Strength is in union, as is well known, and often it can produce original ideas that can bring back traditions that have been left in the past.
Such is the case of the pastors of Brigasca sheep toma, a Ligurian Slow Food Presidium. Aldo Lomanto (from the Boschetto di Bastia company), Nevio Balbis, and Simona Pastorelli (from the Castagno agriturismo in Mendatica) decided to experiment and add the production of wool (with which they make carpets of various sizes) to their production of the three local cheeses (sora, toma, and brus).
"Sheep have always been a primary source of income for the small local communities, according to Aldo Lomanto, owner of the largest flock in the Presidium - with fights over the ownership of the best pastures often in the Italian news. So wool making is nothing new to the area. In the past even wool that wasn't fit for spinning was collected and used in mattresses and cushions. The earnings from these products, however, were meager, especially considering the hours of work involved."
Although the product was in great demand, even by Scottish and Irish merchants, it slowly began to lose value and market interest, so much so that lately it had been given away or traded for services and products or used as a fertilizer for fruit trees.
"We jumped at the opportunity to join forces and primary materials so as to re-use our sheep's wool, Lomanto continues. "That way we wouldn't lose this authentic product of our sheep herding. Everybody immediately loved the idea, and even the Sardinian textile industry accepted our offer of working the 17 quintals of wool from our three businesses, following our requests and our brand."
Indeed, the carpets come in four specific models, an unmistakable trademark of their provenance: the customer can choose an image from among a druid (a typical figure carved in slate on the houses in the upper Arroscia Valley), a lamb (standing haloed with a sickle, as presented on the doorways of local churches), the Pastor's Rose (a local symbol that is often carved into furniture, collars and on stones) and the head of the brigasca sheep.
The products are sold both at the local markets and also directly over the internet. "To tell you the truth, we're not very good at promotion since we are busy with our flocks and wool working on a daily basis," concludes Lomanto,. "Our work doesn't foresee fixed hours or vacations, let alone the time to promote our products in a decent way. But despite everything, it seems that our products are appreciated, especially by people who love the traditions of the mountains and artisanal products. Given our success, the producer's aim is definitely to produce even more products for the house. In May we will have the next batch of wool to work with and, besides the carpets, we can also propose wool blankets."
The Ligurian Mareterra project is sponsored by the Carige Foundation
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Learn about the carpets from the Presidium's producers! >>