spreading kaolin on the trees that whitens the leaves and confuses the fly. We are an organic farm and do not do chemical treatments, so we spread kaolin on the trees, which is white clay and allows the leaves and fruits to breathe. It doesn’t kill the flies, it just confuses them and they end up not finding the green that attracts them so they pass over and the olives are safe”.
And how was the harvest itself?
“This year, throughout Tuscany, the harvest began the last week of October, almost 15 days earlier than usual. However, we all worked hard so as not to lose precious days before the dreaded lockdown.
In September, waiting for the grapes to ripen, the volunteers who had come for the grape harvest helped us to remove the suckers from the base of the olive trees. It was an invaluable job that now allows us to roll out the nets easily. Unfortunately, many of them, who would have liked to return to Loppiano for the olive harvest, could not move, also because of the national health situation that has rapidly deteriorated. Three of them, however, returned in mid-October and continued the removal of the suckers. Now they are still with us to harvest the olives”.
So there’s a manpower shortage?
“To make up for this lack, we have purchased new equipment to speed up the harvesting. Then there are the local collectors who, as in previous years, collaborate in the harvest. We will continue to work until December”.
And how about this year’s quality and quantity?
“The good Lord has been very generous, the olives are really many and the rain, although late, has arrived and has done its part. The yield of the oil is low as in the whole Tuscany, but what we are producing is of excellent quality: the scent, the taste, the color are irresistible! For me it is a great joy to go to the oil mill and see it coming out of the centrifuges. The fruit of so much work has arrived, now it is ready to get to the associates who are waiting for it. Fett’unta, Bruschetta, Pane arruscat’, call it whatever you want… it’s always a unique experience to taste it and accompany it with our wines”.