It sounded as an utopian dream to bring back something which does not exist since 200 years in Monaco. However as it is today and thanks to an ambitious dreamer, the Monaco resident Jessica Sbaraglia, the Principality is changing both mentally and physically. Monaco Wealth Management founder Zsolt Szemerszky created an inspiring interview with the founder of the Terre de Monaco.
I knew Jessica already many years before she arrived to the Principality of Monaco. I remember our first meeting in Basel, Switzerland when I saw a young and ambitious woman filled with dreams and energy. She is a tall blonde girl who aimed to have a model career. Later on she started to be involved in the designer world. However this was not her true path.
Few years ago she relocated in the Principality of Monaco where she found her true calling. It was her dream project called Terre de Monaco, which rooted her back to her childhood family memories.
In the past years I followed up her activities and the way how she started to change Monaco both physically and mentally.
Zsolt: How did you come up with the concept of Terre de Monaco?
There were multiple connections and aspects that led me to Terre de Monaco.
In my childhood my parents had a vegetable garden of 500m2 for fun and this left me a real taste for fruits and vegetables.
Then three years ago, I was in a period of my life when I asked myself existential questions like: What do I serve? What do I want to leave? Why do I exist? I got closer to the Earth naturally and I got cured, because it’s like a form of meditation.
Terre de Monaco has set itself the task of integrating urban agriculture especially green gardens, fruits and vegetables, on rooftops, balconies and surrounding buildings of the Principality of Monaco.
The concept is exceptional since those who know Monaco also understand that the Principality is one of the smallest country in the World, lying at the coast of the Mediterranean sea. So it is definitely not an ideal place for huge agricultural projects seeing that there are not so many free lands in Monaco.
Zsolt: In Monaco the business concept is important in order to get an authorisation from the Government. How did the people react when you presented your unique concept of Terre de Monaco?
It has been 200 years since agriculture no longer exists in Monaco. So when I wanted to create my company it did not make common sense and for this reason it was difficult to start it. They took me for a blonde who wished to plant 3 tomatoes and a few salad. My project seemed completely utopian.
Although it was challenging, Jessica’s genius vision was the concept of initiating an urban and micro-farming project, by using the rooftops and balconies of the existing buildings. Places that might not have been fully utilised.
Terre de Monaco values the flat spaces by growing vegetables and fruits that respect the values of organic farming and permaculture.
Zsolt: Have you ever felt that the territory of Monaco is too small for an agricultural project?
Some people could not believe it but I think it is ideal. If you can succeed on such a small country as Monaco (2km on 2km) which is 80% urbanized, then we can do it everywhere else.
Zsolt: Planting vegetables on the rooftops is a genius idea.
Yes, but rooftops are not the only spaces we use. Currently we have 1.400m2 of market and only 400m2 on the roof. There is still much potential in the Principality in terms of roof.
Zsolt: What is the best season for Terre de Monaco?
All year. We are lucky to be able to grow all year round.
Terre de Monaco also states that its mission is “Regional products are harvested and destined for local consumption”. They supply to individuals, restaurants, markets, groceries, etc. Even to the Prince’s Palace in Monaco.
Zsolt: You are supplying to many restaurants in Monaco. Who is your biggest buyer?
I do not really know. It is not about the competition, but about providing local ingredients to the local places. There is the Blue Bay, the Vistamar, the Bagatelle, the Hotel de Paris and sometimes the Palace.
Zsolt: So where can people have a taste of some Monegasque veggies?
I would highlight the Blue Bay, the Vistamar, the Bagatelle, the Hotel de Paris.
Zsolt: Last year we created a book called “Signature Dishes of the Principality of Monaco” where we featured both Blue Bay and Vistamar, two Michelin star restaurants. I often see that chef Marcel Ravin (Blue Bay) also shares your products on his Instagram. How does it feel to provide local ingredients for these Michelin star chefs?
If the Michelin star chefs take products from me, then we are happy. I love these relationships as they adapt to me and me to them. It is a true partnership.
