Meet Gian Franco. He is 70 years old, and the proud owner of Altalanga. He is a true gentleman and he adores his hazel groves more than anything else in this world (don't tell his wife!). We had the pleasure to meet him a number of times, and we feel a little bit like family.
He was born in Cerretto Langhe, and he lived most of his life in this region. He grew up running through hazel groves, and travelled around Europe with his work as a Insurance Broker.
In the last decade, he started building Altalanga. A new path, a career change. He scouted the entire region to find the best land to plant hazel groves, and now with a small team of agronomist, farmers and helpers, Gian Franco works relentlessly to create the most perfect, delicious, tasty hazelnuts in the market.
He made it quite clear from the beginning that shortcuts were not an option: overtire the soil to increase production, use pesticides to get rid of bugs and weeds have never been on the agenda. Instead, he decided to use science to his advantage.
Slowly, they have started to recovery uncultivated land through crop rotation with legumes. This step was necessary to put nitrogen back into the soil. Then, they used a process called mycorrhization, to inoculate the root trees with fungi: this is to raise the vitality of the tree and to protect it from root pathogen. The only side effect? Truffles. A win win approach!
He knows what he's doing, and he is not afraid to take risky decisions. By surrounding himself with the best people, he bravely keeps going towards his goal. Oh, and he will tell you off if he believes you're doing something wrong. He actually gave us a big lecture on the "you need to follow my instructions, don't follow that Google thing". And you know what? He was right.
Photo courtesy of Franco Giaccone