On the country road towards Kamari, in a traditional domed complex of buildings is the Yiannis Nomikos Estate, the most complete agricultural-processing facility in Santorini. Here they process and package various local products, including fava, sun-dried tomatoes, pistachios and candied fruit.
“If you want to cultivate fava successfully you must become fava yourself!”
This was the advice given by Yiannis’s father, Tzortzis, who wanted in this way to pass on to his young son the message that he must learn all the plant’s secrets in order to succeed. Which are the best places to grow it, where does it ripen early and where late, what is the best time of day to harvest it so that its little sack full of seeds doesn’t break (at dawn so the dew keeps it moist), how to dry it naturally. Many years have gone by since then and Yiannis has every reason to claim that “I have contact with every grain of fava”.
Certainly a lot of time has passed since then and Yiannis’s course has not followed a straight line. He grew up in Exo Gonia, one of Santorini’s most beautiful larger villages, in a poor farming family. Even as a young child he worked in the fields, planting, cultivating, and harvesting. His mother urged him to follow the traditional route out of poverty by getting an education. He was successful in entering the Industrial School of Piraeus, making his mother happy, but the whole time he was enrolled he was thinking of the island and how he could apply new means to the situation there. He returned to Santorini in 2000 and began cultivating fava. In 2006 he finished setting up the facility, a small but impeccably well organized vertical unit. He currently has some 7 hectares under cultivation and his annual harvest ranges between 10 and 15 tonnes.
There are presently only two packaged brands of fava from Santorini, Yiannis’s and the local cooperative’s (Santo Wines). Yiannis’s plant also packages his own pistachios, sun-dried tomatoes and candied fruit.
“Yiannis Nomikos Estate” is open to the public and is worth a visit, not just for a chance to pick up some goodies but also to meet Yiannis and become infected by his love for Santorini’s earth.