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Guelph micro-farm catering to Italian cuisine in sustainable way

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A small Guelph farm is showing that a little bit of land goes a long way.

What makes Piccolo Farm Organics stand out -- it favours Italian flavours.

"Basil on this side, oregano here," said owner Steve D'Alimonte, pointing to different areas of the farm. "Rapini, different varieties of spinach and arugula. Italian beans, Romano beans, three varieties of Italian hot peppers."

Packed into a quarter-acre of land, it looks more like a farm in Sicily than Southern Ontario. Its humble size makes it a micro-farm at its core.

"Land is expensive,” explained D’Alimonte. “So to get around that people have had to get creative and grow on smaller plots of land.”

To make the most of a small space, D’Alimonte co-plants vegetable varieties or grows them close together. He does so with sustainable farming methods still top of mind.

"So no-till farming, again, as the name implies is you're not tilling the ground," he said. "The ground is our best carbon capture solution that we have. So the less you till the ground, or not tilling at all, locks it in the ground."

Tomatoes are one of the main money makers at the farm. But a wet summer in the area has put a damper on a portion of the profits.

"So here we are in what I'm calling the tomato graveyard for 2023," said D'Alimonte, standing among rows of rotten tomatoes.

Steve D'Alimonte, owner of Piccolo Farm Organics in Guelph, stands in his “tomato graveyard." (Dave Pettitt/CTV Kitchener)

About 250 field tomato plants are gone because of the excessive rain.

"Because of something called tomato blight, which is a fungal disease that's transmitted by water," he said.

However, one contraption has kept some of the Italian staple alive. D'Alimonte refers to it as a caterpillar tunnel, and it keeps the tomatoes covered and protected from the elements, while allowing him to control how much water the plants get.

The "caterpillar tunnel" at Piccolo Farm Organics in Guelph. (Dave Pettitt/CTV Kitchener)

Considering Piccolo Farm Organics is only in its second year of business, D'Alimonte is still figuring some things out.

He says each season brings new lessons, which leaves room for growth in more ways than one.

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