During our recent business trip to Piedmonte in Italy we were introduced to Bepe Distefanis, who farms fruit and vineyards just outside Montelupo Albese. While it’s always fascinating to hear about the experiences of fellow farmers in other countries, Bepe’s story is especially inspiring, as having reduced his vineyards, he now grows a variety of fruit including apples, pears and persimmons (Sharon Fruit in UK stores or Cachi in Italian stores) and sells all his produce direct. He produces a really nice Apple juice and has started drying sliced fruit in a really clever machine built by his brother who utilised used car parts!
The best bit of advice he shared with us is the small item he is holding in his hand. Bepe casts hundreds of little concrete weights in disposable plastic cups and hangs them on fruit tree branches to encourage fruiting and optimal tree shape. He swears that this also improves fruitlet retention and counteracts biennial fruiting. We are looking forward to trying it ourselves
Like many small producers in Italy, he does not press or bottle his own juice, but utilises the services of his local cooperative. This model is used effectively throughout Italy. In the south there are Fratoio’s owned by small groups of Olive farmers that press and bottle their olive oil. In wine growing areas, the smaller producers club together and share pressing, winemaking and bottling facilities. They have worked out how to produce high quality in small batches and we are looking forward to emulating this principle at Trenderway in our apple juice production.