Verbumcaudo: in Sicily, the rebirth of a confiscated estate

9 January 2023

Il feudo VerbumCaudo, bene confiscato
Il feudo VerbumCaudo, bene confiscato

In the province of Palermo, where once was a land that belonged to the boss, today, there are 11 young Sicilians from the Verbumcaudo Cooperative. The cooperative is promoting a social agricultural project of the same name and is being supported by the CON IL SUD Foundation and the Peppino Vismara Foundation. The estate is one of the legacies left by Judge Giovanni Falcone, who, by using an innovative investigative method, was able to trace the check that showed how Michele Greco, the father of Cosa Nostra, had illegally acquired part of that land–the fiefdom of Verbumcaudo.

One hundred and fifty hectares in Polizzi Generosa, Palermo, are now confiscated, reused, and returned to the community.

“Cultivating a community, sowing a future” is the motto that inspires daily work at Verbumcaudo. The land includes a vineyard, an olive grove, a cereal field, and a portion of an old fortified farm with a large courtyard and it is a place of development, economic and social growth, as well as a source of hope for the nearby communities. Thanks to the project, the farm’s premises were renovated and as a result, they will become processing laboratories for agricultural products, educational classrooms for the dissemination of agricultural expertise and venues for activities related to experiential tourism. 

The cooperative’s activities on the estate are dedicated to organic and sustainable agriculture, with the production of wine, legumes, oil, grains, tomatoes, and vegetables. The redevelopment of the olive grove, which had been in a state of abandonment for almost thirty years, is a fundamental step towards putting the entire fund into use. Additionally, the efforts in the area of product marketing (the opening of Entroterra – Verbumcaudo Organic Emporium in Polizzi Generosa (Palermo) and the start of e-commerce with numerous commercial partnerships, have made it possible to complete the supply chain and bring Verbumcaudo’s products and values to various countries worldwide. 

Along with sharing their knowledge, the local companies that work with the cooperative to process raw materials have expressed a wish to become social agriculture operators and support job placement in businesses in the area. One of the project’s objectives is to provide job placement in social agriculture to underprivileged individuals and young people in general, who, contrary to what happens all too often, can choose to stay in Sicily by seizing a real opportunity for growth and employment. 

Verbumcaudo, in addition to hosting one of the three regional germplasm banks for Sicily’s viticultural heritage, is also a scientific research hub. There are 32 native Sicilian grape varieties at risk of extinction that grow on the land owned by the cooperative Verbumcaudo, and researchers are learning more about these less common varieties of vines, about which little is known scientifically. This is incorporated with social promotion and legality education initiatives, such as educational workshops, aimed at young people to raise awareness about the history of the estate and its confiscation.

Along with the Verbumcaudo Community Cooperative, a diverse network of partners, including for-profit and nonprofit organizations, social cooperatives, agricultural cooperatives, Consortia, and public entities, have worked synergistically and have contributed to this exemplary model for managing a mafia-confiscated property so that it can be given back to the community and put to use.

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