Questo articolo è il risultato della collaborazione tra SapereFood e Umbra Institute, filiale italiana di alcuni college e università statunitensi con sede a Perugia. Dopo un approfondimento sul settore agroalimentare e sullle tecniche di scrittura giornalistica, gli studenti di Umbra Institute hanno visitato alcune importanti aziende della regione, raccontando la loro esperienza sul campo e contribuendo a diffondere la qualità alimentare dell’Umbria all’estero.
by Mo Constantine
Frantoio Marfuga is an olive mill located in Campello Sul Clitunno, Umbria, that is situated at one of the most important places for olive oil production in the world. Producing up to 70,000 bottles a year, Marfuga is a popular and high quality, family-owned brand that takes pride in their olive oil. Francesco Gradassi, the CEO of Marfuga, explained that their olive oil is what he likes to call “extreme oil”. The olives are hand picked from trees on steep hills, higher up than most trees are planted. However, his trees have done exceptionally well, with the oldest surviving from the 16th century producing the best olives. Though his family did not begin the company until 1950, they have a long history of oil production, going back into the 1800s. The area around Marfuga has always been connected to olive oil production, and the human-cultivated trees have shaped the landscape.
The process of making olive oil, though simplified by the introduction of mechanical olive mills, is still complicated, and it takes a certain type of knowledge to produce the best oil. The trees at Marfuga are grown with organic fertilizer – animal manure – and perform differently depending on the climate and soil quality. Beginning in early October, the olives are harvested. Francesco explained how olive harvest used to take place at the beginning of November, but now they start harvesting earlier because while before, producers were more concerned with quantity, now olive oil is all about the quality. Olives picked sooner, before they turn black, contain less oil but a better flavor and more nutrition. All of Marfuga’s olives are hand harvested by hired labor in order not to bruise them.
After the olives are harvested they are transported to a machine, washed, crushed and then the oil is separated from the rest through a spinning process. This whole process takes around twenty minutes. The oil is then stored in large stainless steel tanks with pressurized tops so that oxygen cannot enter the tanks. Each tank contains a specific type of olive oil, some organic, some from other small, local producers that use Marfuga’s mill. The oil is then bottled, also using an industrialized process, one half of the bottle at a time to ensure the pressure in the bottle is correct.
Marfuga is a tight-knit family company with a brand new, state-of-the-art facility, looking to not only produce top quality olive oil, but also cultivate the culture and community behind it. They want to help their community develop and spread their love for olive oil throughout the world. Francesco speaks about how one must respect the environment, the trees, and the culture in order to produce a high quality product that has thought behind it. “Food is more than nutrition” he states—-it also plays an important role in the life of a community.