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Time for apricots

From Southern Italy to Romagna, Granfrutta Zani started to pick this fleshy orange fruit a few weeks ago. This means that the prized Cot variety will be soon available on our tables.

In the countryside of Policoro in Basilicata and Battipaglia in Campania, Granfrutta Zani apricot harvesting began just a few weeks ago: more exactly in late May, when the first signs of the upcoming summer and fruit ripening made it possible. In the following days, the countryside in Romagna, in the area of Faenza and Forlì, also became busy: it’s time for apricots (summer is at our doorstep).

Cot apricots: superior quality

Delicate, tasty and sweet, apricots enclose the colours and flavours of summertime. In recent years, their demand has grown: consumption keeps increasing and this is also thanks to the brilliant variety research activities that brought very colourful, larger sized and intensely sweet fruit to our tables. An example? The apricots of the cot variety, with their superior sensorial qualities and a long harvest time extending up to late August: an amazing result, if you think that apricot-picking ended around the 20th July in the past.

From field harvest to packaging: Ganfrutta Zani takes care of all steps

Harvest is just one of the strengths of Granfrutta Zani apricots: fruit is placed in 15/16 kg crates rather than in conventional bins with a larger capacity to better preserve it. Although harvesting costs are higher, this certainly ensures superior quality. Then apricots are brought from the farmland to the warehouse where fruit is selected and packaged according to customer’s requests and delivered within a time period ranging from 48 hours to two weeks. Here again, high attention is given to quality: apricots are stored in cold stores for a few days, an operation that allows to reduce acidity in fruit giving it a more intense sweetness.

Premium apricots: great taste and guaranteed quality

Then the best apricots are selected as premium fruit: the selection is based on parameters such as external look, size, sugar content and ripening (which means that they are ready to eat). Fruit is packaged in trays bearing the Solatia high quality  brand or the private labels of large distribution chains that have chosen the quality and special taste of our fruit.

Keep alive (variety) research

Selecting and testing the best fruit varieties available on the market. This is the task of Granfrutta Zani’s technical office, that in this way identified excellent products such as Metis plums and Pink Lady apples.

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Friends of the environment

Every day we work in close contact with nature and the environment surrounding us. That is why we care about them: only respecting the land that was cultivated by generations of farmers before us and combining the use of modern technologies with traditional practices, we can achieve high quality products.

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Cultivating passion, day after day

Romagna is a small enchanted garden, where peaches, pears, apples and plums grow thanks to their producers’ passion and love for the land. These are the words of Gabriele Bandini, the owner of a farm called La Rosa, the first protagonist of our “Stories of the land”

Travelling across Romagna at certain times of the year and looking at the farmland all around, one cannot avoid thinking about a line of a popular song, that is “Romagna in fiore” (blooming Romagna). A fertile, flat but never monotonous land, subdivided into many, small-sized plots whose owners share not only love for nature but also another key factor: the passion for the land they cultivate and in which they live. This is something that Gabriele Bandini knows very well. He is a young businessman who, together with his brother Ronnie, runs La Rosa, a farm located a few kilometers away from Faenza. He is one of the several growers who joined Cooperativa Granfrutta Zani and one of those who place their heart, hands and mind at the service of the land on a daily basis to produce natural and tasty fruit. He is the protagonist of our first “Story of the land”, the first one who told us what does it mean to live and work in the fields every day, and what does it mean to search for quality every day.

Gabriele, first of all, please tell us about your farm. How long have you been running it?

My brother and I took over the family holding in 2003 and today we are cultivating 55 hectares of fields, of which 40 are planted with fruit such as apricots, peaches, nectarines, pear and apples. La Rosa farm has been existing since 1961: it was founded by our parents and today we are proud of carrying on their business with the lessons and values we learned from them. The farm used to be smaller, we have developed it over the years although certain ideas didn’t change at all: care for quality, the wellbeing of plants, and the search for the perfect product.

What do you mean by “perfect product”?

A perfect fruit is healthy, safe and tasty, it is something that you can bring to the table and eat with satisfaction. This kind of fruit is the result of painstaking activities in the fields, care for details, love and passion for our own land and work. It is not an easy job: our work is not only bread and roses, there are thorns as well, that is daily hard labour. The plant is not a machine that you can switch on and off whenever you want, it must be continuously cared for and we can never drop the guard. However, seeing how fruit grows from scratch and reach up to 150-200 grams of weight is really rewarding for us.

How did you reach these results? Those who do not work in farming find it quite difficult to figure out the amount of work required to grow fruit they buy in supermarkets.

We work on a continuous cycle. This year harvest time began in the middle of May and is almost over. Soon after that, we will start working for the next harvest, trying to create the better conditions for helping our plants to yield their fruit. We strive to reach these results limiting the use of pesticides and insecticides. In this respect we rely on the assistance provided by Granfrutta Zani’s experienced technicians, who support us all the time.

Which has been your most rewarding harvest this year?

