Co-host links: The Real Food Chain Rich Bowden Writing World Organic News Welcome to Season 3, episode 5 of the season dedicated to wholefoods in the marketplace. This week, your co-hosts Jon Moore and Rich Bowden take a long view of wholefoods and the importance of organic food in the need to feed the world. […]
Joy and contentment are not easily encountered in our times. It seems that maybe our grandparents and ancestors found happiness and gratification in the activities of their daily lives, their labour and their vocation. We, however, appear to have come to expect contentment and fulfilment mainly from our bank statements. We have all become hostages to the rule of the zero, the infinite number of zeros that we wish to find on the balance of our bank statements. One might say that our forefathers had a better deal by far, with less stress and less pressure. Without any doubt, our ancestors had their problems too, but they were perhaps less affected by the mercy of the banks, the global chemical conglomerates and the restrictive demands of politicians, the marketplace, wholesale distributors and the competition.
When you work in agriculture, as we do, one is easily overwhelmed by the sheer weight of responsibilities and the daily chores, not to speak of the intricacies of the weather conditions, which are often adverse, and the fickleness of nature in general. Here in Mallorca, due to the absence of large expanses of farmland, agriculture does not feed the farmer any longer, the way it used to. The young generation says that there is no fun in farming anymore as there might have been in the old days because there is no money to be made, at least not here on this small island. There is no profit possible in the harvest of almonds or carobs, for instance. The cost of labour involved in picking the fruit is higher than the price paid by the merchant dealers. Almonds are often left on the trees. The young generation prefer to work in the finance sector and banking, as well as in the tourist industry, in hotels, bars and restaurants, because income earned there is much greater than any earnings from the land.
At Vineyard Son Alegre, however, we enjoy our work on the land on a daily basis. We did not go into the business of making wine to get rich quick. Profit is not our main concern and financial gain will never be our principal motive. We take an organic and biodynamic approach to agriculture, focusing on grapes, olives and Xeixa wheat, because we simply love nature and see the challenges it presents us with as part of our personal way of life, of growth, acceptance and continuity. Wine making to us is a matter of the Metaphysics of Quality. We see ourselves as part of the greater good that the universe is and see our role on the land as one of nurturing and of giving back to the land what life has given us all along. It is really an assessment of values.
We find contentment in looking after our plants, vines, trees and produce, because we believe that we are but a small ingredient in the holistic existence on the planet with its clockwork precision. We enjoy knowing that our part is essential to the ecosystem, vital to the natural structure of it all and also, significant to the social context.
It gives us pleasure when we have another successful harvest of grapes or olives, even though there may be the occasional hailstorm or flood, or other blight. It gives us joy to see bees and ants, bugs, ladybirds and insects at work on our land. We feel grateful listening to the birds on our estate. It makes us happy to see the buds burst open in the springtime and to watch the growth of our fruit in the summer. And we feel fortunate to be allowed to pick the grapes and harvest the olives when it is time to reap the benefits of what nature has given us. We believe that nature teaches us about harmony and empathy every minute of the day and we feel that humility makes for happiness because of that.
As Mahatma Gandhi said it so perfectly: “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony”.
This year CSANR sponsored registration for several WSU students to attend the Tilth Conference. We will post reflections written by the students over the next several weeks. Please feel free to comment and give these students your feedback.
My name is Esther Rugoli, and I am in my second year in Agriculture Biotechnology at Washington State University. It was my first time to hear about The Tilth Conference, and it was such great chance to attend in Vancouver, Washington.
I am from the Rwanda, and most farmers in my country grow food to feed their families and they are left with little or none to sell. Now the number of commercial farmers is increasing, but there is still the problem of food insecurity in my country. I always think of agriculture in a business-based manner because in the future I want to see my country growing more food at a commercial scale. Before I attended The Tilth Conference, I was less informed and thought organic farming was all about growing few crops for food with your family. I could not think of a farmer growing organic food and still producing enough to put on a large market.
