I am delighted to welcome you to our farm, Cañada de Ana. It is a piece of land that my grandfather bought and developed in 1969 with the aim of continuing the tradition of my family, the Águila family, of cultivating grapes. This is a tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation since it began in 1890 with my great-great-grandfather, until it came to me.
Our farm takes the name of "Cañada de Ana" because in 1911 a woman called Doña Ana lived in the area, specifically in an old farmhouse called Casa de la Paloma. It is 30 hectares of land located in Murcia in the Guadalentín valley a few kilometres from the foothills of the Sierra Espuña. It is an area of great ecotourism interest as it is a Regional Park with a great diversity of limestone landscapes and karst formations. In addition, in this same area, there are remains of Iberian settlements.
Over the years, vines of all kinds of varieties have been planted on these lands. In fact, when my great-great-grandfather started what is now the family business, he planted vines of the Ohanes variety, also known as Almeria grape or ship's grape, due to the large amount of exports that were made with this means of transport. Over time, this grape variety went into decline and the Águila family had to adapt to the demand for other types of grapes and needs. This is why we currently grow Itumfour, Itumnine, Itumfifteen and autumn royal table grapes in Cañada de Ana, varieties that adapt very well to our land, withstand organic cultivation very well and produce a very good quality seedless table grape.
It has been 15 years since my father decided to change the way of growing grapes on our farm. After several years of conventional grape cultivation, he realised that the practices being used were having a negative effect on the crop and the environment in general. We needed to work in a way that was kinder and more respectful to the land than we had been doing previously. In addition, we needed to set ourselves apart from other grape producers. Therefore, despite the fact that it is more complicated to manage the crops using organic farming techniques, and more complicated to reach large volumes of production, we decided to be more respectful of the environment when it came to growing grapes on our farm and get the organic farming certification.
We do not only have grapes on our farm. We also have fruit trees such as plum and pear, olive, walnut, and palm trees and peppers with which we produce paprika. Throughout the farm we let grass and adventitious flowers grow during the spring to serve as a refuge for insects that are natural enemies of pests. When summer arrives, this grass loses its flowers and the pests are no longer in the crop, so we cut it and incorporate them into the soil to provide organic matter. The borders, or separation areas between the plots, are left completely uncultivated to increase the biodiversity of our farm.
The climate on the farm is Mediterranean, influenced by the fact that it is 25 km from the Mediterranean coast, and at the foot of the Sierra Espuña Natural Park. All this allows us to have a special microclimate, ideal for the production of quality table grapes. In order to preserve the natural environment, we have humidity sensors, which allows us to optimise water consumption, a precious resource.
Our crop needs approximately 4,500m³ of water per hectare. We provide this water by means of a drip irrigation system driven by solar panels, avoiding the use of well water, which we replace with water from the Torrevieja desalination plant. Furthermore, in the event of a defect, there is a reservoir in Sierra Espuña from which the irrigation community supplies us with water under gravity pressure, so there is no need to use energy. We also recover the rainwater that falls on the roofs of our warehouses.
Although the agricultural part is our livelihood, it is not the only important part of our project. We try to give extra value to what we do and we are committed to sustainability. Therefore, in addition to our efforts to have quality production aligned with practices that respect the environment and improve biodiversity, we take social and energy saving measures. On this last point, in addition to drip irrigation powered by renewable energies, since 2018 our entire office has been powered by solar panels.
In the area where we are located, Alhama de Murcia, a large part of the population is dedicated to agriculture. In our farm we try to generate permanent jobs that contribute to keeping people in our town. Specifically, 3 men and 2 women work on the farm on a permanent basis to prepare the crop, and when we are in season there are up to 40 employees in total. In addition, we try to use local inputs as much as possible, promoting and relying on local companies and those from our region.