For Italians the Agro Pontino brand has always existed but maybe it needed a logo to make it recognizable abroad. The history of the Pontine Plain and the birth of the Agro Pontino seem recent but are rooted in the centuries past.
As a particular fate, in the coasts of Lazio, south of Rome a long coastal dune that had been formed that prevented the flow of water to the sea. The dune can still be seen at times in Sabaudia and the Circeo National Park and has its own special charm, with its characteristic Mediterranean vegetation.
Behind the dune had formed a marsh whose size varied over the centuries. An old legend says this was due to the wrath of Juno who was jealous of one of Jupiter’s lovers.
The first attempts to regiment the flows used canals which collected water from Lepinis had been made even by Volsco people. The name of Pontine derives from the ancient Volsca city of ‘Suessa Pometia’, that was subjugated by the Roman king Tarquinius the Superb. Networks of culverts can be encountered virtually everywhere.
During the Roman era the swamp was ‘tamed’ and the Via Appia was built linking Rome with the port of Brindisi, and then with the entire Middle East. In this stretch, the Appia Way is called ‘Fettuccia’ because it runs straight for over 40 kilometers. Further up along the coast of the Lepini Mountains, runs the Via Francigena used increasingly in the Middle Ages to reach Brindisi but using a path away from the plains infested by Barbarians and Saracens.
The names of the canals tell appropriately the story of the various attempts at cleaning up the marshes: Rio Martino was started by the Romans but with the name of a pope, Sixtus River named for Pope Sixtus V and Pius VI Boundary for another pope (for many years these lands were governed by the Papal States). And finally there is the Mussolini canal that needs no explanation.
The real remediation began with the fascist period when a whole network of canals was built and a dewatering system was constructed to pump the water to the sea. To carry out the work to reclaim and to populate these new lands were brought colonies of people from Veneto, then a land impoverished from the First World War. So the names of new villages and roads recall incredibly mountains and rivers of the Veneto region which had been the battleground of World War II.
Agro Pontino therefore has a unique identity given by the geography of the place and its history. A story that stands out from all the neighboring areas because of the arrival of ‘immigrants’ to these places. The Venetians became perfectly integrated and loved these territories but their identity stems from teamwork, cooperation and the desire to achieve common goals together.
The result is a fertile plain with its past, the spring water, the scent of the nearby sea and the geological features. A land which immediately became the favorite place to grow vegetables for Roma, that were very sought after for their tastes.
The birth of the Agro Pontino brand
Small businesses of the Pontine immediately understand the importance of cooperation, even from a financial point of view and in 1952 the Cassa Rurale e Artigiana dell’Agro Pontino was founded. The bank system evolved with Europe but it retained strong local ties and decided to encourage the birth of a brand ‘Agro Pontino’ to better transmit better the identity and quality of agricultural production of the Pontine plain.
‘The idea of the brand was like a ‘Columbus egg’. The brand was already integrated in all the products. The product quality of the Pontine was already known and recognizable by all Italians, but we never thought to associate it to a drawing and utilising it all together. If you go to read the websites of all the member cooperatives, they are practically the same words on the history and identity of the products. The brand was already in every one of them, it was necessary only to formalize a logo.’
These are the words of Maurizio Manfrin, president of the bank who sponsored the initiative. The idea of enclosing the common roots of the farmers of the Agro Pontino in a brand was born during a mission abroad by some of the cooperatives. Now in 2017, 10 cooperatives that represent hundreds of small farmers have decided to participate along in the Fruit Logistica exhibition in Berlin.
Thanks to the history of this plain, small businesses have vast experience of working in a group. We all know that teamwork is not typically Italian, but here it is in the corporate DNA.
They all started the same way and there are no histories of the past to divide them. They began to establish cooperatives of small producers already since the time of the war, and this experience has strengthened mutual understanding and to focus on common goals.
Quality is the real unifying element and the desire to make known to all the particularities of vegetables in which the combination of soil, climate and proximity to the sea gives to them a unique flavor. A flavour that stands out and that is appreciated by chefs and anyone who loves cooking.
Berlin is an opportunity to let the world learn about the Zucchini, the Watermelons, the Red Radishes, White Turnips, Rapa Cavoli, Eggplant, the Tomatoes, the Melons and other vegetables of the Agro Pontino and also to introduce a piece of the 3000-year history of these territories, the Pontine Marshes.
And we have not mentioned the cut salads that for some years have been among the most preferred by Italian consumers!
Cooperatives and businesses that have now joined this brand include Sotea, Agri Italy, Agrieuropa, the Baselice Cooperative, the Agricultural Cooperative, Cortese, Ortofrutticola Sabaudia, the Agricola Di Girolamo Gianni, Median and Pontinatura.
The journey has begun, the Agro Pontino brand is ready to let the world know the quality and taste of its delicacies and the love of its farmers. Enjoy your meal!