The "La Zahurda" estate is named after the small village where it is located. It is in the municipality of Comares, in the province of Malaga. More than 700 metres above sea level, it has beautiful landscapes and is regarded as the "Balcony of the Axarquia". A place full of ravines and hamlets with marvelous views of the sea and the mountains. The estate is located close to the village and there are fields of crops all around. It is a small farm where we work together and help each other with harvesting, weeding, and pruning. We do occasionally need to hire workers to carry out these tasks though. Besides its location, the most special thing about our cultivation is the traditional methods and the care that we use to achieve the highest quality of our product.
The farm is family-run, it covers about 5 hectares, and is agriculturally diverse. There are several traditional crops such as olive trees, almond trees, grapevines, prickly pears, citrus, and tropical crops such as avocados and mangoes. Prickly pears have been planted in the less fertile areas in order to have an alternative crop growing where others would not so easily adapt. For the first two years of our plantation's life, watering was done daily using drip irrigation systems to aid plant growth, now watering should be moderate, only once or twice a week.
The main economic activity in my area is agriculture, and although there have always been rain-fed crops (olive trees, almond trees, etc.), in recent years the cultivation of subtropical crops has increased due to the favourable climate. It is important to revive the cultivation of the prickly pear in the region, which first began to appear in Andalusia in the 16th century and is currently in decline in our area due to a small insect called the "Cochinilla del Carmín". I remember how most of the places that were once occupied by this crop are now empty, with dry and deteriorated stems. Being able to manage this rescue project and thereby prevent the destruction of this crop is something that fills me with satisfaction and motivation to continue fighting for the conservation of our agro-ecosystem.
Our small farm was bought by my grandfather, Eduardo, more than 40 years ago. Today it belongs to my father and his siblings (Miguel, Ana, Pepa, and Antonio). From an early age my grandfather together with my father and uncles worked on the farm as a means of subsistence. As well as cultivating olive, almond and carob trees, they also had a small barn where they raised cows and pigs. Years later my parents built a greenhouse, where they grew vegetables, and today we grow mangoes and other exotic crops such as pitaya. I have always been passionate about agriculture, ever since I was a child. This is why a few years ago I convinced my father to introduce a new organic crop to an otherwise unproductive area of the farm. My father put all his faith in me and his support helped to get this project off the ground.
Our farm has its own well, and we store water in a pool and in tanks to be able to efficiently irrigate our crops using drip irrigation systems. We are exploring the possibility of harvesting rainwater, the creation of a small pond, and the use of technological advances to help us increase the accumulation of water.
The prickly pear cactus has a great capacity to retain water, it is a rain-fed crop that can grow even without any artificial irrigation. On our farm we irrigate one or two times a week, always ensuring that water does not accumulate in the soil, as this can cause the prickly pear cactus to die.
For the last 10 years we have been using organic farming methods on a large part of our farm. We are committed to sustainable agriculture, avoiding the use of synthetic herbicides, pesticides, and chemical products. We control pests with natural methods such as potassium soap for cochineal, or pheromone traps for fruit flies. The grass clippings are left on the ground as this keeps the moisture in better and reduces pest attacks.
We try to repurpose the prickly pear shoots that we cut and use them as cuttings. The prickly pear reproduces very easily, it is enough to place a cutting in the ground and put some soil on it so that it produces roots. At the farm we take care of biodiversity by letting the weeds grow, which we then remove by mechanical means to avoid damaging the soil and the prickly pear shoots, and we also leave some areas of the farm uncultivated to encourage and protect the natural fauna.
Thanks to the way we manage our farm it is very easy to find chameleons, hares, birds, insects, and mountain goats running or flying around. Seeing the great diversity of species that can be found on our farm is simply marvelous.
The project is actively managed by my father and myself, although at certain times we have the help of other family members. I have always worked with my father, we make a good team and being able to start this project with him is something that fills me with enthusiasm.
To avoid waste, we use all the fruit that is of inferior quality which we cannot sell, either for our own consumption or to give to our family and friends as a gift. We also make jam, ice cream, and delicious milkshakes.