Once again the harvest draws volunteers to Loppiano from all over Italy, a family bound by a love for the land on which the citadel stands, and for the Loppiano Farm 4.0 Co-operative.
“The harvest is a very exciting time for us, but above all a time of thanksgiving to God for the harvest He gave to us.” Dario’s voice fades away, overcome with emotion. Dario is the vice-president of the Loppiano Farm 4.0, which blossomed together with the Loppiano Prime Co-operative (the first agricultural co-operative that was begun in the citadel back in 1973). “Because, you see,” he continues after catching his breath, “the people who work here get help from these people from outside, who in their great generosity volunteer to help out. Then, you become one, a community that rises within an instant and is alive and very lively.”
It’s true. When you get to the farm called Torrione, you descend into the valley to the Noce area with nine hectares of vineyards – mostly Sangiovese, Merlot and many white grape varieties – populated by teams of grape harvesters. The volunteers come for the most part from northern Italy: Como, Turin, Bergamo, Brescia, Ferrara, Padua but also from Macerata and Naples. They are a a mix of dialects, ages and professions.
“We’re VPs, that is “vice pensioners!”, jokes one of them, whose accent says he’s from Veneto. This is his fourth wine harvest in Loppiano. But there are others who have used their vacation time to be at this collective harvest. Like Luca, who is working at the municipality of Bisuchio Varese: “I’ve been coming here for ten years. I was afraid they would not give me the holidays. But, I managed it, and here I am!” Osvaldo, also from Varese, has been taking part in the harvest for 39 years, since 1982. I’m a partner of the cooperative. I feel like it’s mine and I’m passionate about it. I involved other people, colleagues from the bank. Now I’m retired and we continue to come. For as long as I can!” Many of them come for the trimming, to cut grass and for the olive harvest. Their work is for free, done out of gratitude and generosity. Dario explains: “For those who don’t know what the harvest at Loppiano is like, we can say that what happens here is the same as what traditionally takes place in all the Italian countryside where neighbors help neighbors, friends and relatives. In the case of the Loppiano Farm 4.0, the “family” come from all over Italy. The men and women Volunteers of the Focolare Movement are many, and they hold this project close to their hearts. They come to be a family with us, giving of themselves with their spontaneity and the beauty of their witness.” A concrete example: The men and women who cook at this annual event not only shared their cooking talent and time in preparing food for all the harvesters, but they also provided the daily meals at no cost for the full duration of the harvest, during these 15 – 20 days.
“What motivates us to keep going, to make some sacrifices,” Dario adds, “is this community of people that has been created, so close, joyful and fraternal.” Because this year, we must admit, was not a very favorable season. “The harvest this year suffered from the great freezes that we had in April,” Dario explains. “We managed well enough but, for example, we lost 30 to 40% of the Chardonnay.” The people from Loppiano also do their share during the wine harvest, and everyone celebrates on September 25 in thanksgiving for what has been gathered.
Sofia, the president of Loppiano Farm 4.0, and silent guide among the fields and buildings of the canteen, drenched in the odor of freshly crushed grapes confides: “In these days, we were touched and continually repeat the Litany that Chiara Lubich had given to this project: Mother of the Creator who helps us to make the Earth a more beautiful place. We’d like to take care of these vineyards, these olive groves, the lake and the lands that we sow, to reach a sustainable ecological and economical balance. Together!”