In 1978, nine young, boys and girls began to work together in Cremona plain located in the south of Lombardy. They are son of farmhands, masons, milkers, labourers and artisans.. The initial purpose is to work the land to cultivating healthy products, without the use of synthetic and chemicals substances, as teached by their fathers, at the time when agriculture respects the environment, man and animals. According to the founders their mission was to grow up, develop and spread the farming culture.
In 1984 the IRIS agricultural cooperative of production and work has been founded, as collective ownership and with the aim of cultivating exclusively by organic methods. Fourfixing points have been included in the corporate purpose and i.e.:
1. Practice and spreading of agricultural cultivation by the method of organic farming
2. Creating jobs mostly for women and disadvantaged people
3. Developping a direct relationship with the consumer, to spread the farming culture and the cultivation method according to organic and biodynamic production
4. Promoting the culture of collective ownership.
The agricultural work begins in a small town near the city of Cremona in a single hectare of land, where the young people worked hard to produce seasonal vegetables to be sold directly to the farm and where they received , the help of the farmhand Angelo Gritta and Ivo Totti, pioneer of the organic and biodynamic agriculture.
The work is hard and tiring, “"The farm work is humble "; the path chosen is made of many sacrifices and few money; the cooperative produces top-quality healthy food, which are sold directly to the cunsumer, who can buy at accessible, and fair prices; this is the "Iris Economic project".
To improve the sale of many vegetables the coop. IRIS opens two shops in Cremona where there are many cultural activities: organic production method teachings, nutrition education, ecology ....
In 1990 an important growth occured: the cooperative wants to develop itself and extend the project, so decides to involve consumers by offering to become financing partners of the Iris project, and this allowed Iris to have the funds for the purchase of an agricultural land of hectares 36.00. Hence the consumer takes part to buy a collective ownership good and the cooperative carries on its agriculture project and the spreading of its founding values.
Since 1994/96 the farm in the village of Calvatone has become a benchmark for the organic farmers, thanks to the important goals gained by the cooperative during this period: continuing search of techniques that pursue the lowest environmental impact, production of top-quality products, the cultivation using the less possible water, mulching with not chemically processed paper.
Finally the choice to transform into “finished products” the raw materials coming from organic cultivated crops, brings Iris to increase the number of worker-members, always in a perspective of mutuality.
Iris works more and more to spreading the organic farming techniques mostly to have closer relationship with its consumer: this is the beginning of the businness relationship with GAS (ethical purchasing Groups), a movement of consumers who want to have a direct trust relationship with producers.
In 2005 the cooperative decided to take over the pasta factory, it has worked with for years, that was in financial toubles and was not able to guarantee the continuity of work to employees. For this reason IRIS coop. entered the direct management and in 2008 detected the pasta factory, thus keeping all jobs, in order to persecute our mission.
In the following years, the cooperative Iris hands over the management of the pasta factory to its trade company A.S.T.R.A. Bio srl, and the two companies together reach today 53 jobs in total. (estimated data)
The pasta factory is working actually at full capacity and produces exclusively organic products.
In 2010 was taken the necessary decision to build a new pasta factory, because the existing one is too old and therefore can not be competitive, the operating costs are too high and unsustainable. It has been decided to build an environmentally friendly pasta factory, especially to maintain and develop the IRIS project.
Our consumers become again financial partners. The general meeting od membership approuved to issue mutual shares to support the building of the new pasta factory, participating in the project now called "economic project IRIS".
The IRIS coop. and A.S.T.R.A BIO, are two companies locally based that have memebers in Italy and abroad, who are always involved in all decisions, bringing wealth and solidity to the ethical principles and solidarity economy.
The IRIS raw material supply chain, was born since the the beginning of the activity when we processed few quantities of durum and tender wheat in producing pasta and flours; the cooperative then has grown up, the farmers have also become stakeholders, and an agricultural technician who constantly assists farmers and controls their cultivations, has joined the team. The IRIS raw material supply chain consists of: : top quality durum wheat , ancint varieties of grains, buckwheat, emmer and spelt, wheat, organic certified corn . This is a great wealth of the cooperative, a good shared among farmers, working members and employees.
Most important points:
1. The political and bylaws decisions are really taken only by the general meeting of Iris
2. The Board of Directors. only manages the ordinary activities
3. All managersof the cooperative are also members , the management of the cooperative is not top-down.
4. The profits of the cooperative are invested in social purposes.
5. All salaries have the union agreement
6. The President, and the managers have not an additional salary for their activities
7. Some quantities of our fresh and processed products are given to the worker members in addition to their salary
8. The direct relationship with the consumer is privileged in order to spreading the ethical values of the coop.
9. The raw material supply chain of Iris is made by farmers located all over Italy, the cultivations are checked by our agricultural technician , and all are organically certified.
We trust in an ethical and economic social growing but it has to be shared by all the "actors" who trust in the "Iris Economic project" be they members, workers or consumers.
The cooperative has recently created the Foundation, that allows us to share and spread this economic model.
Maurizio Gritta, President and founder of IRIS agricultural cooperative.
He was born in Leno, a little town near Brescia, in 1957, he lives in Calvatone (CR) where the cooperative is located, Maurizio's father, Angelo Gritta, was born in 1908, he was a great person, he worked as breeder and he was in agreement, with the rural culture and transmitted to Maurizio the passion and respect for the earth.
Maurizio was inspired by his father's life concerning the ideals for Iris cooperative, he strongly wants to continue spreading the values : sharing, knowledge and respect of nature, brotherhood.
He founded the agricultural cooperative in collective ownership to breathe life into his political dream.
The respect and love for nature, brought him to choose the organic agriculture, from 1980 indeed he was a student of the agricultural expert Ivo Totti, agronomist and pioneer of the biodynamic and organic agriculture. Maurizio has received many awards and recognitions, he is still working to fortify the founding values of the cooperative.