When holidaymakers set foot on the idyllic and sunny island of Mallorca (Majorca) I wonder how many realise that they can play a crucial part in the long term sustainability of the island. I’m not talking about picking up a spade and getting stuck in, more about supporting a new wave of initiatives that are getting young Mallorcans back into work while preserving traditional farming methods for the future health of the island.
When I set up home with my family here in Soller’s golden valley more than a decade ago, I had absolutely no idea that a mini revolution was taking place and that organic and eco farming would become hot topics of the future. Back then only 3,600 hectares of Mallorca’s farming land relied on organic methods, now 29,000 hectares are cultivated using organic practices and nearly 500 local farmers have opted for the organic and ecological route.
Sometimes I feel like an obsessive truffle hunter but my search isn’t for exotic fungi, rather discovering yet another truly authentic slice of rural Mallorcan life. In Soller, I’m lucky enough to experience real Mallorca in spades but exploring Es Pla, the central agricultural area of the island and engaging with local organic and eco farmers there has become a passion during the last few years.
When Mallorcan friends locally suggested that my husband Alan and I join an eco group that supported young farmers and smallholders, I jumped at the opportunity. Island sustainability is important to me and the idea of a resurgence in local organic farming appealed greatly. We grow many of our own vegetables, have fruit trees and keep a cockerel and harem of healthy hens (following a Scottish diet of porridge keeps the eggs rolling!) but we now supplement that with buying eco vegetables from Això Ès Vida, run by Teo Nogara and a group of young, enterprising Mallorcans.
Thanks to Teo and his team, my husband and I have found ourselves hurtling around deep rolling countryside on the trail of a band of fascinating Mallorcan producers. There is Gemma and Marc from Catalonia who have taken over abandoned farmland in Porto Cristo and now cultivate ancient Mallorcan varieties of wheat and vegetables and who use their own spelt to make the most heavenly organic bread which they sell in local markets.
In Petra Jaume Jaume rears his own flock of sheep, selling his organic lamb to a small and loyal band of clients across the island and at Son Mayol farm near Esporles residents can buy the most delicious organic Angus beef. In rural Lloseta, Llorenç Payeras is one of the last producers of authentic Mallorcan sheep and goat cheese using rennet produced from cardoon flowers. His production is small and customers come from far and wide to taste his delicious cheese-there is nothing quite so pure on the palate.
Luckily for holidaymakers, Llorenc and other eco and organic producers like him, sell their wares weekly in markets island-wide. For example just off the Ramblas in Palma there’s an eco market held every Saturday morning in Plaça Bisbe and the daily English newspaper, Majorca Daily Bulletin, lists all weekly markets.
Meanwhile local vineyards are quickly learning the art of producing eco and organic wines. Most bodegas in Mallorca welcome visitors and are delighted to offer wine tastings. One of these is Jaume Mesquida in Porreres whose owners-brother and sister team, Jaume and Barbara-have just produced the first batch of the most wonderful biodynamic wines-all created without the use of pesticides or tractors-a first for the island. In Alaro, Professor Michael Popp, a renowned international pharmacist, welcomes holidaymakers to try his ecologically produced wines at Bodegas Castell Miquel.
All of these brilliant and diligent people and many more like them are working hard to keep organic farming and rural Mallorcan traditions alive on the island. With high unemployment among the young, an increasing number are turning to agriculture as a means to survive. Many are forming cooperatives island-wide and approaching farmers with overgrown and uncultivated fields to allow them to turn them into profitable agricultural land once more. The take up rate is growing and the more enlightened consumers-tourists included- hoteliers and restaurateurs are catching on fast and supporting the initiative.
Here on Mallorca nearly 95 per cent of food is imported mainly for local tourism when under our very noses we have a veritable garden of Eden that can be cultivated, nursed and cherished and preserved for future generations.
When I’m not excitedly sniffing out the latest obscure smallholding lurking down what appears to be a dead end track in the middle of nowhere, I am seeking out new thrills in the naturaleza with Mallorcan friends who are kind enough to open my eyes to new experiences. Recently Alan and I were taken off for a day’s rigorous walk on Dragonera Island, a nature reserve 20 minutes by boat from Sant Elm in the south west, and we often visit the beautiful national park on the island of Cabrera, taking the little ferry from Colonia Sant Jordi on the south east coast. By visiting nature reserves in Mallorca and paying the small admission fees, tourists can make a real difference to nature conservation on the island.
I believe that discerning holidaymakers visiting Mallorca genuinely come for its unspoilt beauty, simplicity and rural authenticity. Supporting the farmers, ecological wine producers and young Mallorcans doing their bit to keep natural farming and agriculture alive can be a fantastic way of making a small but critical contribution to the island’s future prosperity. Who knows but perhaps Mallorca will become a trailblazer for other key holiday destinations in the sun who’ll follow by example?
Photo credits/copyright: Hans Poldoja & Anna Nicholas
Posted : Wednesday, May 30th, 2012 at 10:00
Anna Nicholas is the author of four books about living in rural Majorca and has lived on the island since 2001. Anna has been a freelance journalist for many years, having written features for the Financial Times, Independent, Evening Standard, Sunday Telegraph, Daily Express and Tatler among others. More recently Anna has contributed a weekly column to the Majorca Daily bulletin and is a thrice weekly contributor to Telegraph Expat and Telegraph Weekly.