Monday, June 21, 2010

Green Pruning, Red Tape

After a one weekend break from the vineyard we’re back at it again. Filiberto saw us drive by, and came to tell us that he had done one more spray application and that it was now time for la potatura verde or green pruning. “Si deve liberare I grappoli”:you have to free the bunches of grapes before they get too big. He spent no more than ten minutes with us, giving us a lesson in what needed to be done, and how it should be done. In five minutes he managed to work half-way down one row, all the while explaining and talking about what we were trying to achieve and why. He explained that this is done to rid the plant of unnecessary foliage, to free the bunches, to allow air to circulate around them. The bunches will also be a lot easier to pick if positioned this way come harvest time. The thinning is only done underneath the bunches, but not above them. The canopy on top is maintained in order to protect the now dangling bunches from the hot sun, and from hail in the event that it should fall. The ideal canopy allows for a dappling of sun to hit the bunches. He explains that we also must be mindful of next year’s shoots. If we trim some of the shoots that are hanging over into the rows, we must remember that at least two of them will make up next year’s new cordon. Next year’s shoots need to be kept at least 5 buds in length. “allora fate attenzione”…so, be careful, don’t cut them too short. Filiberto left, and the 3 of us began making our way through the 38 rows, one vine at a time. We could not come close to keeping up with Filiberto’s pace. There were too many decisions to make: pull this, keep that, “oh no…those were grapes I just pulled off and not leaves; is this a shoot I’m going to want for next year? How long should I keep it?” To give you a better idea of what we were up to this weekend here are some before and after photos:

Alittle while later, Filiberto’s brother Michele and his wife Giovanna drove by. I went over to greet them and they got out of their Jeep. They apologized for being hot and sweaty, as they also had been doing the potatura verde. They made sure to give us the same lesson that Filiberto had given us about an hour earlier. We didn’t mind, as they really seem to care that we do things well. Michele asked if I had registered my vineyard yet. This is a bit of a worry for me, but I told him I was in the process of getting it done. In order for me to be able to sell the grapes,( legally), I need to make my way through the maze of Italian bureaucracy. Italians themselves complain to no end about government workers, but I’ve rarely seen an Italian lose their patience with one. This surprises me, because Italians are not known to maintain their decorum when frustrated just for the sake of politeness. I’ve asked a few people about this and they say, that you must treat these government people with kid gloves because if you get mad at them, they can easily sabotage what it is you are trying to do. With this in mind, I realized I was in way over my head, as I didn’t have a clue about what I needed and which government agency I needed to report to. I needed help and I hired, a local geometra, who just happened to be in the grape business, and who just happened to be the person who cultivated the land that we bought as the former owner had died and his wife allowed him the rights to cultivate it. Already too complicated for me.

I made an appointment to see him, but I was not sure what I was going to ask of him, and what it is, if anything he could do for me. All I knew is that he had some papers that were in his name that needed to be transferred into my name. As he mentioned all kinds of officious documents that I would need, documents I couldn’t even remember the names of let alone understand what they might be, I was filled with despair, but convinced that this was a person that I shouldn’t aggravate, and who might be able to help. So I apologized for knowing nothing, and asked him to repeat what exactly I needed to do. I would stop him in conversation and ask him to repeat the name, and I would write the words down. If I could get the correct names of the papers that I needed I could go home and them up on the internet to come to some sort of understanding of them. I know I must have looked pathetic, but even at that, I didn’t get the impression I was arousing any sympathy. The list went on, and I continued to ask what it was called, and where I would go for it. There were no straight answers. I pressed on. He finally offered to do it all for me on my behalf. I didn’t have all the words that I needed in Italian to express the relief and the gratitude that I felt for him in that moment. "You mean, I could hire you to do all of this for me?" “Siiii” he responded with a smile. I am not sure of this man, and it is clear that he is not sure of me. The relationship is not yet one of trust as I would like it to be. He’s a person whom people speak sotto voce about when I mention his name, and then they speak in dialect to each other about him and I can’t understand what they are saying. I can’t be sure of his trustworthiness, but no one has really come out and said anything against him. I know that he lives in a rather large stately home in Solopaca.
He wrote up a document that he asked me to sign identifying the actions that he would take on my behalf. I went home and I looked up every term that I had written down during our conversation. This is what I understand he will do for us, and what I understand the terms to be based my on internet searches:
(1) He would transfer the declaration of the area under vines(la dichiarazione della superficie vitata) into my name. Curiously, this doesn’t happen automatically when one buys a property.
2) He would get a VAT number for me which essentially means a business taxation number. (accensione di Partita IVA)
3) He would register the business (and I needed a business name) with the Chamber of Commerce (la Camera di Commercio). As a business name we chose Azienda Agricola Cerasella (little cherries for the cherries that grow around the property).
4) He would transfer my name to the Fascicolo Aziendale which is a set of documents and information that summarizes the business situation held by the regional government.
5) He would register me with INPS (Istituto Nazionale Previdenza Sociale or the National Social Security Institute which issues pensions, unemployment benefits and other types of aid administered by the Ministry of Welfare….I’m guessing a pension plan) as a “coltivatrice diretta” literally I’m the person who directly cultivates the land: the farmer.

I had to first of all become a farmer. I found out there are two types of farmers: an impreditore agricolo, and a coltivatore (or in the case of a female a coltivatrice) diretta. No one, could tell me what the difference is. I went onto the internet going from site to site, reading different threads of people asking the same question as me. Though there was discrepancy in the answers that I found, I think I basically know what the difference is. The Coltivatore Diretto or “direct farmer” has to pay a registration fee (120euros/year)and is issued a partita IVA (VAT) number. The coltivatore can sell his product for up to 7000 euros a year. The coltivatore diretto may hold another job and doesn’t need to have any professional training nor does he need to keep accounting unless he makes more than 7000 euros. This person is registered at the Coldiretti I haven’t found out what that is, or where it is. I think it is some agricultural association or government division. My guess is that this category is for hobby farmers. They can pay into INPS (Istituto Nazionale Previdenza Sociale or the National Social Security Institute.....Issues pensions, unemployment benefits and other types of aid administered by the Ministry of Welfare.
The second type of farmer is an Impreditore Agricolo Professionista who is a person who has had some sort of training in agriculture, the raising of animals, or in the care of a forest. It is also someone who dedicates at least 50% of his work time to this endeavour and derives 50% of his income from it. This is an agricultural business, and accounting is formally kept and dues are paid to the INPS and INAIL (Workmen’s Compensation – Istituto Nazionale per l’Assicurazione contro gli infortuni sul Lavoro.)

I don’t know how much I will be charged for these services either. When pressed, I got an answer like, “well, it wouldn’t be much”.

As I left his office and proceeded down his long driveway I felt conflicting feelings. I was relieved but still a little uneasy. For some reason, I felt compelled to turn around and look back when I noticed my geometra /appointee was watching me leave. He had both hands on his hips, and he still wore the suspicious look.


Deep Red Cellar said...

Wow - talk about red tape!!! Your grapes look great! :) How fun to see them! LOVE your new blog background - so fun!!!

Rowena... said...

Santo cielo! And here I thought getting my permesso di soggiorno was a pain in the *bleep*. Your story is incredible. YOU are incredible. Keep up the fantastic work!

ksandy said...

"allora fate attenzione" hahaha
hey d'ya think you shoul've slipped somebody in one of those offices a few extra greenbacks :) ???