Our farm is called Olivar Pastor. Coincidentally, the surname of the former owners was Pastor and the farm has been known as this for more than a century. Back in 1932, my grandfather rented it for his livestock. He and my father produced milk that they'd sell to locals and to cheese producers. El Gazul is the name of our dairy. Its name alludes to the Moorish king who ruled these lands before the Christian reconquest, and who gave his name to our castle and village.
The farm is right by the Alcornocales Nature Park, in the region known as Las Jandas. It's an area with a mix of Mediterranean cork oak forests, pastureland, cereal fields and old olive groves. Extensive livestock farming is predominant here, with cattle farms, Iberian pig breeding, and herds of goats and cows for meat, etc. We feel privileged to live in such a unique and stunning place, surrounded by lush forests and between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
The mountains here served as a shelter for a group of guerrillas who fought in the first half of the twentieth century. Known as the Maquis, they fought against the political regime of the time, and played a role in one of my family's most dramatic stories. When my father was around twenty-five years old, some Maquis followed him through the mountains to kidnap him and demand a ransom from my family. This was how they funded their war effort, and if the families didn't meet their demands, only a bad ending could be expected for the hostage. My grandfather hastily looked for help from friends and family, and after three days managed to pay the ransom. This financially destroyed the family, but it was the only way for my father to save his life. The whole situation had a huge effect on him, but it didn't stop him working with livestock until he retired.
Another major event in our farm's history, also related to the Spanish Civil War, was when our village was bombed. My grandfather welcomed in many neighbours who were fleeing for their lives, and who were able to survive thanks to our goats and pigs. Everything related to wars is terrible… and those of us who in some way have experienced it at first hand understand the desperation of families seeking refuge.
Years later, when I realised that livestock would be my life, I bought the Olivar Pastor farm. Our animals live in freedom here, although they have a barn where they can take shelter on rainy days. They drink water from the Fraja river that flows across the farm. They have plenty of grass, as well as olives and grain that we grow for them. We've been farming organically since 2008, when Paco Casero (a guiding light in organic farming and livestock in Andalusia) convinced me that this is the best option to champion our work and safeguard the resources of the land. It has been, and will still be, a surprisingly long road for which I'm an ambassador in my region. We also have solar panels for our facilities. And the manure we create is used to fertilize both our own and our farmer friends' fields. All of this implies we've closed the loop!
We have three employees on the farm and fifteen in the dairy. Women account for 50% of the team. Turnover is very low, as we like to focus on trust and staff engagement. They all perform specific roles, although it's important to know all the processes to be multifunctional.