Social agriculture that promotes the territory’s biodiversity
In the area of Siracusa, there is an organisation that truly conveys its soul at its best and most inclusive: the social cooperative L’Arcolaio - the spinning wheel - that has been building routes for social and work integration for prisoners for almost twenty years, by producing Sicilian organic traditional products, sold under the brand name Dolci Evasioni.
In 2014 L’Arcolaio expanded beyond the prison walls with Frutti degli Iblei - Fruits of the Hyblean Hills, a social agriculture project launched on an area of 13 hectares in Piano Milo, which were bestowed on the cooperative by the Diocese of Siracusa. Frutti degli Iblei offers training and work to former prisoners, as well as immigrants and other people in need, through the farming and processing of typical Mediterranean herbs and the drying of fruit and vegetables sourced from small local farms.
The lands of Piano Milo, located in the heart of the Hyblean Hills, contain pristine treasures, thanks to the area’s distinctive biodiversity, which the cooperative is trying to preserve and promote. Apart from the organic cultivations of rosemary, sage, and oregano, the stretches of fields are speckled with carob, olive, and wild almond trees, thickets of mastic, bushes of thyme, cistus, buckthorn, hackberry, wild mallow, and much more. Between February and March, nature prepares to do its best here. One can admire the heather of the Hyblean Hills, with its candy pink blooms, the small orange suns of wild marigolds, the stiff stems of Mediterranean asphodel, the blue inflorescences of borage, the small, bright green tufts of wild fennel.
Thanks to Frutti degli Iblei, L’Arcolaio can be more impactful in its promotion of the cultural and natural features of the area, in expanding and strengthening networks, in becoming an active part in the construction of ethical supply chains, in building a direct relationship with the community and representing a reference point for sustainable development.
Our path is constantly evolving, as we look for as many parties as possible to involve, both for the supply chain, as well as people to accompany and integrate into the workforce. For example, the Youthful Herbal Chocolate project, which was launched with the aim of helping young immigrant women to rebuild a life after arriving in Sicily by producing artisanal chocolate with the herbs of the Hyblean Hills. The success of the “Courage” chocolate bars shows the value of business enterprises which are based on solidarity, inclusion, sustainability, and cooperation.
The production processes the cooperative uses for Frutti degli Iblei are also constantly evolving, as we look for increasingly sustainable solutions. We have constructed a system of excess water phytodepuration and two modules for the static composting of pruning cuttings and processing waste, which have further limited the impact on the environment and improved the optimization of our resources. One of the objectives of the measures we have taken, which have also included the construction of signs and furnishings made of recycled materials, is the creation of a production and educational center, that will be used to promote the principles and practices of bio-economy. While the events and activities related to this objective have been halted by the pandemic, the educational oasis is open, and it always will be, gradually becoming more systematic and organised for the people interested in learning how to do business business in a way that’s sustainable and ethical for us and the environment. It's also perfect for all those who want to explore nature and understand the biodiversity of our land, made of extraordinary scents and colours, and who want to experience a unique sensory experience, to enjoy, if just for a few minutes, the stillness underneath the great carob tree that welcomes our guests. To be inebriated by the essences of the wild herbs, to admire the shapes created by the hills, to observe the details of a flower in a field, to listen to the humming of the bees, all while savouring Dolci Evasioni - this is paradise!
Born in Milan, now an adopted Siracusana, Chiara works at the social cooperative L'Arcolaio where she has been able to bring together her interests in a sustainable lifestyle, her passion for natural cooking and her vocation as a storyteller. She loves life in the open-air, holidays on her bike and everything she does with her two children.