A story of change, responsibility and innovation
Alce Nero’s story begins at the end of the 1970s. It’s a multifaceted story about a grand and powerful idea: the concept of organic as being not only an end in itself but also a method; a means of joint participation in global change. In other words, the idea that agriculture and food create relationships and bring people together. Their story also involves an important meeting, which took place between CONAPI, the Consorzio Nazionale Apicoltori (Italian National Beekeeper Consortium)(link is external) — established in 1984 from the former Cooperativa Apistica Valle dell’Idice (Idice Valley Beekeeping Cooperative) which was created in 1978 — and the Cooperativa Alce Nero (Alce Nero Cooperative), led by its founder, Gino Girolomoni. Both were cooperatives, meaning that ideas and people were more vital to their growth than any kind of financial resource. There were two areas of origin, Emilia Romagna and Marche Apennines.
Bees are a symbol of the regenerative power of natural, organic farming representing the response to the distortion of Italy’s countryside and the food produced by it at that time. Alce Nero had a single vision: that of a strong sense of responsibility towards the earth; of the land as a living, bountiful organism rather than inconsequential soil to be manipulated. This was combined with the idea that proclaimed organic methods are an agricultural and environmental practice which provide people with food and nourishment. It’s about wholesome and delicious nourishment which is good for us.
On the one side there was Gino Girolomoni. He was the first person in Italy to relentlessly state that organic means were an essential cultivation method and a veritable tribute to life. This is precisely why he founded the Cooperativa Alce Nero. On the other side CONAPI, a consortium established by a few young beekeepers in the Idice Valley, close to Bologna, yet which went on in subsequent decades to bring together the best and most consolidated beekeeping experiences throughout Italy. In doing so, it fostered the extraordinary biodiversity of honey, provided by the flowers, together with protecting bees from harsh pesticides and herbicides. The encounter occurred in the 1980s, yet the merger didn’t take place until 1999. A few years later, it developed into another new configuration, borne out of different production and commercial choices.
Thus Alce Nero became a distinctive voice within the market, and one which went against the current. The logo is emblematic: It depicts Alce Nero (Black Elk), medicine man and Native American chief of the Oglala Sioux tribe, riding in the opposite direction, carrying his message beyond all borders and speaking of new, ever-possible concepts. This is why they have striven to free the land from poisons ever since, striving to preserve its biodiversity and assuming environmental responsibility, which is in the making. In other words, it isn’t limited. Alce Nero’s farming partners are themselves the drivers of this change and the first to interpret food. They made the choice to be the supply chain. They select the fields and the people. They take care of their enterprise, all the way from the land to processing, right down to every single ingredient, so that they can achieve authentic, organic products. This is all done so that Alce Nero can offer real, wholesome food, because people’s health is people’s wealth. They chose to innovate ceaselessly. There are no additives in their food because — let’s be clear — they do not constitute food. They try to take part and to be the change they would like to see. It’s the change they would like to live.
Alce Nero is an open company undertaking an adventure and today they work on over six thousand hectares in Italy that have been converted to organic farming methods and which are still growing to this day. Their enterprise brings together more than a thousand Italian farmers and beekeepers, gathered under the umbrella of a group of twelve great partners; a group which is soon to be sixteen. There are also fourteen thousand small Latin American farmers, together with Alce Nero’s processors, who act as the interpreters for the raw ingredients, combined with cooks, storytellers and traders who, today, embody Alce Nero. They nurture it daily, and each day they drive it past the border, like a trusty steed.