The Tilth Conference gave me the chance to meet professionals and farmers to share my interests with as I learn from them as well. The 2017 Tilth Conference focused on the latest research on sustainable agriculture, business skills needed for the farm to be successful, and the need for these things to occur simultaneously in order to get a better local food system in the Pacific Northwest.
The presentation I enjoyed the most was by Paul McClellan. The presentation was titled “Realistic and Useful Business Planning for Building Capacity and Growth.” His presentation marked in my mind, and I was delighted to hear about how to make a good business plan on a farm and be able to turn a small farm into a bigger successful farm. Paul said “if you can know the key concepts of business process, you are more likely to have a solid business plan for your farm.” This statement stood out for me because since most people in my community didn’t go to school, I was reminded that It’s my responsibility to bring this knowledge to the farms in my community to help the farmers grow into business-people.
My family does subsistence farming as any other person in my community and I have not heard my Daddy or my neighbors planning to turn our farming into business. I didn’t get chance to spend enough time with people who do business on their farm to ask them how they got started, but it was such pleasure to hear about how I can help my community to start considering turning their farms into a business accordingly. I am excited to spend my next summer in the Rwanda, encouraging farmers in my community to grow food not just for families, but also for selling.
I am grateful for the opportunity I was given to attend such a life changing conference by College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS) through sponsorship by Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources (CSANR).
Winemakers generally tend to be proud of their achievements, their masterly skills, their finesse and their crafty connoisseurship. At Vineyard Son Alegre, however, we do not have much time for such self-praise; in fact, we don’t think that we do all that much for our wine, really. It’s Nature who does it all for us – the wind, sun, rain, the soil, birds, sheep, ladybirds (Coccinellidae), the moon, insects, beetles, ants, bugs and bees. Believe it or not, it’s all of these that make our wine. The human input in our vineyard is only marginal and we try to reduce our involvement even further.
Talking about the birds on our land for instance: we have observed that birds have multiplied in numbers and in varieties of species since we established our vineyard in 2002, in the south-east of Mallorca, just north of Santanyí. We must be doing something right in not doing so much to our vines that so many birds are feeling at home on our land. They are happy building their nests year after year and laying their eggs, to brood and to hatch the next generation of Common wood pigeons (Columba palumbus), Common quails (Coturnix coturnix), Rock partridges (Alectoris graeca) or Common pheasants (Phasianus colchicus).
We have also seen, or better, have heard, the Common cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) as well as the Common nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos).
We believe that we have had visits from the Eurasian wryneck (Jynx torquilla), a member of the Woodpecker family, as well as from the Hoopoe (Upupa epops).
We have in addition evidence of the European bee-eater (Merops apiaster), easily the most beautiful of all our feathered visitors, despite the fact that we have not found their nests or eggs yet. We are on the lookout, though.
We have admired the Alpine swift (Apus melba) as well as the Pallid swift (Apus pallidus), even though they would build their nests not amongst our vines but under the roofs of our storage barns.
There is evidence of the Eurasian golden oriole (Oriolus oriolus) on our land and of the Common starling (Sturnus vulgaris).
We get the occasional visit from seagulls; the sea is not far from here and, during the hot months of summer, the ‘embat‘ airstream seems, for instance, to bring the Black-headed gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) and the European herring gull (Larus argentatus) to our property. We do not think that they nest on our land though. We are not sure, however; we are still learning about the wildlife happening before our very eyes.
We believe that all these birds, and other species yet to be identified in time to come, feel at home on our land precisely for the same reasons that make our wine so special: the fact that we leave them undisturbed and unmolested. We do not plough the soil, nor fertilize our land. We do not use pesticides to fumigate, nor employ chemicals to combat the so-called weeds, neither for plant diseases nor for insects.
We let Nature do its job and we do not assume that we know better. Nature has been making wine for over two thousand years here on the island of Mallorca and we are happy to step back a little to let Nature produce some more great wine for the next two thousand years.
All we want to do is say thank you. Thank you, Nature, thank you, birds, thank you, wildlife. Thank you all.