An agricultural story that started 80 years ago with a man (Fortunato) who came back from Argentina and decided to set up various companies, which he then passed on to his son. Generation after generation, the company is now run by the grandson who, after gaining experience as a nurserer of ornamental plants, decided together with his brothers to build greenhouses on his grandfather's land to grow vegetables for direct sales.
The entrance to the facility - Click here for the full gallery
Together with his collaborator Claudia Soriani, Stefano Mangiante is the heir in this story, together with his brothers Eugenio and Angelo. He also decided to set up a museum of rural culture showcasing equipment, machinery, tractor, and items coming from the long-standing history of the Mangiante family.
"We once took our produce to the general markets, but then we understood direct sales were more in line with our company philosophy and met the growing needs of consumers when it came to transparency and as a guarantee of the freshness of vegetables."
Above and below: the shop - Click here for the full gallery
The meticulousness and care with which the company is organized can be gathered already from the car pack in front of the facility. State-of-the-art greenhouses are heated and equipped with automatic mechanisms for ventilation based on the internal temperature. In front of the greenhouses, there are tidy rows of open-field lettuce. The origins of all this can be grasped from a photo on display in the museum showing the first greenhouse made of glass and wood set up by grandfather Fortunato, who entrusted master builders from Liguria as no one worked with greenhouses locally at the time.
The first greenhouse was set up by Stefano Mangiante's grandfather. - Click here for the full gallery
"It was a very sturdy facility, and I still remember it from when I was a child. It lasted many years as it was very well built."
Serra Madre welcomes visitors with a large area dedicated to gardening tools. The shop is on the side, featuring large displays brimming with vegetables, citrus fruits, and fruit. The fruit is still supplied by external companies, but Serra Madre is planning on setting up orchards to be able to supply its own.
Plums boast a long commercialization calendar thanks to the fact that they can remain intact in storage units for up to 8 months
All vegetables come instead from the greenhouses and fields that surround the shop. Cultivation in a protected environment enables the company to sell various products all year round. "While it is true that winter tomatoes may not taste as good as seasonal ones, it is also true that all products ripen on the plants and are harvested at the right moment. This makes a difference and means families come back to purchase our products as they find everything they are looking for throughout the year, just like in a supermarket. What makes the difference is that, unlike in a supermarket, here they can see where the produce comes from directly through the windows."
The direct contact with consumers enables Serra Madre to plant crops based on actual demand. Over the years, they doubled the area destined for strawberries, for example, as demand has grown. "We grow the Flavia, Camarosa, and even local Favetta varieties. There is nothing like buying a punnet of freshly-harvested strawberries!"
Strawberry plants on tall mulches to facilitate harvesting
The demand for other products is often driven by the latest diets, as it happened with kale or even celery, whose sudden popularity surprised those at Serra Madre as well. Claudia Soriani, in fact, explains that "celery used to be bought only to make soffritto, while now people are asking for whole bunches to make extracts or to eat it raw."
Zucchini, tomatoes, and new potatoes are also popular, just like cardoons or pak-choi. All the main types of potatoes and onions are available: yellow, red-skinned, or purple potatoes, as well as white, red, and golden onions. The potato seeds, once purchased from the Netherlands, are now supplied by traders from the Fucino area (Abruzzo).
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Serra Madre is also planning on opening a restaurant in the summer of 2023 to go the full circle: from cultivation to direct sales and finally to the table. It is an ambitious project, which will also be possible thanks to a small internal laboratory for the cutting of the produce.
Stefano Mangiante and his collaborator Claudia Soriani below the oldest photo of the Mangiante family
Claudia Soriani also explains how "our facility is also open to schools from the capital. It is wonderful to watch the children be surprised to see the vegetables coming from the different plants and learn that tomatoes are vines, that strawberries are harvested from the ground, and that eggplants have beautiful purple flowers. During school visits, it is as if we planted small seeds that will then grow in the hearts of our young guests. We hope this will lead to them loving the land and its fruits."
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For more information:
Via di Macchia Palocco 320
Tel.: +39 351 95 81 035