In Cantalupo, Gian Piero and Patrizia Lucarelli are reducing food miles: cultivation, storage, milling, baking and selling all in the same place. And the old millstone of 1929 comes back to life
By Emauela De Pinto
Through the windows of his house Gian Piero can check on his fields. He observes the colors changing with the seasons. His family has cultivated wheat in these fields for three generations. It’s beautiful to see the sheaves come up, and after they are gathered they only travel a few hundred meters. Then they end up in the Granarium, where wheat is transformed into bread every day.
Cantalupo is located in the province of Perugia, between Bevagna and Cannara. The idea of turning the family farm into a place where each step of bread-making – from planting to selling – happens under one roof came to the Lucarelli siblings in 2009. They made several trips abroad in order to study the production model they had in mind. “Only in this sense can you speak of zero food miles and transparency,” says Gian Piero. Finally, in June of 2012, Granarium was opened.
Forget industrial models. Here everything is in reach, the whole process happens before our eyes, eliminating distance. Starting with the cultivation, in July, the wheat is gathered from the fields which surround the farm in a 3 km radius on all sides. 40 hectares, 20 of them cultivated for wheat (ancient grains, particularly white ones, are the best for stone grinding and offer the best malleability and alveolation) and 20 for legumes (chickpeas, lentils, haricot beans). Then comes the storage. There are eight fiberglass silos which preserve the grain without need of stabilizers or protection from mold.
We enter the laboratory, expecting flour everywhere. But there isn’t any, thanks to a vacuuming system which perfectly filters the dust. The wheat is first put into a cleaner so that no residue remains. The third cycle eliminates grain fuzz where aflatoxins can hide. Once cleaned, the wheat is moistened to ease the grinding process, and then left to sit for 15 hours.
This is the crucial moment: the milling. There is an old millstone at the Granarium, built in 1929, which Gian Piero bought on the internet and then restored. Two boxes grind in tandem, and inside each are two rare Pyrenean stone discs which grind without heating the wheat, which would otherwise risk burning. The raw ground wheat is then sucked up into a machine made of nine sieves which then separates it into bran, semolina and Type 1 flour, which contains wheat germ and other nutritious elements.
From there to the baking: flour, water and yeast. Even the mixer follows the house rules: no rushing. The long moulding is done by hand and the dough rises for 1 ½ hours. Then the loaves are baked in the large beech wood oven next to the machines. And it sells like hotcakes, just like their other specialties: bread with cheese, pizza, focaccia and cakes.
Selling direct is not merely an advantage from an economical point of view. “Our clients can come and see where we work, talk with us, build trust. It’s all done in complete transparency,” explains Patrizia. We taste the almond and hazelnut cookies, compact and fragrant. Even the butter makes a difference: it’s high-quality and generously added. In two years their production and earnings have tripled. Quality pays off. Because a good meal always begins with good bread. As it always has.