Sicily, land of myths and legends, is a small paradise of natural beauty, full of all good. The agri-food industry of the largest island in the Mediterranean, in particular, offers such a variety of products for which you are spoiled for choice.
Sicilian extra vorgin olive oil is one of these treasures. Our green gold, appreciated all over the world, comes from many small and medium-sized family companies that, with knowledge, professionalism and passion, carry out a rewarding job but behind which there is equally work and effort.
Carla Sala is one of the few young Sicilian agricultural entrepreneur women, devoted to her land. His company is located in the heart of Southern Sicily, in the suggestive Porto Empedocle, birthplace of one of the most famous Sicilian writers in the world, Andrea Camilleri. Over the years, Carla has created an organic farm, “Tenuta Ragabo”, a stone’s throw from the sea, and from the stunning “Scala dei Turchi” (UNESCO Heritage). The family-run business, one of the company’s strengths, produces extra virgin olive oil, and almonds, grape must and spices. Carla exports its products all over the world. Her humanistic education (Degree in Philosophy and a past as a journalist) is the basis that has made her versatile and capable of facing significant business challenges.
From philosophy to journalism and finally to agricultural entrepreneurship. Can you tell us how you came to become owner of a company like “Tenuta Ragabo”?
Philosophy was my first love. I attended the Liceo Classico in my city and, having reached the first year of high school, I fell in love almost immediately with philosophy for what I do not know what ‘irregular’, for its being not at all obvious , it seemed to give a thickness to things, made them become three-dimensional, not only in the material view, but also in the intellectual one. After graduating from the University of Pisa, with a thesis on theoretical philosophy, I returned to my homeland. One day my father, proposed to me to acquire the lands of some distant relatives and to start a new working adventure, yes, but above all of life. It seemed to me an ‘irregular’ proposal in the same way as philosophy and I started a company manager course. At the same time, I began to manage the rental funds and to realize what it meant to manage a company full-time and at full speed.
I do not know if it is only my way of seeing reality in three dimensions, but, in the end, it seems to me that the step from philosophy to entrepreneurship has been short, albeit not at all obvious. At best, ‘irregular!’
Your almond grove tells the scents and beauty of the splendid Sicilian land. What are its characteristics?
My company is entirely organic and some friends, every now and then, give me a fundamentalist for the rigor with which I keep this imprinting given to the company, and it is always a bit of fundamentalism that has led me to keep an ancient, autochthonous cultivar in my area with regard to the almond tree.
The almond I produce is a little smaller than the one found on the market and very sweet even if some have some bitter grain, as the nature of the almond commands (at least of that ancient almond for which Sicily is famous) in to which some branches grow wild, producing bitter almond, which is also very valuable, and also sought after above all by those who make almond sweets, a delight for the palate and pride of Sicilian pastry.
What varieties make up your vineyard?
Here too, my fundamentalism led me to choose made in Sicily: Grillo, white, Calabrese, Nero d’Avola.
The olive grove is one of the strengths. What are the Company’s cultivars from which the oil is born? What are the characteristics of the “Tenuta Ragabo” oil?
This time we speak in the plural, the oils: they are two blends: ‘traditional blend’ my workhorse, is the result of the pressing of olives that are born in an olive grove recently planted, but that, kissed and blessed by themselves, salt (the my company is located right above the Scala Dei Turchi, of which we look at the sea in front of it) and excellent soil, it already produces a fair amount of oil. The blend is made up of Biancolilla, Nocellara del Belice and Cerasuola, the oil that comes from it is delicate and very fragrant. Every time you open a bottle, you seem to be in the oil mill, in front of the freshly milled oil, you can smell the field herbs and the tomato, on the palate it is delicate but distinctive. The ‘Antica Riserva’ oil, as the name suggests, is the product of the olive harvest of a centuries-old olive grove which includes, in addition to the cultivars of which I have also told you, the Messina ogliarola, an ancient cultivar from my Sicily.