Nouca lends its name to several plots located in Lleida, Catalonia, and describes the relationship between the trees and our region: Nou (nut, in Catalan) + Ca (Catalonia). Our main farm is known as La Plana and is located very close to the Segre River, near the Mediterranean Sea and about eighty kilometres from the Catalan Pyrenees. This location is ideal for growing walnut trees, as they enjoy a cold climate in winter and a wonderful spring with plenty of rain.
The agricultural history of this family project goes back three generations, having started off with the cultivation of apples. However, the drop in fruit prices some twenty years ago made us decide to replace some of the apple trees with walnut trees. We've always thought that this tree has a special charm and we really wanted to grow it. What's more, we knew that it would help us diversify our source of income and cut the risks caused by inclement weather or pests. We currently grow about 10 hectares of fruit, including Granny Smith, Golden Delicious and Buckeye Gala apples, and 22 hectares of Chandler walnut trees.
The farm is situated 275 metres above sea level, in an area very rich in water, with groundwater very close to the surface of the land (approximately 2 metres), which provides us with a well for watering our trees. However, as we all know, water is a scarce resource. In order not to waste a single drop, we use a micro-sprinkler irrigation system that uses probes to supply the required amount of water to each tree depending on its phenological status.
In 2019, we started with the organic farming certification and have since followed the parameters established by this regulation. In our area, livestock is of major economic importance, and we contribute to reducing its waste by using the manure from nearby organic farms, always avoiding the use of synthetic chemical fertilisers and pesticides.
We base the organic management of the farm on the prevention of pests, deficiencies and diseases. We use this cow manure generously and mix it with husks, skins or walnuts in bad condition. We also incorporate shredded grass and pruning remains into the soil, so we don't generate any waste. To guarantee a living soil full of beneficial microorganisms, we add biofertilisers rich in microorganisms and minerals that we make ourselves, controlling the balance of our soils by taking regular measurements.
Our production cycle begins with pruning in winter, followed by vegetative growth, flowering, formation and ripening of the fruit up to the harvest, followed by the sales campaign. Harvesting is one of our favourite times of the year. We know that the harvest is approaching when the pericarp (the green skin that surrounds the brown walnut that we all know) splits, which usually happens between September and October. After the pericarp splits, the fruits begin to fall to the ground, forming a beautiful carpet of walnuts. When approximately 50% of the walnuts are on the ground, we start our 'campaign'. This means using the tractor to shake the trees so that all the walnuts fall to the ground. Immediately afterwards, we blow them into windrows that the sweepers collect and unload onto the tractors to be transported to our plant.
Our processing facilities are located on the farm itself, and this is where we dry and pack the walnuts. We immediately perform a meticulous quality control to guarantee the absence of pests and fungi, reduce spoilage and ensure the best taste and the highest quality.
People from our immediate environment and the local area work on our project. The average age of our young team is under forty and our names are Pepo, Roc, Gora, Miriam, Viroel, Nuria and Iván (me). In the harvest season, we employ a further ten or so people so that we can collect, clean and process the nuts at the right time, thereby securing the highest quality. All our workers are on a contract and we strictly comply with the law in this regard. What's more, we collaborate with Acudam, a Down syndrome association located in the neighbouring town, which takes care of packaging many of the walnuts that we distribute.
No less important is the presence of my grandfather Josep Maria, 74, who walks through the farms every day with his two dogs, Bruno and Duc, to check that everything is in order and give his important seal of conformity, based on his sixty-year-plus experience of working the land.