LaSelva in Tuscany: Naturland from the very beginning

Karl Egger moved from Germany to Tuscany in 1980 - he was looking for a way to combine growing of tasty tomatoes with something good for people and nature. He found like-minded people with whom he founded the Naturland Association. Learn more about "La Selva", a Naturland Fair Farm from the very beginning.  

Naturland e. V.

When Karl Egger moved from Munich to Tuscany (Italy) in 1980, he wanted to grow tasty, naturally ripened plants, free of pesticides and artificial fertilisers instead of watered-down tomatoes. Soon the thought germinated in him that his love for good food could become something bigger. Something that would not only benefit people, but also nature. He wanted to promote this and founded the Naturland Association together with like-minded people: exactly 40 years ago. The Bavarian entrepreneur Karl Egger, founder of the electronics store ProMarkt and the jazz record label ECM, had no practical experience in agriculture when he started out in Tuscany in 1980. But he had precise values and a goal.

More than 40 years ago, Karl Egger founded LaSelva (La Selva).

"I wanted to get out, experience the seasons and finally enjoy food again that was worthy of its name and tasted the way I remembered it from my childhood: natural, intense and authentic",

recalls the retiree. Smiled at by his Italian neighbours, Egger always sought exchange with like-minded people in Germany. People who, like him, were convinced that agriculture needs neither artificial fertilisers nor toxic pesticides, but above all healthy, humus-rich soil. Because there were no uniform standards for the cultivation of organic products in Germany or Europe at that time, he founded the Naturland association with nine other organic pioneers. 

„Karl Egger did not come to Tuscany as a dreamy escapist, but as a committed organic entrepreneur. “

says Peter Hüller, managing partner of LaSelva Toskana Feinkost Vertriebs GmbH in Germany. "Thanks to his entrepreneurial skills and rock-solid organic conviction because of which a 7-hectare estate has now become a successful and biodiverse business of over 600 hectares with its own processing." Hüller has been with LaSelva for 32 years. Long tenures are the rule rather than the exception at LaSelva, says Monika Mayer, who has been responsible for quality assurance in Italy for 22 years: "This shows Karl Egger's good knowledge of human nature. He intuitively knew who to hire and how to make people feel valued and in the right place."

In the middle of Tuscany lies the LaSelva estate (La Selva).

At LaSelva, basil is not only homegrown, but also freshly processed directly after harvest (La Selva).

Since 2018, Naturland has certified the public welfare-oriented commitment of the agricultural operation in Italy with its Naturland Fair label. This is associated with a special level of social responsibility which applies not only to the company's own employees, but also to its suppliers. There is a partnership and long-term cooperation with them. At the same time, LaSelva is committed to paying fair producer prices along the entire value chain, to sourcing raw materials primarily from the region and to social engagement. For example, the company promotes the education of the younger generations in schools and supports conventional farmers in in converting to organic farming. LaSelva also works with universities to promote organic farming locally. 

There is a lot of activity everywhere. In the staff kitchen they cook together, in the farm shop they restock the shelves. In the manufactory, a group of women peel onions. In the courtyard, a family clears out the boot of their car and starts carrying their bags up to the first floor: year after year, more and more holidaymakers come to the estate. It is a good place to stay: Cypresses accentuate the curved cultivated landscape as if painted. Fields of grain, aubergines, artichokes, tomatoes and vineyards stretch out in an artistic arrangement overlooking the Tyrrhenian coastline. In between, biotopes, forests and fallow land, where it hums, buzzes, flutters and trills. LaSelva means "the wilderness" in English.  

Info-Box: Naturland Fair

Naturland Fair is an additional and voluntary certification that marks products that are not only grown and processed according to the strict Naturland organic and social standards, but also traded fairly at all stages. Naturland Fair stands for fair producer prices, regional raw material sourcing, joint quality assurance, social commitment, a corporate strategy and transparency on a fair alignment, as well as reliable trading relations.

Row by row, Emanuel Adam steers a small harvesting machine through the organic basil, which is already knee-high. A sharp blade cuts off the particularly aromatic tips. Nimble hands pluck one or two unwanted weeds from the conveyor belt before the precious leaves are loosely piled up in boxes. The typical aroma of Bella Italia intensifies with every minute. To ensure that not too much of it is lost, the full boxes are brought back to the estate as quickly as possible. Harvesting, washing and off to Cucina LaSelva for processing 

The offspring of the Chianina is particularly popular with young holidaymakers (La Selva).

"For Karl Egger, keeping animals here was a logical consequence: organic farming needs animal manure for humus formation."

"Papa, come!" A little holidaymaker asks his dad if he can finally see the animals now. The cute Apennine sheep with their long ears and the mighty, almost white Chianina cattle are admittedly more than just a tourist attraction. Monika Mayer explains. "To increase soil fertility, we also grow green manure plants such as alfalfa in a perennial crop rotation. The latter are not only ploughed under, but also fed to the animals. That's how the circle closes."

In 2016, Karl Egger handed over the management to Christian Stivaletti. Just like his predecessor, the quiet Tuscan is no self-promoter. "Our high-quality products, our philosophy and the loyalty of our employees, indeed our entire business, speak for themselves," says Christian Stivaletti, adding:

“No matter how high the demand, we would never compromise on food production and environmental responsibility."

In the Italian marketing team, Karl Egger's daughter Caroline is responsible together with her partner. Their daughter Elodie, as sustainability officer, looks after the numerous biodiversity projects that her father has set up over the decades. The internationally active sales team has expanded its management with Andreas Englmeier and has now also initiated the generational change. In Germany, the most important sales market for LaSelva's organic delicatessen products, the sales department is based in Gräfelfing. Right next to Naturland's office.

LaSelva and Naturland: the two belong together. For 40 years.

This text is a translation. No guarantee can be given for the correctness.

A wide variety of crops are grown at LaSelva. Among them are also peppers (La Selva).

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