We are located in Llanos del Caudillo, in the heart of Castile-La Mancha, where Don Quixote and Sancho Panza lived countless adventures. In their honour, we have named our set of plots Finca Quixote. Just as they called Don Quixote and Sancho Panza crazy, many farmers thought that my father Julián and my uncle Jose Manuel were crazy to leave their jobs in 2001 to grow watermelons on my grandmother's small plot, organically, without using pesticides or synthetic fertilisers, in the midst of the agrochemical boom!
Finca Quixote is a set of plots cultivated under the Demeter regulations since 2016. Depending on the year, these plots will give rise to some fruits or others because we base our production on crop rotation, which is a basic principle of ecology and biodynamics. We generally carry out annual rotations on a 3-year cycle: horticultural crop — cereals/legumes — fallow. This is how we grow onions, garlic, pumpkins, melons, watermelons, tomatoes, cereals and legumes.
To control weeds, we clean the plots with a tractor before sowing, although growing melon, watermelon and pumpkin near other herbs puts their survival in the first days of their life cycle at risk. This forces us to protect them with a recycled plastic cover (always less than 30% of the cultivated area, as required by the Demeter regulations) that is removed once the plants are ready to harvest and then recycled. Another preventive measure we carry out is protecting the crops with thermal blankets that are removed and recycled after 3 or 4 weeks, when our plants have grown and there is no risk of frost. We discovered a new biodegradable cover in 2021 and we are about to test it out. We hope to start implementing this solution in the next few years to drastically reduce the use of plastic in our crops. In addition, we plant lobularia among the seedlings as a method of biological control, which helps prevent certain pests such as aphids from destroying the crops. All our plots are surrounded by wild flora that houses a multitude of insects that pollinate our crops and help get rid of pests.
Our town, Llanos del Caudillo, is in the province of Ciudad Real, and was colonised to exploit the Western Mancha Aquifer, one of the largest in Spain, belonging to the upper basin of the Guadiana River. This river is considered one of the most mystifying in Europe because it appears and disappears before our eyes, sprouting again kilometres later. The landscape itself is a faithful reflection of this richness in water, surrounded by important wetlands and natural parks such as Daimiel or Lagunas de Ruidera. But despite the abundancy of water, we do not want to overexploit this resource, and to avoid this we have a system of probes that tells us when to irrigate and how much water to add to each plot. In addition, all of our horticultural crops are drip irrigated, with the exception of garlic, which is irrigated with sprinklers.
We are especially proud of our waste management, as we never throw away anything. Our chickens, sheep, donkeys, goats and geese help us with this. They eat the vegetables that cannot be sold with the cereals and legumes that we grow for them. In addition, we are planning to install solar panels so we can become self-sufficient in the coming years.
Finca Quixote is our most special project and groups our first plots set aside for direct sales, all of which are Demeter-certified to ensure you receive our best products. But in addition to these plots, we cultivate around 400 more hectares organically to supply to wholesale markets. Our goal is to have all our crops certified by Demeter in the coming years and be able to dedicate our business exclusively to selling to the final consumer. We are aiming to cultivate all of our land according to consumer demand to help reduce food waste and minimise our carbon footprint.
We are key employment generators in our region, providing up to 300 jobs in high season and 31 permanent jobs. We are certified by Global GRASP, a seal of good social practices.
Although at Finca Quixote we are all quite versatile, in general terms our day-to-day life could be described like this: my uncle Jose Manuel is mainly in charge of warehouse and personnel management. My brother Pedro, who is something of an alchemist with his different biodynamic preparations and passion for his way of growing, spends most of his time organising field tasks with the technicians. My father is in charge of making sure everything works correctly; a model of humility, hard work and dedication, he infects us with his passion for agriculture every day. Finally, I take care of the commercial side without losing sight of the heart of our business: the responsible cultivation of food. We have excellent professionals working throughout our various departments: field, quality, logistics, accounting and warehouse technicians, etc. To coordinate all these activities, my father Julián, my uncle Jose Manuel, my brother and I actively participate in the management.