Like all fairy tales, this one begins with a situation with no apparent way out: the founder of the startup La Zucca di Cenerentola (Cinderella’s Pumpkin), was a manager for a multinational company where she felt a victim of stress and condemned to commute to Milan. Her real dream was to cultivate a vegetable garden following the rhythms of Mother Nature. Then one day Deborah Armiento, who has a degree in biology and a passion for horticulture, decided to think big and to turn this story into reality. In 2010 she started an organic farm covering 1.5 hectares, which applies the principles of synergy. What is it exactly? It is a method that does not use chemicals, but instead the synergy between plants and microorganisms naturally present in the soil. Now La Zucca di Cenerentola - which was presented at Expo Milano 2015
as part of the Vivaio delle Idee
(Ideas Nursery) - is a member of the "Slow Food" movement and participates in several projects, including "Slow Food Mais Lombardia", aimed at the production, processing and consumption of some older varieties of corn. The founder, Deborah Armiento, explained her business, which takes its name from the 60 edible types of pumpkins that she collected over several trips in Italy and abroad, in more detail.
What are the most innovative features of your cultivation method?
It is the most environmentally friendly method that exists, because the soil is worked only during the first year and then remains undisturbed, avoiding the drying out and the destruction of the ecosystem, providing savings in fuel; you do not need any treatment because – thanks to a combination of different species – plants will protect each other. By using this synergy, you do not need to use chemical fertilizers. The fields do not require weeding due to the use of green manure (the herbs are useful and many are also edible) or straw and only occasional watering is needed and so it is a great way to save water. We can cultivate many old plants, of rare or exotic varieties and the taste of these cultivated plants is intense, and their fruits are rich in vitality and beneficial properties.
Have you been recognized for your achievements?
To cite the most significant ones: I won first prize in the competition "The new success factors" in 2014, organized by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and I have been awarded the "Women who have it made" at the University of Pavia. , also Also, the company has been included in the Slow Food Guide "Grocery shopping with Slow Food" and is part of the Slow Food Fagiolo di Brebbia community, whose objective is the recognition of the 'cowpea' - cultivated for centuries in the nearby region of Brebbia (VA) (outside of Milan, Italy) - as a quality product. In late August I attended the conference CE Women Farmers Gathering 2015.
What strengths do you have in this competitive landscape?
Compared to other organic farms and processors, it is the high quality of the raw materials and what it has been transformed into, resulting in a product produced by hand and packaged without the use of pectin, flavorings or other additives. My canned goods retain all the aroma of the fresh product and come in a wide range of flavors, from classic ones (blackberry, raspberry, cherry jams) to the most sought after tastes (rose hip, rose petals, acacia flower etc.). The line includes syrups that maintain the beneficial properties of the flowers and herbs (elderflower, basil, etc.), Traditional preserves (quince, etc.) And imaginative products (chutney, mustard greens etc.) as well as sauces and savory preserves with herbs (nettle pesto, cream of sorrel, purslane oil etc.).