Imagine a farm that’s really an entire village. Back in the day, many local people used to work at Doña Marina before farm mechanization. So many, in fact, that there was a schoolteacher, a blacksmith, a carpenter, a baker, and so on. It was more like a village than a farm. Each construction is still named after either its purpose or the people who lived there. Now, of course, it has lost much of the bustle and joyous activity of that era. This is what drives our enthusiasm: a desire to restore the activity and hubbub of times past. The aim is to generate as much life as possible, to recover the harvest celebration that took place on August 24th each year. To achieve this, we need people to help us with our project!
Our farm is in the north of the Granada province, in Andalusia, at an altitude of 1,100 meters above sea level in an area surrounded by mountains. Anywhere you look, you will see the mountains of the Sierra Nevada, Arana, Baza, Cazorla or Mágina ranges. It's a stunning and moving landscape, with many protected areas and a national park nearby. When the high peaks are snow-covered, it is simply breath-taking.
The origin of Doña Marina farm dates back more than 300 years and it has always belonged to our family. Many people ask us about the origin of the name, but sadly that history has been lost over the generations. There are several tales, but none is certain, so the mystery and fantasy are perpetuated.
Olive trees and cereals are the main crops in the area, but there are also almond plantations and orchards, as well as aromatic plants such as lavender. There are also many areas where wild animals live (foxes, rabbits, wild boar), and ravines which provide water and shelter, in which holm oaks (*Quercus ilex*) and wild aromatic plants grow. Walks are fragrant with a thousand aromas, typical of the Mediterranean.
The trees are rain fed. It doesn't rain much, only about 500mm a year, but almond trees are very resilient and require little moisture to produce their fruit. We are aware that water is a limited resource and we do everything possible to prevent it from being wasted. With this in mind, we try to improve the capacity of the soil to store water and we have a pond that is filled with rainwater. We are now transitioning to 100% organic farming.
Our farming model actively integrates grazing animals. During autumn and winter, until the almond trees start producing leaves, sheep are allowed to graze among them. The sheep's manure helps the trees grow and the trees, in turn, provide the sheep with much-needed shade. Leftovers from pruning and from the harvest increase the organic matter in the soil and are used to heat the house. In addition, straw and sheep dung from the sheds are composted and distributed in the areas where the trees need it most. This enables us to target specific areas for soil regeneration. As you can see, nothing goes to waste!
Between the rows of trees, native aromatic plants grow. Rosemary, thyme, lavender-cotton and others serve as shelter and food for many species of insects. Every year, a beekeeper visits with his bees to take advantage of the flowers of our almond trees and the aromatic plants, and thus helps us to pollinate our trees.
The project is a family-run endeavour and we are reliant on the help of several highly committed workers, as well as the shepherds. We have all been closely and emotionally linked to the farm in one way or another for many years and each of us is dedicated to the task he or she knows best. The region is 100% dependent on agriculture and we want our projects to grow so that we can generate more wealth and sustainable agricultural models.