Proyecto Los Aires is a centenary olive grove which includes centennial trees and others with an age of around 70 years of our local variety, the Cornicabra olive variety. Our olive groves are located in Arcicóllar, a small village 30 km from Toledo and 60 km from Madrid, at an altitude of 560 metres above sea level. More than 400 of our olive trees are hundreds of years old and belonged to Guillermo's great-grandfather, but we have no information about who planted them (in the village we are told that when he bought the olive grove the trees were already planted). Then they were taken care of by his grandfather and his father who were in charge of planting some more trees in the 50's, until in the last years, they asked us if we could continue with the family care of the olive grove.
When these trees were planted, the traditional way of doing so was to take several branches resulting from pruning and make a large hole in the ground to bury several branches on the same spot without roots that took between 15 and 20 years to produce for the first time. So when we see one of these trunks, it is not just one tree but 3 or 4 that have fused over the years. For a tree to remain productive after so many years, pruning is very important: the idea is to get a centenary trunk branched into 3 or 4 main branches from which there emerge other young branches of no more than 6-7 years that will be productive.
We cultivate our olive grove based on biodiversity as the basis of organic farming. It is surrounded by vineyards and grains which, together with the olive trees, are the traditional crops of our area. In addition, these crops provide refuge for the red partridge, bustards, owls, kites, rabbits, foxes and wild boars.
Our olive grove is a dry land plot, so the water the olive trees receive is simply rainwater.
Since we recovered the olive grove a few years ago, organic farming has always been our commitment. At present and from the year 2014 we have an ecological certificate.
The transition in woody crops lasts 3 years in which we eliminated the traditional techniques of cultivation, to which the tree is so accustomed, such as use of chemicals, burning of pruning remains, tilling the soil, etc. and incorporating new techniques such as:
* __Maintain plant cover__ to control erosion, improve soil structure and thus enhance biodiversity. The presence of different invertebrates, bacteria and fungi is beneficial to the balance of the soil and therefore the agro-ecosystem. Each one of the different species of grass that we have in the olive grove will act attracting different insects (among them ladybirds, spiders, praying mantises, wasps...) that will be beneficial for our cultivation since they act as enemies of our main pests. In addition, they will give us different types of nutrients by cutting them and incorporating them back into the soil
* Before the end of the rainy season, we cut this grass to avoid competition with the trees for water, since in our climate it is undoubtedly the limiting resource, due to the low rainfall
* From __the remains of the pruning__, we normally take out the thicker branches for firewood and the smaller branches we put in rows along the olive grove and we crush them to incorporate them again to the soil and in this way to create little by little a mulch that protects our soil and contributes this way new organic matter
* This year we have used some of the larger branches to make boards on which we have written the name of each Crowdfarmer and hung them on the trees to identify them
* As far as pest control is concerned, we monitor their presence with plaques containing attractants of our main enemies and only treat them if necessary (and always with natural and pest-specific products and methods)
In our project we are two people working all year round (Guillermo and Laura) and one person who helps us almost all year round. The team increases in the harvest of the olive (depending on the crop we are between six and eight people) and the pruning of the olive tree (4 people). All the people who work with us are paid according to the collective agreement and have their own social security.
The selection of fruit to elaborate the olive juice is done from one month before the harvest because we carry out analyses that determine the oil yield and the percentage of humidity of the olive. We also randomly sample olives to determine their ripeness index and thus establish the right time to harvest and ensure that the fruit is in the best condition to give it a fruity aroma and rich olive flavour.