Three brothers buy abandoned land in Puglia and turn it into a spectacular farm

Jun 2 2024, 13:33
With over 130 short-chain products, including preserves, pasta, baked goods, exclusive lines for restaurants, and a concept store in Monza, the story of the Trentin farm is a model of rural entrepreneurship in Italy's heel

The new additions to the extensive range of preserves produced by I Contadini, a farm in Ugento, southern Salento, the heel of Italy, include natural cherry tomato spaccatella and grilled violet artichoke spaccatella, Racale capers in apple vinegar, and amatriciana sauce. This is a small but substantial production in the countryside behind Torre San Giovanni and some of the most beautiful beaches on the Ionian coast of Puglia, famously known as the Italian Maldives. It is a closed-loop production from field to table: literally. In addition to cultivating 52 hectares of land spread across various plots in the feuds of Ugento, Nardò, and Galatina, and processing by a team of 50 collaborators, the Salento-based company has a concept store in Monza. It opened a restaurant with a shop four years ago, where patrons can taste and purchase maison products.

Trentin's Brothers: Edoardo, Gianna and Emanuele

A farm with a sea view

I Contadini was created in 2003 by siblings Edoardo, Emanuele, and Gianna Trentin, with Venetian roots in entrepreneurship (their father Ennio worked in the fashion industry) and Puglian roots in the land. The starting point was the farm founded in the 1970s by their maternal grandfather Fiumano, whose reins the grandchildren took over. "We had never done farming, but we spent our childhood and grew up on our mother's native land," smiles Edoardo, who heads the coordination of the agricultural company, while Emanuele and Gianna manage the production laboratory. "Our connection with this part of our DNA has always been very strong and determined our path."

A bond strengthened by an opportunity offered by fate. "In 2008, we saw a sign, 'land for sale in Ugento'. My siblings and I saw it and fell in love. It was an uncultivated and abandoned piece of land, fresh and breezy, perfect for natural vegetable drying, with a countryside view of the sea and the Torre San Giovanni lighthouse." Here lies the heart of the Trentin farm, where you can have a true agricultural experience, the I Contadini Experience: the starting point is the natural balcony with the sea on the horizon, where you can enjoy the spectacle and coolness under a centuries-old Vallonea oak in the summer, even when the thermometer hits 40 degrees.

Sun-baked faces, hands in the soil and its fruits

It's not hard to fall in love with this Puglian agricultural reality, which today represents a shining model of rural entrepreneurship at the national level. A visit to their website reveals the faces of their "farmers" with sun-baked faces, hands marked by working the land, the transparency of the vegetables, and genuine rurality in all its expressions. But it's their products that truly captivate: pickles, vegetable creams and pâtés, aromatic herbs and seasonings, jams and marmalades, olives, oil, wine, and beer. In recent years, they've also added pasta and baked goods, including biscuits, friselle, snacks, and taralli (available in 10 flavours, the latest being a sweet version), made with their own Sentore Cappelli durum wheat and transformed in partnership with local businesses.

Over 120 references that reflect the good earth, sun, and wind of this Puglian triangle jutting into the sea. They tell the story of the Trentin siblings' honesty and their team of collaborators, who in these 20 years have never compromised, maintaining the mission's key points – quality, craftsmanship, genuineness – and the enthusiasm of the early days. Everything is done by hand, from harvesting to processing in the lab, mainly handled by women who sort, cut, trim, grill, season, and jar with skill, care, and patience. The vegetables are dried strictly under the Salento sun and wind, concentrating their flavours and aromas: 100% natural from sun to salt.

The values and good practices of I Contadini

The 20-year journey of the Ugento-based company has always been guided by strong values since its inception. In addition to quality and genuineness (no artificial preservatives are used), sustainability has always been its focus: a photovoltaic system produces the energy used in production, water-saving systems are employed, cultivation is low-impact through integrated farming systems, crop rotations, organic fertilization, and the creation of a synergistic garden. Other core values include territory enhancement, preservation of native varieties, naturalness, respect for seasons and natural rhythms, transparency in processing protocols and labelling.

The new products of I Contadini

The Racale capers in apple vinegar are the latest product from the company's caper grove, more delicate and quicker to use for those not familiar with the excellent integral salt-cured capers, ahead of the more famous ones from Salina and Pantelleria. "But even here in Puglia, there is a caper tradition that has never been valued and exported," comments Edoardo. The natural cherry tomato spaccatelle complete the extensive range of tomato products, a historic glory of I Contadini of Ugento, offered also sun-dried ready to eat, dried, natural, transformed into sauces, peeled tomatoes, passata, pesto, pâté, and "essence".

There is also a wide range of brindisino violet artichokes with about ten products, including the extra raw ones in EVO oil, and the brand new grilled artichoke spaccatella. They are still refining the amatriciana sauce, which was released in early 2024, "to perfect it," explains Luciano Bonzani, the sales director of the Salento company.

Lines for restaurants, frozen and grilled products

Recently launched on the market is the frozen line for restaurants (turnip tops, puntarelle, and chicory leaves), with the grilled products line set to release next year. However, the most successful product is the raw puntarelle, the sprouts of a variety of Catalonian chicory typical of Galatina preserved in EVO oil, without added spices and aromatic herbs, a wonderful blend of sweetness, pleasant bitterness, and vegetable aroma in a velvety texture. "A product created three years ago and currently the best-seller, especially in Lombardy, Veneto, and abroad," details Bonzani.

I Contadini - Ugento (LE) - S.P. 290 km 1 Felline-Torre San Giovanni - tel. 0833555227

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