Meet the Women-Owned Producers of Rogers Collection
As a majority women-managed and operated company, we at Rogers Collection are proud to import many premium products from hard-working, knowledgeable, committed women producers. Today we are featuring three of these women-owned producers: Chloe Dimitriadis of Biolea (olive oil); Alice Cerutti of Cascina Oschiena (rice and grains); and María Dolores Pérez-Guzmán Palomares of Pasamontes (Manchego cheeses).
Let’s start with Chloe Dimitriadis of Biolea which is currently in the middle of olive harvest. Chloe marks the sixth generation of the Dimitriadis family–and the first woman–to run Biolea, an estate-produced organic olive oil producer on the island of Crete in Greece. In 2015, Chloe took over the position of Director from her father, George Dimitriadis. When he returned to Crete almost 30 years ago, much of the olive oil production on the island had been industrialized and the farming methods were destroying the land.
Chloe says, “The past two decades our goal has been to keep our roots in olive oil production but improve the process and standards…By innovating the traditional millstone and press to meet today’s food safety standards we were able to produce a true cold pressed olive oil full of health benefits through a process which is very sustainable towards the environment.”
Biolea is committed to sustainable farming and production practices, like using extracted olive pomace (the leftover solids after pressing the olives composed of skins, seeds, stone fragments) as fuel to provide electrical power. Additionally, Biolea has farmed organically for over 20 years, using no chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. Although it means a lower olive yield, Biolea uses arid cultivation–which helps preserve the island’s limited water supply—and has also discontinued the use of heavy machinery and plowing in order to avoid soil erosion, a concerning issue in Crete.
Chloe manages the significantly large job of growing and producing, but also directs a vibrant sustainable tourism program with local and foreign visitors year-round, including harvest time and an outdoor wine and coffee bar built and begun by her husband Michali. Chloe is also a mother to her young son, Orpheus, and has another baby on the way! Chloe, Michali, and Orpheus live near the estate and spend much time there.
Next: Alice Cerutti. In 2008, Alice left her job in marketing for the Ferrero chocolate company and moved to her grandfather’s farm in Vercelli, Italy which he had rented out to farmers since the 1950s. Alice was ready to be her family’s first generation to grow rice. Cascina Oschiena’s land was originally home to 16th-century Benedictine monks and rice has been cultivated on the land since that time.
Alice Cerutti has maintained the character of the 16th century Abbey as “testimony to the past.” Buildings that were once home to riders, blacksmiths, carpenters and mondine (seasonal rice paddy workers) still stand, while Alice is making significant modern renovations and implementing farming practices aimed at restoring biodiversity and giving back to the land. The Nature Wetlands of Cascina Oschiena project has converted 25 hectares from rice cultivation to a nature preserve. It is the first Italian rice producer to obtain the Friend of the Earth Certification which ensures the farm has “an efficient environmental and social management system in place.” Many animal species now thrive on the land, including the Blacktailed Godwit – a long-legged and long-billed bird – which not only graces the land of Cascina Oschiena, but also its labels as the company’s logo.
“I never regret my life changing decision I took in 2008,” says Alice. “I am very happy and proud to be a farmer, but it wasn’t easy. Can you imagine? Not just a woman, but a CITY woman in the middle of nowhere, a territory of farmers, farmers for generations. Gaining respect wasn’t easy, especially when we started farming with our philosophy that didn’t aim to maximize production whatever it takes.”
Since she began farming, Alice has become the vice president of the European Council of Young Farmers and a member of Ecorice, a project focused on fostering biodiversity by restoring ancient rural landscapes. She received her diploma of professional rice tasting from AcquaVerdeRiso, a company that promotes the culture of Italian rice through sensory analysis.
Rogers Collection carries Cascina Oschiena’s Classic Carnaroli Rice, Classic Arborio Rice, Venere Whole Grain Rice and Apollo Aromatic Rice. And we have a new addition! Diccocum Semiperlato–or, Farro–is one of the oldest types of wheat cultivated, used by humans as nourishment since the Neolithic era. Farro–and all rice products previously only available in 1-kilogram packages– are now available in smaller 500-gram bags, perfect for individuals or families.
Olive oil, rice, and grains…now, cheese!
María Dolores Pérez-Guzmán Palomares is the fifth generation in her family to preserve Manchego sheep’s milk cheesemaking traditions started by her great grandmother in 1896 in the Castilla La Mancha region of Spain.
More than a century after Pasamontes’ beginning, María Dolores continues to craft Pasamontes Manchego at the same location as her great grandmother. María Dolores is now 62 years old. “But I feel much younger,” she says. “I [work] 10-hour days. Managing purchasing, accounting, orders, cheese storage, and cheese traceability, both new and established clients. A bit of everything. The only thing I don’t do is make the cheese, for this we have a cheese master that we have trained.”
Pasamontes crafts four Manchego cheeses. Rogers Collection carries the two ages of Artesano cheeses–the 3-4 month aged (semi-cured) and 10-12 month aged (cured)–that María Dolores feels are the best expression of her cheese.
We are excited to add a third Pasamontes cheese to our collection! Romero is made with sheep’s milk and cured with Manchego rosemary leaves for at least six months. The rosemary is collected in the mountains of La Mancha and the cheese is made using raw milk to preserve the subtle and delicate flavors of the milk from the Manchego sheep.
Rogers Collection is ecstatic to highlight these extraordinary, talented, determined and committed producers. Visit our blog for more on these women’s stories.
…and have a safe, food-filled, and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!
Written by Leska Tomash