This year we managed to meet a great challenge. Our pride has been the production of Galaschno apples, a specific variety of Gala apples, that has proven to be excellent both in terms of quality and quantity.

And what are you planning for next year?

As usual, many nice (and good) things. We want to grow and further improve our products and, above all, there is a great novelty: we are working on the production of a new variety of plums, the Metis plums. This is another challenge that we have taken up together with Granfrutta Zani. We are optimistic: as an Italian saying goes: “If they are roses (or La Rosa), they will bloom”, which means “Time will tell”.

A quality company

In order to produce premium quality fruit, you need to constantly oversee each production phase. And not only that: this is a work – and a method – that starts with variety selection and continues with the processes in our plants, Enrico Foschini, the company’s Head of Quality, says.

The search for quality is a long journey. It starts in the land, in the fields where farmers work every day, and continues until the product reaches the supermarket shelves, and finally the consumers’ table. It concerns every single operation within Granfrutta Zani, as Enrico Foschini, our company’s Head of Quality, explains. “In order to produce high quality premium fruit, you need to work hard on the product and on processes. Of course, the first step is choosing the variety to grow: that is why we vigorously invest in innovation and variety research activities on peaches, plums, apples and other fruit types”.

Variety research is one the first steps towards product quality

“Working on breeders, we try to select products that are tasty, have good sensorial properties –  Enrico goes on –  and that can keep well: we can truly offer a good service to our customers only if we prevent them from throwing away half of the product on the day following purchase”. After selecting the best variety, we test it on the field with our nurserymen and we try to develop it. The quest for the utmost quality for our product is key to Granfrutta Zani: that is why we have joined consortia such as that for Pink Lady apples or for  Metis plums, which strive to protect and promote high quality fruit in the best possible way. Let’s not forget Emilia Romagna’s Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) pears, another certified premium product that we are proud to grow”.

From the field to the warehouse: certified work processes

In our plants as well, the keyword will be: quality. “Every new batch of fruit that enters the warehouse is checked – Enrico explains – and other controls take place in every phase of the processes within the plant such as re-calibration and packaging. We have to avoid fruit with defects, that is why we carefully check sugar content, hardness, acidity and, in some cases, colour too”. Our workers’ activities are also submitted to constant checks: there are people in charge of making sure that the staff follows hygienic good practices, that plants are clean and comply with regulations, that the tools being used can work properly.

Global Gap certification

Thanks to the high quality level reached, Granfrutta Zani was granted the Global Gap certification, among the most important ones at international level, that establishes good farming practices for a healthy and safe product: “about 120 farms working with our cooperative company and 70% of our production are  Global Gap – the Head of Quality concludes – and it is likely that this percentage will further increase since we are committed to grow and stand out all the more on the market with top-level premium fruit”. It is really true: quality always pays off.

“We are always on top of things”

Olivano Bandini is a knowledgeable man. After many years of work, he knows perfectly that the first rule in the fields is satisfying the consumer’s needs. In this way, desired results will not be slow in coming.

For almost thirty years Olivano Bandini has got up every morning to work in the estate of his own farm. It has been growing over the years and today it stretches over more than 40 hectares in Faenza’s area, that many people regard as the “orchard of Italy”. Kiwifruit, apples, pears, nectarines and a few vines are grown by Olivano together with his twin brother, his nephew (who is taking up the family business) and a few labourers. “Ours is not a small-sized farm – he clarifies – we distributed the different tasks among us to work in the best possible way: for example, I deal with the harvest and pruning, while my nephew is in charge of the irrigation and plant protection products. Many people are not aware of it, but we have a great responsibility: keeping our land clean, taking care of it in a proper way in order to give healthy fruit to consumers”.

This applies to nectarines or Pink Lady apples, which are your pride and joy, am I right?

Yes, the Pink Lady apples are a gorgeous product: they are beautiful to look, delicious to eat and controlled from any point of view. It is like a dream to see the flowering trees, to see apples changing their colour and becoming gradually ripe. This is when I really feel proud of my own job. The same is true for nectarines and all other fruit. As a whole, every year we produce about 10,000 tons of fruit, which is a significant quantity after all.

Working in the fields is not for everyone. It is a hard job that often implies working more than 8 hours: what does push you to do what you do every day?

Passion and love for my land. For me it is easy, because I put my heart in everything I do, and I expect the same from the people all around me. You can be very skillful, but without passion you cannot go on for a long time. This is what I really like about our co-operative company, Granfrutta Zani: we always pay attention to any detail, we plan every single thing and we constantly focus on quality. There is a shared enthusiasm that can be hardly found elsewhere, because we know where we want to go and I think that those buying our fruit are aware of it.

Are you saying this out of your experience?

Yes, I think that those who work well, in the right way, in the end always achieve good results. We do like that and, as a matter of fact, we are satisfied: we could do more, we can further improve ourselves but I think that paying attention to what consumers want is essential. This is how we are: always on top of things.

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