Annette Mueller on managing over 2000 hectares biodynamically and selling everything directly to the end consumer for more than 40 years

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Fattoria La Vialla di Gianni, Antonio e Bandino Lo Franco has managed hectares of land using organic farming since 1978. With La Vialla’s own Annette Mueller we discuss why we need to invest more money in the fertility and biodiversity of the soil and also the estate’s success in direct-to-consumer distribution. 

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What’s the secret behind the success of Fattoria La Vialla di Gianni, Antonio e Bandino Lo Franco that started more than 40 years ago? What is biodynamic farming, and why is it better than conventional farming? What are the pros and cons of direct-to-consumer-distribution?

The Wonders of Biodynamic Farming 

Located in the middle of Tuscany, Fattoria La Vialla is a family run wine and farming estate that uses biodynamic farming and produces high-quality wine, olive oil, pecorino (sheep’s cheese), vegetables, and a lot more. Fattoria La Vialla is a “whole circular economy”: they get everything they need in the farm, and even better, they avoid producing waste they have no use for. Because of biodynamic agriculture, their products (e.g. wine and tomatoes) are proven by consumers and experts to be better in taste and quality. 

“Tomatoes taste so much better. Actually they have a higher break in sugar and are more nutritionally dense. Our olive trees, olive groves, and vineyards are so much more resilient.” – Annette Mueller

Fattoria La Vialla and Agritourism

At the moment, Fattoria La Vialla, with approximately 150 people for manpower, manages over multiple estates with a total of around 2000 hectares of lands for olive trees, wine, grains, vegetables, etc. Aside from the wonders Fattoria La Vialla is already doing with their regenerative practices, they also help boost agritourism in Tuscany as people can come to the farm for visits and vacation. There, people see how the products are made, which helps them understand how much effort, sweat, and work are put into each bottle of wine or olive oil they bring to their tables. In the same manner, consumers can also see the value they pay for when the goods are purely organic.  

“We give people the opportunity to help us harvest for a couple of hours and in a couple of hours, people already understand that a bottle of olive oil cannot cost three euros. If it’s extra virgin oil or in general, something has to be wrong with it.” – Annette Mueller

Why Direct-to-Consumer Distribution Actually Works

Guests who come to spend their holidays in Fattoria La Vialla started to enjoy the products the estate offers, and that’s how they got involved with direct-to-consumer distribution. They ship the products people order directly (no  other distributor), so people can still consume the products even though they can’t visit the farm. Although they definitely want their goods to reach a broader audience in the future, a direct-to-consumer distribution, for Annette, is amazing—they have the freedom to receive feedback from their clients, whom they consider as friends, without anyone or anything coming between them. 

“We always know when something is great, people will let us know. But when we do something where they don’t agree with it, they will let us know as well.” – Annette Mueller

It Always Starts with Soil

According to Annette, while investing in regenerative agriculture can be expensive, by transitioning, we don’t only produce goods that are higher in value—we also take part in carbon removal in soil, which will help farmers fight the climate crisis we’re bound to face in a few years. Fattoria La Vialla has always focused on the biodiversity and fertility of soil as they believe quite literally that “you reap what you sow.” Denaturation of soil, especially those pieces of land that have been abandoned, is where Fattoria La Vialla wants the investments to be. In fact, they started the Lo Franco Family Foundation, a small foundation that looks for abandoned lands and uses those lands for biodynamic farming. 

“It would be helpful if people would understand that there are projects that one can invest in that, actually, in a way, speed up the process of regenerating landscapes and regenerating food production and really looking at soil.” – Annette Mueller

Other Important Points Discussed:

Koen and Annette also talked about: 

  • how people should start caring for the products they put on their tables;
  • how everyone interested with regenerative agriculture should have an easier way to connect and work together;
  • how Annette would invest billion euros in abandoned lands and regenerative farming not only in Tuscany but also in other countries, in educating people, in technologies like nutrient density meter, soil health meter, electric tractor, and sensor, and such; 
  • what’s next for Fattoria La Vialla’s agriculture;
  • how Annette, if she had a magic wand, would want all pesticides and synthetic chemicals gone overnight; and
  • how we should really take some drastic measures now to continue having a livable planet.

To know more about Annette Mueller and Fattoria La Vialla, download and listen to this episode. 

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The above references an opinion and is for information and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be investment advice. Seek a duly licensed professional for investment advice.

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