Sheep breeding on an extensive, semi-wild scale is a factor for environmental protection, fire prevention and defense of biodiversity.
Fantasy and innovation to make sheep breeding a competitive and profitable sector. This “recipe” for success was created by the Organic Farm “La Porta dei Parchi”, one of the leading representatives of farm cooperatives, promoting partner of ARPO (Association of the Sheep Breeders in Abruzzi, Italy) and member of Uiaproc. Based in Anversa degli Abruzzi, small village in the province of L’Aquila, this farm has “conquered the world” with its brilliant projetcs, all featured with one common mission: saving sheep breeding from extintion (in Abruzzi, the presence of sheep amounts to 350 head today, in comparison with 3 millions before the First World War).
We are absolutely convinced that sheep breeding development must stick to traditional methods, keeping intact certain processes like extensive breeding, mountain pasturing o vertical transhumance, and refusing those techniques that might alter the animals’ physiology, as demonstrated by a tragedy like the “mad cow” disease” says Manuela Cozzi, founding member of the farm.
However, we need to imagine new ways to market our products and to diversify them with added value, to ensure their recognisability as natural, typical products on the global market.”
With a relevant creative effort, a series of operative guidelines have been set up. “Firstly, we have tried our hardest to make our productive chain longer, as today food making is no more enough. You have to transform your company and -if necessary- you have to work out some market niche were quality products will be awarded. It is essential to have a productive chain in the sector of cattle breeding, even a small one. That’s why we have to move “against the stream” of EU guidelines, promoting small slaughterhouse, small dairies, craft workshops. Farm holidays is an added link to the productive chain, which can be a lifeline for mountian territory and agriculture. Yet, farm holiday must be used properly, i.e. as a display for the food products made in the farm.”
In terms of innovation, Manuela’s farm is at the forefront, thanks to the launch of new products like sheep salami ans smoked ricotta cheese, which combine the nourishing values of organic food with a considerable added value. Cheese smoking is the best alternative to salting: the products is perfectly preserved for six months, maintaining its delicate taste whereas wooden aromas make it more palatable.
The offer is completed with roast sheep (“pecora in porchetta”) and a whole range of sheep ham varieties (“prosciutto di pecora”) , i.e. a series of tasty recipes that exhalt the quality of such a quality of meat as that of sheep, which used to be chosen for baby weaning by virtue of its digestibility.
The offer is basically direct and oriented to special restaurants, plus a niche of retailers (among them, Esperya, a web shop of typical local pruducts. The farm is also partner of “Parco Produce” (consortium of organic farmers): using a network of carriers, the consortium delivers throughout Italy the products made by partner farms. Besides milk and meat products, wool is marketed too. As it is quite a neglected product nowadays, they decided to offer through alternative solutions. “In Abruzzo, Sopravvissana (a local bred of sheep) is till widely spread. This sheep have a treble attitude and boosted us to create new products. We decided to produce a line of gadgets made of pure new wool and naturally dyed, that we sell in Natural Reserves, protected areas and surroundings. We are selecting colouring plants for this purpose, but this is not all.
Sheep and goat breeding have a great value in marginal territories from an economic and occupational perspective. In a small village like Anversa degli Abruzzi, counting 300 inhabitants, our farm cooperative hires 10 workers, i.e. an occupational impact that exeeds that of Fiat in Turin. Besides, sheep have an essential function in the protection of the environment. You may think that it is a paradox, but that’s the way it is: if we eant more tourists to come to our territory, we cannot renounce our sheep. Extensive, semi-wild sheep breeding ensures environmental protection, fire prevention, defense of biodiversity. For this reason, we promoted two projetcs, which are being examined by the Ministry of Agrucultire and Environment. Our projects are about the creation of a Natural Reserve of Cattle-tracks, to revive sustainable productive activities and support agri-environmental companies.”
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