What is truly exceptional in this unique relationship between Terre de Monaco and the local restaurants is the strong and sustainable act limiting the transport of food, product packaging. Terre de Monaco offers a personalized collaboration with each kitchen chef in order to respond closely to their desires.
It also promotes good taste and a healthy living art, which is kind of a signature of these fine dining places.
Zsolt: What is the impact that Terre de Monaco offers for the Principality? Do you think Terre de Monaco will change the local gastronomical culture as well?
I do not have that claim. But there is a real willingness to change attitudes and to develop local products.
Terre de Monaco also does a lot to fulfil and support this change in the Principality in multiple grounds.
Zsolt: I saw that you are giving back to the community, educating children, etc. Which are these activities and why do you feel this as important?
As I said at the beginning, part of the origin of the project comes from my childhood. I love working with children because they are not yet formed and are therefore very curious. So I have the possibility, for those who do not have the possibility to have a garden, to convey what I have received.
Zsolt: Terre de Monaco also promotes urban farming, meaning that everyone can have their own personalised garden. Do residents of Monaco enjoy this concept?
Yes, I think the residents like the concept, because there is a real change in mentality. Especially in the media, people realize that what they eat is very important.
Zsolt: You also got the support of Prince Albert II. Do you supply to the Princely family?
Yes, Terre de Monaco has a good relationship with Prince Albert II. Sometimes we also supply fresh fruits and vegetable to the Prince’s Palace as well.
Zsolt: What are the most recognised territories/co-operating partners where Terre de Monaco plants fruits and vegetables?
Our main vegetable gardens are:
1 vegetable garden: at the Prince Albert II Foundation 30m2
2 vegetable garden: 400 m2 at the Monte-Carlo Bay (roof of the casino)
3 vegetable garden: 300 m2 ground Escorial building
4 vegetable garden: 250 m2 ground in the Hospital Princess Grace
5 vegetable garden: 400 m2 ground to the Tower Odéon
These are some of the most recognised names working with Terre de Monaco, however the concept is available for any local businesses or private individuals.
Any individual with a terrace or private balcony who wishes to build a vegetable garden can contact Jessica and her professional team. At your request, Terre de Monaco is committed to design this custom-made garden and offers maintenance as well as courses throughout the year for a standard flat fee.
And if you are not fascinated well enough yet here are some cool facts regarding a vegetable garden on the roof of the building:
- it increases the lifetime of the roof by protecting and cooling it; without this, change-over-between temperatures and solar radiations alter the surface of the roof.
- it keeps warmth in winter and coolness in summer in parts located directly under the roof.
- it retains rainwater; the substrate absorbs a part of rainwater and limits the rejection in the collection network.
It is a truly sustainable concept from many aspects from “a blonde who wished to plant 3 tomatoes and a few salads”, as Jessica referred to herself.
Time has proved her and her dream and the change is already in Monaco. It was an unimaginable development in Monaco which was realised thanks to the persistence of a strong woman.
Zsolt: What would you say to those women who have aims and visions to fulfil?
Make passion of your life. It is important not to have regrets and to do what you like.
We wish great success to Terre de Monaco and we truly hope that more and more individuals and professional partners such as many local restaurants will discover in the near future the benefit of a fresh, local ingredient.
And as for Jessica, well… five years ago when we had sushi in Basel talking about her modelling dreams I could have never imagined that one day she will find her true calling by bringing major change in the life of so many, to motivate and to inspire as all with a seemingly easy, but genius concept. But as she told me life took her to the point when she needed to dig deep in her soul in order to find her true self and the meaning of her existence.
It needs to take courage to stand up from our darkest moments and to come out to the light. As Albert Einstein well said: “Try not to become a man of success but rather to become a man of value.” and this is exactly what Jessica Sbaraglia accomplished. Terre de Monaco has become a company of value for Monaco and its residents, something that can bring long lasting results for the Principality of Monaco and its next generations.
Tags: agriculture, Blue Bay, Featured, fruits, interview, Jessica Sbaraglia, Marcel Ravin, Monaco, organic food, Principality of Monaco, Terre de Monaco, urban art, urban gardening, vegetables, Zsolt Szemerszky