Our farm was already called Jelanisol-Montebello when we bought it more than twenty-five years ago. Afterwards, we bought another farm in the province of Huelva, known as Finca Terra Rica. Between the two farms, there’s enough space to grow lots of fruits, such as persimmons, avocados, lychees, kumquats, oranges, grapefruit, mangos, pomegranates, almonds, figs, tangerines, prickly pears, limes, quince, among others!
We're based in the small town of Gibraleón, which has a long tradition of working in agricultural and livestock farming. Although we're close to the city of Huelva, the area is truly rural and we're surrounded by other farms, rivers, and uncultivated land. Gibraleón is famous for its musts and citrus fruits, as well as for its livestock farms. So much so that it plays host to one of the oldest livestock fairs in Spain.
The start of my time at Jelanisol-Montebello is like a love story. I arrived in Huelva in 1985, along with a friend, and this experience led to a feeling of love at first sight. After many trips back and forth, I ended up buying the farm in order to launch an organic farming project. Back then, the locals and other farmers thought my project was a bit strange. Few of them thought it'd be a success, especially as this was when biodynamic agriculture had only just started to become more popular, and that's how I ended up being nicknamed 'the crazy German'.
A few years later, we started working on permaculture. This helped us learn about the role of microorganisms in ecosystems, so we focused on biodiversity and mutualism.
Our farm is a natural environment made up of our crops, as well as a whole host of shrubs and trees. We have hedges around the perimeter of the plots, as well as vegetable islands, lakes, hotels for pollinating insects, and hives. We also have living soil which is nourished by the organic matter produced by plants and animals, together with the activity of thousands of organisms that help to break it down. This rich biodiversity attracts many birds, mammals, and reptiles, which feed on the natural resources making Jelanisol-Montebello their home and a true paradise for us.
Working with the well-being of the ecosystem in mind involves considering the natural resources available, conserving them, and if possible, even improving them. We carefully study the water needs of our crops and provide only the necessary amount of water. For this, we use drip irrigation on the surface and take the water from the Andévalo irrigation group. We also encourage the development of humus, which conserves the water in the area where the roots are concentrated, making it available to the plants for a longer period of time.
When it comes to water conservation, we have a system of keylines, which we designed to take advantage of the contour of the land. This ensures that the water penetrates the ground and evaporates more slowly. This is a simple way of making the most of a resource as valuable as water.
As I already mentioned, our agricultural model is based on biodynamic practices and permaculture, but our aim is to achieve a sustainable system across the board. Because of this objective, all the energy we require on the farm comes from solar panels. We implement a circular economy in which every element of our farm has a value that should be considered. There's no concept of waste here either, since we use any fruit that fails to meet our quality expectations to manufacture by-products. Even the by-products of our plants are used to create compost to feed our soil.
Biodynamic agriculture calls for extraordinary efforts from farmers, so I've surrounded myself with a great team, and thanks to them, I can put into practice all the knowledge that I have learned over the years. This also benefits my workers and their families, who understand that our respect for the land has a positive impact on them. We currently have eight permanent employees, but there can be more than thirty of us at certain times of the harvest period. Some of them have been with us for more than twelve years, and we believe they're still with us because of how much we invest in their well-being and work satisfaction. For example, their salary is 10% higher than the one stipulated in the bargaining agreement. There are specialised profiles in the team for each function, from farmhands and technical advisors to tractor drivers and admin staff.