Producing food and drink in an environmentally conscious way is often best not just for the environment but for our bodies too. I reached out to four women in food in Tuscany to ask them about their approach to sustainability in their businesses.
1. Blommig Gården – Violetta Gallotti
Violetta Gallotti is a young entrepreneur who runs Blommig Gården, an organic vegetable farm that produces yummy vegetables, jams and pickles near Galluzzo, on the outskirts of Florence. To have a lower impact on the environment she uses her own seeds where possible and avoids hybrids. Violetta also practices crop rotation, so as not to strip nutrients from the fields, which are fertilized with manure produced by her own farm animals, and every shed or building on her land is built in wood rather than cement and is raised up from the ground. All this creates a virtuous cycle, which results in high-quality end products. In order to save energy, she’s installed solar panel powered lights all along the footpaths and she’s working on managing water resources more consciously by implementing a rainwater collection system, in addition to the two wells on the property.
2. Le Fonti – Vicky Schmitt-Vitali
One of Panzano in Chianti’s best-loved wineries, Le Fonti is owned by Vicky Schmitt-Vitali. Like most of the area’s cantine, everything is organic, which means that no synthetic products are used that could be harmful for the vineyards and the human body. “If you treat nature kindly, it’ll be kind to you back, and by working in a healthy environment that takes into consideration the cycle of nature, the sun and the water, you’ll get a higher quality product that tastes better and has more nutrients,” explains Vicky. “This doesn’t apply only to wine, but to everything. You can see it in your body’s reaction too: industrial wines made with a lot of pesticides might give some people rashes or headaches, which isn’t as common with organic wines.” When asked about her business’s approach to energy, Vicky comments that she wants to install solar panels and new windows with better insulation, but cannot do so because her winery is located in Panzano’s historic center and construction is heavily regulated. Instead she uses low-consumption LED lightbulbs and she’s grateful for the fact that the wine cellar is built half in the hillside, so it stays cooler during the summer and warmer during the winter, and therefore doesn’t require as much energy for the temperature control systems.
3. LA MI’ BIRRA – Claudia, Giulia and Francesca Lami
Claudia, Giulia and Francesca Lami are the three sisters from Empoli behind LA MI’ BIRRA, a 10-year-old small production craft brewery. To preserve the environment, they created an innovative beer, LA MI’ AMICA (“My Friend”) using Milanese start-up Heallo Solutions’ patented JAXPlus technology. This beer is environmentally friendly because it’s based on the reuse of trebbie, mash residue consisting of malt rinds and other parts that are usually discarded during beer processing. From them, you can extract arabinoxylans, a special selection of soluble fibers that form viscous gels in the stomach, which slow down the absorption of blood sugar and help limit the glycemic peak, which causes harmful reactions among those who suffer from high blood sugar. So, LA MI’ AMICA is also a friend to the human body. A clinical test conducted by the University of Pavia has shown that LA MI’ AMICA’s glycemic index is reduced by about 40% compared to that of traditionally brewed beer. Another way in which LA MI’ BIRRA helps to preserve the environment is through cosmetologist Francesca Lami, who is developing cosmetics based on organic compounds retrieved from the beer-making process.
4. Lupen e Margo – Beatrice Trambusti
Beatrice Trambusti of Lupen e Margo in the San Lorenzo market is the only woman to run a lampredotto stand in all of Florence. Trippa and lampredotto are different kinds of the cow’s stomach that are considered inedible in many parts of the world and are often tossed away, but they’re delicious when cooked properly, plus they are a great way of helping to preserve the environment by making sure that every part of the animal is used and that nothing goes to waste. Beatrice shared the story behind lampredotto, which, she says, Florentines started eating out of necessity after WWII because it was inexpensive, filling and energizing. Nowadays, panino di lampredotto is one of Florence’s best-known sandwiches and no visit is complete without enjoying at least one.