"Production awards, motivation and a sense of belonging'. In Santa Croce Camerina, near Ragusa, a proud happy island, created by Giuseppe Zisa.
By Alessandro Franceschini
Two farms, twelve hectares of specialised greenhouses and a real 'extended family' that can grow to 80 members in high season. "And next year there will be another 40 or so, thanks to the new 4-hectare facility we just inaugurated in December.
Giuseppe Zisa , 56, is a Sicilian entrepreneur with a penchant for human resources, as well as blueberries, who is constantly planning and designing for the future rather than looking back. "My job excites me because it allows me to see happiness, motivation and a sense of belonging on the faces of the workers".
Afarmer for generations in Santa Croce Camerina, in the province of Ragusa, father of two children - "the youngest will soon open his own farm" -, a life dedicated to agriculture, study and innovation. And a single objective: to create income and work in an area where agriculture is a fundamental economic lever, even if it is often not so profitable.
In order to do this, it is essential to create an ideal staff climate. "Human resources management is the most important activity for us. Thanks to our employees, we have been able to build up a solid business that has gone from growing vegetables to growing berries, starting with raspberries and especially later with blueberries, now also with zero residue".
FROM HORTICULTURE TO BLUEBERRIES, VIA PHOTOVOLTAICS
A classic horticulturist with greenhouse crops typical of the area, he pioneered the conversion of the entire farm to organic farming in 1997. "I've always been called a bit of a madman. At the same time, until 2012, he was also involved in photovoltaic systems, while the latest breakthrough came in 2015 with the first half-hectare of raspberries, thanks to a visit to the Sant'Orsola experimental centre located a few kilometres from the headquarters of the two family businesses, Zisa and Stamilla. "At that point, the decision was made to produce blueberries. Again, I was one of the first in the area to devote myself to berries, certainly the first to invest so many hectares".
THE COMPANY'S REAL WEALTH: HUMAN RESOURCES
More women than men, across the board aged between 18 and 50, a mix of different nationalities all well integrated and above all satisfied and trained. "All our employees are regularly employed with contracts that allow us to cover the harvest period, which runs from the end of February to the end of June, and then the subsequent pruning period until September. They all receive in-house training and production bonuses, as well as very competitive and more than satisfactory remuneration".
InFebruary, job days are organised on four Fridays during which interviews are held to illustrate the job and the tasks sought. "The aspect that gives me the most satisfaction is the atmosphere of great fraternity and cooperation that has now been established, which is essential for doing a delicate job, but which I consider clean, elegant and light compared to other crops".
Everyone knows what they have to do within a long-established work organisation. "Everyone has their own tasks and their own role, which they do with dedication and responsibility. There are people who arrive unmotivated and shortly afterwards take pride in their work and this benefits everyone.
CHANGE WITH FORESIGHT
"It is essential to keep up with the times and the market. With blueberries it was a bit like a change of profession, because although I already had greenhouses and land, we are in an area that is further south than North Africa and it is necessary to have many small but fundamental attentions". According to Zisa, growing blueberries is "like driving a Formula 1 car: we have to be good at making it go straight and fast, always trying to get to the top. Innovating is a constantly burning flame. "At Sant'Orsola we were the first to offer blueberries with zero residue, thanks to the experience I had in organic farming.
According to Giuseppe Zisa, there is still a lot of potential to be exploited to create income and jobs. "Here in Sicily we have incredible potential for agriculture: we have light, heat, plains, mineral-rich groundwater. We are sitting on gold, but we often seem not to know it."
Next projects? "The cherry tree!" he concludes, laughing, happy at the thought of facing a new challenge. "I've picked the first 100 trees: I want to produce some first fruits, the first cherries in Italy to be sold in April. In short, there are still many other important projects and resources that will bring benefits to the whole area.
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