Finca Benalúa is a cooperative agricultural project with thirty-four partners, working together since 1995. We're located in the surroundings of Benalúa de Guadix, a village with a deep-rooted agricultural tradition where peach trees have been grown since the 1980s. You'll receive your fruit from any one of these farms, as we all grow peaches according to the same criteria.
My farm, known as Cabezo del Olivar, is located - like most of the farms in our project - on the Palomar Rambla, formed by the watercourse of the River Fardes. It's a floodplain very rich in vegetation, thanks to the availability of water in aquifers and the soil nutrients, with a high percentage of clays.
Our region is full of wastelands, which form an incredible landscape and are today a UNESCO Global Geopark. Farming takes place in the riverside areas, which turn a hundred shades of green when springtime arrives. The rest are breathtaking but desolate lands with a geological heritage that showcases our continent's history.
In addition to peaches, crops found in the region include almonds, olives, alfalfa, maize, buckthorn and tomatoes. The main crop used to be sugar beet, which is why a sugar mill was built in our village at the turn of the twentieth century. It ceased operations in the 1980s, which triggered the initiative to grow peach trees.
Our region has been depopulating in recent years. Agriculture isn't enough to keep young people here and we're facing some major challenges to revitalise our land. For example, there are plans to modernise the irrigation systems, which are currently based on flood irrigation. This will give us more resources and mean that we can develop a modern and sustainable type of agriculture, which will also give us a more prosperous future. The water comes from the old irrigation community that used to supply the sugar mill, which sourced it from the Francisco Abellán reservoir.
All the farms in our project adhere to the requirements of organic farming. This was the first forward-looking element that we applied, with a view to guaranteeing an ethical and profitable model that safeguards our region's values. What's more, we have our own conservation criteria. The wastelands are characterised by a rapid loss of soil during rainstorms, so we prevent this by using natural hedges along the river courses, which protect the valley and the crops. Another practice is soil protection, so we steer clear of tillage and incorporate organic matter from the remains of pruning and sorting. It's a model of preventive agriculture, which also includes techniques to avoid the use of chemicals for pest control. For example, maintaining the plant cover at certain times helps us attract beneficial insects that control pests.
In terms of employment, the farm owners usually have repeat crews of seasonal workers who are routinely contracted for pruning, thinning and harvesting jobs. In my case, four people usually accompany me and we've been working together for about eight years. Of course, their salary is set by the collective agreement.
What are the quality selection criteria for our fruit? The excellent flavour, size and colour of our peaches. And I always make sure not to include pieces that may be damaged by hail or insect bites. All these are sent to production lines or incorporated into the soil as organic matter.