Pope Francis' private farm is about to receive its big moment in the spotlight

The 25-acre operation, located on the extensive grounds of the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo (about 15 miles outside of Rome), has for decades served the papacy with a variety of fresh fruits, meats, vegetables, eggs, cheese, honey, and other crops. Heartened by the success of last year's decision to open the nearby 30-acre Barberini Gardens to the public for the first time, the Vatican is now prepping similar plans for the farm.

Built between 1929 and 1934 by Pope Pius XI, the farm employs natural fertilizers, using only chemical when necessary. "We use copper sulfate to fight fungal diseases," farm and garden manager Giuseppe Bellapadrona told Gourmet. "And of course, the manure from our animals goes back into the soil." It also features free-range hens (who reside by night in a majolica-decorated chicken coop, naturally), ostriches, turkeys, rabbits and some 80 cows (which produce over 120 gallons of milk each day). Like olive oil? The farm presses over 300 gallons each year in a stone press in the cellar. 

Naturally, a farm of this size is larger than the appetites of the papal household; which is why the remainder can be purchased by employees of the Holy See at the Vatican supermarket (yes, they have one of those too!). Annual sales regularly top $300,000, contributing to both the farm's financial sustainability and upkeep of the pope's residence.  

While it's unclear when the tour of Castel Gandolfo will be expanded to include the farm, officials are hinting that it will happen later this year. Check out some glimpses of the setting below: 

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