Suzie's Yard Real Food and Sustainable Tourism in Tuscany

  1. We can choose. We can make the difference.
    Mount Cetona is 750 miles from London, or the same distance as Dover to John O’Groats. Our journey began in 1999 when we swapped city life for rural Tuscany. Looking for clean air and a slower pace of life, we got bitten by the land bug and by what it means to grow real food.

    Suzie’s Yard started with these beautiful, old olive trees. Most families in the area have their own grove and we wanted to be part of that. And once you make your own oil, there’s no going back.

    Here we are in Le Cretaie, an olive grove that’s south facing and protected from the harsh winds. It has the perfect combination of cultivars, soil and microclimate to produce some of the best extra virgin olive oil to be found anywhere in the world.

    A hilltop village of 2000 people, Cetona is almost like stepping back in time. Within the lifespan of our olives it has seen war and famine, good times and bad. Everyone knows each other; everyone has time. A funny, stoic people, settled in a landscape both beautiful & unforgiving, there’s a lot that’s genuine including the food and the welcome you’ll receive. Halfway between Rome and Florence, off the beaten track, Cetona is a hidden gem.

    Cetona’s Rocca castle is over eight hundred years old. In its shadow farmers continue to work their fertile land with humility. These smallholdings are often organic; chemicals are, after all, simply expensive. The world maybe a very different place from fifteen years ago in many respects; but life here in the fields goes on almost unchanged.

    In an age when food has never been more plentiful in the rich world, many of us have questions. There are big problems associated with large farms and factory produced globally transported food: whether if be the impoverishment of the soil, the disappearance of the birds and the bees, the chemical residues, the inhumane treatment of animals, the corn starch, the pink slime, the diabetes, the list goes on… In our rush to embrace convenient food are we unwittingly sacrificing sustainable? Whilst we delighted in everything available all year round, we know what happened to truly tasty when seasonal. Current food safety standards … well, as a producer I wonder that they may turn out not to have been so safe, tomorrow.

    In a landscape of castles and gardens nestle top quality restaurants-cum-cookery schools whisking us back to simpler flavours. Osterie where young and talented chefs, are selecting the best local ingredients and the best organic wines from people they know, and whose production methods they hold in esteem. Farmers with tablets and GPS in their tractors are choosing to plant vintage variety wheat that is more pest resistant and more nutritious even if the yield is lower. Artisans who know their history and are passionate about their art are networked, have websites and are reaching a wider public than ever before. Maybe, if we want it to, all of this will survive.

    How much faith should we be putting in a food system that is skewed in favour of industrial scale production, whose advocates lobby so actively to get the legislation they need…? To produce more cheaply; but at what price for us all long-term?

    By putting great taste & health first we’ll all be supporting planet earth, small farmers and functioning communities. By buying from people we know we can all bridge the gap between cities and rural areas. Adopt a tree, what an excuse to come and spend time in a place that has great food, fantastic wines, and many talented individuals; no noise, no traffic, where you can see the stars, where you can relax and dream; regenerate and move forward…

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Suzie's Yard Real Food and Sustainable Tourism in Tuscany

Suzie Alexander - Suzie's Yard

They call us “back to the landers”. People who live in the city, in our case London, and who get an urge at a certain point in their lives to escape… We wanted to escape to somewhere really…

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They call us “back to the landers”. People who live in the city, in our case London, and who get an urge at a certain point in their lives to escape… We wanted to escape to somewhere really green, somewhere where you’d notice the seasons changing…We wanted to experience the natural world, directly, every day of the year. And even more than that we wanted air our kids could breathe, a much slower pace of life, a different, less material quality of life, and to be part of a small fully functioning community.
So we did it. We quit our jobs, sold our house, and did up the barn in Tuscany. We’re a bi-lingual, mixed European family. We put our kids in the local schools, began to settle down, and then … we got bitten by the land bug. Once we had bought an olive grove and made our first olive oil, there was no going back: we wanted to produce as much of our own food as possible, organically, and according to our own criteria.
Over a decade later at Suzie’s Yard we make our own extra virgin olive oil, our own wine, and soap from old olive oil. We have bees and sell raw honey. We grow our own vegetables and lots of herbs and have planted a fruit orchard for jams.

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