On the slopes of the volcano, which for centuries has marked the times of the countryside, Roberto Carbone preserves a precious heritage of biodiversity with his young and courageous agricultural project: SARI.
It is Sunday afternoon and Roberto Carbone is busy preparing an important order: almost 2,000 jars of spices, herbs, herbal teas and fragrant and colorful aromatic mixes destined for one of the most famous brands in Milan. “I'm having an intense moment, I'm very happy. Only four years ago I found myself at a crossroads: leaving Sicily to go to work in the north or stay in my land. I chose to stay here and make my dream come true: SARI ”.
Roberto's entrepreneurial project takes shape in 2018, during his university studies in food science and technology. “I didn't have a penny or a square meter of land, but I had the essential ingredient: the unconditional trust of my parents. For my birthday they gave me 3,500 square meters of agricultural land on the slopes of Etna. Thanks to its unique position, between the volcano and the sea, and its natural terraces, it is much more than agricultural land: it is my outdoor laboratory ”. In the heart of the Etna National Park, where the volcano has been irrigating its black flanks with minerals for centuries, Roberto has decided to differentiate himself with a counter-current project: to cultivate medicinal plants, herbs and spices. "Here I keep a heritage of biodiversity that intensive farming puts at risk, I create educational paths to let young people discover the plants and their benefits and make them understand all the work behind a jar of oregano".
The idea is right, the volumes are growing and, in 2020, Roberto understands that it is time to open a small workshop. “I bought a dryer and the tools necessary to create herbal teas, infusions and other derivative products. Then I met Boniviri with whom I share the same vision of agriculture and the values of sustainability. Since then the growth has been unstoppable, I have had to take over another piece of land ”. Roberto explains to me that his project is inherently sustainable. “All my plants are low in water and do not need fertilizers. Not only that: as recent research has shown, with their unique scents and colors they positively affect mood and, due to their beneficial effects, are in great demand to adorn the green spaces of hospitals and health facilities ".
I imagine Roberto in his small workshop in Trecastagni, in the province of Catania, intent on studying his aromatic herbs, drying them, mixing them with skill and an abundant dose of creativity. His Sunday is still long, we have to break up. Before saying goodbye, I want to get rid of a curiosity: how did the name SARI come about? “I was inspired by a document written by Tommaso Fazello, Dominican friar and spy of Emperor Charles V who lived in the 16th century, author of the first book on the history of Sicily. Like all foreigners, arriving in Catania, he is struck by the beauty of Etna and its lunar landscape characterized by large black stones, which in ancient Catania dialect were called SARI. If you think about it, these stones are a simple and at the same time extraordinary element: when they crumble with their powder rich in minerals, they nourish the plants and give the soil unique properties ".
Day falls and I stay in my office thinking about our phone call. That's right: staying is almost always the hardest journey, but also the most exciting. “Leave or stay” is Roberto's crossroads, but also our biggest challenge. To stay is not to betray your dream, to pursue it and do everything to make it come true. To stay is to share with loved ones the fullest joys and the most painful falls which, like the black saris of Etna when they break, nourish our daily goals.
Yes, staying is our true heroic measure.