The Casa Carlos farm extends across 170 hectares and is located 40 km North-East of Valencia on a hillside that climbs a gentle slope towards the foothills of the Sierra Calderona Natural Park. 300 meters above sea level, the farm is looking South and is protected from Northern winds by its own mountains.
On our farm we work following the principles and regulations of organic and biodynamic agriculture. In 2019 we started the procedures to obtain the certification of Organic Farming and Demeter. We have a great diversity of plots and crops. In the lower part, occupying 60 hectares you will find the early zone of vegetable cultivation where we are now starting a cultivation of table grapes, yellow kiwis and dragon fruit. On the remaining plots we are cultivating alfalfa to enhance the regeneration of the soil.
On the middle slope we have the citrus area with 5 varieties among oranges and clementines, which occupies another 60 hectares and which contains in its interior various undiscovered mountain enclaves, home to a wide variety of native species, insects and microorganisms.
Scattered along various zones, we have another 15 hectares with almond, olive and carob trees. On the upper part, the farm has a 35 hectares wide mount with a Mediterranean pine grove giving shelter to beehives with the bees that pollinate our trees.
All of these conditions, a lot of sun, plenty of water, mild temperatures but with an important thermal gap between night and day, hours that are just the right amount of cold during winter, together with an enormous biodiversity and a very fertile and loamy soil make Casa Carlos an ideal place to cultivate and obtain fruits of a high quality, texture and flavour.
Each tree needs on average about 8000 litres of water per year. We use the drip irrigation system throughout the farm (except for the alfalfa which is irrigated with sprinklers).
The farm had been working for many years before we arrived and one of the tasks that is taking more time is to get a more efficient irrigation system. In the fields we have installed some probes that measure every 10 cms. deep: temperature, humidity and conductivity of the soil. Thus, we can manage irrigation more efficiently. Also, we are changing the drippers for others with more drippers but less flow in each of them, to achieve a better distribution of water in the soil.
As organic and biodynamic farmers, we are very clear that the process of soil regeneration is a priority. There cannot be healthy plants without healthy soil. We are aware that it is a process that requires time, though. The remains of pruning and weeds are crushed and incorporated into the soil. We also provide significant amounts of compost, which we make on the farm every year. In this way we are in a continuous process of increasing the organic matter of the soil and, therefore, improving its structure, fertility and health.
We cultivate different species and varieties of plants without neither pesticides nor herbicides so the biodiversity of the place is increasing little by little: we find more worms and myriapods in the soil, different species of arthropods are installing themselves in the trees, and more birds are being observed, especially a family of hoopoes (Upupa epops) that lives among the grapes and kiwis.
Our goal is balance between all the organisms at our farm. We are already starting to see improvements. Pests are finding natural enemies, insects and beneficial bacteria. It is the logical consequence of betting on life in our fields and no longer using death as a general working tool.
In addition, we are working on an insectarium in which to breed various species of useful insects. We have started breeding _Cryptolaemus montrouzieri_, an important predator of cotonets, a group of very dangerous pests in citrus fruits.
The process of transition to organic and biodynamic is not easy. Trees were used to a series of chemicals that created a "fictitious" order. Since we removed those chemicals, the plants are getting used to their new natural balance, this is the reason why the conversion process takes several years. The first few years are the worst, but we know that in the long run it will be worth it. We have absolute confidence and determination in what we are doing.
We are planning to build a solar plant, as well as a water reservoir at altitude to accumulate water with the surplus energy and use it in the periods without sun. We will be able to supply all the electrical energy that is consumed, both in pumping equipment for irrigation and in the rest of the installations.
We have a big project on our hands, so we need a great team. The adventure began with a staff of twelve people but with the arrival of spring and the explosion of the younger plants, which need more attention, we have hired about twenty additional people. The older workers have been working at the farm for 30 years, they will retire in our company. We are currently more than thirty people working on the project. All workers have their work contract, full Social Security coverage and receive salaries well above the legally established minimum. We hope our team continues growing so that we can keep giving work to the families in the area.
Harvest main criterion is that the fruit has the right degree of ripeness and is not damaged in any way that makes it unsuitable for consumption. Fortunately, at CrowdFarming we can avoid purely aesthetic criteria. If our fruit is good and ripe, we harvest it, even if it is a little big or small and even if the skin has some wind or insect mark, as long as the edible part inside has not been affected.
Sometimes, the external colour of the fruit and touch is not enough to determine the ripeness of the fruit, that's why we make acidity and sweetness analyses to pick it at the right time.