Fattoria Solidale del Circeo

History

Pope Pio VI, elected in 1775, carried out many idraulic works in the Agro Pontino. He built a still working canal network and drained part of the swamps in the territories of Sezze and Terracina. The expropriated lands were later granted to settlers. On March 3rd 1900 Michelangelo Di Stefano purchased the Mazzocchio estate. The fields were used for free-range livestock and for the cultivation of vegetables and cereals. Farmhouses were built in the most elevated areas, protected from the autumnal floods. They still represent the core of the estate.

In the ’30 the italian government decided to expropriate the whole territory and to complete the draining of the swamps. Michelangelo feared to lose his property and went to talk with Mussolini. He suggested to leave the estates to the landowners that would provide for the draining at their own expense. Therefore the family Di Stefano, among others, could keep the land, draining it with big efforts and passing it down from generation to generation. The swamps were drained through the Mazzocchio water pump, the second biggest in Europe. It is located along the Selcella Canal, the southwest boundary of the estate.

During its long history the Mazzocchio estate has carried out many activities in the fields of agriculture and livestock. Before the draining the land was cultivated with corn and rice. The corn was harvested in autumn after the flooding of the fields. The farmers walked in the water and put the cobs in the boats. The rice was harvested by women coming from the province of Vercelli in northern Italy.

In 1950 were built the first sheds, with cows and italian buffaloes handled for milk production. The milking was manually operated and the cattle was tied to the chain and brought to pasture when not in production. When the automatic milking was introduced the animals were kept free to move in a certain area.

In the ’90 the management of the farm passed to Marco Berado Di Stefano, great-grandchild of Michelangelo, who is the present manager. The herd consisted of about 500 cows and buffaloes and the fields were cultivated for the fodder.

In 2004 the farm began to put effort into social farming. Following a long term charity experience were realized projects focused on the work integration of disabled and disadvantaged people. They learned to work the soil, to harvest and to handle with livestock.

In 2007 a Training Centre was inaugurated in the farm. It has achieved credits from the  Lazio Region and offers training courses directed to the work integration of disabled and disadvantaged people.

In 2008 the social cooperative Fattoria Solidale del Circeo was established.

In 2010 the farm achieved the Bioagricert certificate for organic production.

In 2011 Marco Berardo Di Stefano was appointed president of the social farms national network.

In 2012 the farm decided unwillingly to end the livestock business and the production of milk and meat. It was a difficult but necessary decision, caused by the steady price of the milk in the last two decades compared to other consumer goods and by the resulting big economical problems to overcome.

The sheds are currently rented and the fields of the estate are cultivated for the production of organic vegetables and fruit.