The Los Montieles farm is a very young establishment: it was the dream of my grandfather who, upon retiring in 2018, decided to dedicate himself to agriculture as a hobby, and became so good at it that we decided to turn it into a family business. My grandfather, Pepe Montiel, worked in a furniture factory for 47 years before retiring and looking for a piece of land on which to grow his own crops as a hobby, as he is a very active person who could never simply sit still. However, when he was offered a two-hectare farm, he couldn't say no. For him, it was a challenge – and one that he took on with great pleasure. My grandfather was clear that he wanted to grow something different, and he had always been interested in tropical fruits. After much study, he decided to test three crops as exotic as papaya, dragon fruit and passion fruit. As he never used pesticides on his crops and wanted his customers to be able to eat his fruit the way he himself likes to eat it, he decided to grow organically right from the very beginning. And that's how our project was born! I was spending a season in England to make some money and improve my English, but was so moved by what my grandfather was doing that I decided to return to Spain, spend time helping him and create a business through which to earn my living.
Our family farm is located in Cuevas de Almanzora, less than 1km from the Mediterranean Sea: an exceptional location for the cultivation of these tropical fruits in Europe. The farm features three crop areas: papaya, protected by a greenhouse in winter; dragon fruit, grown under a net; and the passion fruit, grown outdoors. We carry out our work in a small warehouse. Apart from Pepe and I, two more permanent employees have been working on the farm since 2019: Abdul and Rey. The four of us do everything, as and when it is needed. They receive a higher salary than that established by the agricultural-sector collective agreement in Spain. They also receive incentives if everything has gone well by the end of the campaign, and once a quarter we get together to eat and drink as a big family. If necessary, we also hire people from the local town to help us during specific peak times.
The region is both agricultural and loved by tourists, and there are a few other vegetable-producing farms in the area. The irrigation water we use comes from the community irrigation system, which derives its water from the Cuevas reservoir and a desalination plant. Each crop requires irrigation that amounts to a consumption of 15 litres per week per plant for papaya, 20 for passion fruit and 10 for dragon fruit, which can vary depending on the season. All our crops are efficiently drip irrigated to avoid wasting a single drop of water. We select the fruit to be sent off by hand: only those that have already reached an optimal stage for consumption. To reduce any fruit waste, we turn what cannot be sold into jams.
To prevent the weeds from growing, we use protective nets on the ground. Any weed that does grow is collected by hand and offered to local shepherds to feed their livestock, along with any leftovers from pruning. We use natural pesticides, along with natural vegetation and insect hotels on the edges of the farm to try and increase the biodiversity of the local insect life. We also plant flowers that attract pollinators and boost the ecosystem.