The concept of allotment gardening (“Mini Huertos”) is little-known on the Iberian Peninsula, but this form of leisure activity is growing (pardon the pun) in the course of the increasing trend globally towards ‘bio’. As an international melting pot, Mallorca is ideally placed to play a pioneering role. Some progressive Mallorcan farmers have recognized the market potential and are offering garden plots (allotments), in addition to producing food for their organic food shops. One example is the visually beautiful allotment maze of eco-farm Biogranja La Real near Monastery Secar de La Real in the vicinity of Establiments (Palma).
Each of the garden plots measures 4.5 square meters. Forty-three cute little patches are laid out neatly and uniformly against the silhouette of the monastery. In the soil of each allotment stands a sign, bearing the name of the tenant. Many Spaniards as well as British and Germans, are among the gardening enthusiasts. The concept will surely grow in popularity. Biogranja La Real have put together a team to assist the allotment growers. The monthly rent per parcel is €75 which includes gardening and plant seeding based on an annual rental contract.
“We are almost fully booked and therefore we are adding up to 15 new allotments” says the owner Joan Aguiló (33). Lollo rosso, red cabbage, peas, beans, tomatoes, chives, kale, spinach, peppers, eggplant, broccoli, and much more sprout up from the soil, which has been worked to have the structure of forest floor. Aguiló produces compost and natural fertilizers on his adjacent farm: “The humus is 100 % organic and very productive. When planting, we pay attention to mixing plants. This helps to keep pests away and the soil remains fruitful for a longer time.” Customers can harvest many times per year, salads even on a monthly basis.
High quality water for irrigation comes from Esporles through historic aqueducts. The cultivation system follows the Andalusian-Arab tradition of horticulture: Seasonal rotation, flower beds, vegetables, spices and herb crops. If a pest nests during the hot summer period, nettle essence is used as a bio-herbicide.
The business idea has an idealist background. Aguiló: “These gardens lead us back to natural farming, as it was practiced by former generations. In addition, we teach our clients how to sow and plant.”
‘Organic in an active environment’ is the model. It’s designed to appeal to primarily urban residents, who work in the office and have little contact with nature: “The time you spend here in the open air, is pure relaxation. Stress and noise are far away. One breathes freedom and becomes one with nature. Soon we will be also installing barbecue areas with seating. Then it will be really comfortable.”
Organic farmer Joan Aguiló is also a sports teacher at a public school and thus wants to go further: “We plan field trips with school groups here on the organic farm to give children and young people active lessons in nature.”
If someone wants to give up his garden due to lack of time, his plantation remains preserved to provide organic matter. For the entire production, the business partners Aguiló and Manino González need larger areas. Biogranja La Real has many restaurants among its regular clients. “Some of them need 80 kilos of carrots and 15 kilos of onions every week. We must plan well and work hard to increase that.”
Soon, hens will move into the enclosure next to the mini-gardens, producing eggs and natural organic fertilizer. Aguiló is particularly proud of his homemade goat cheese and organic cheese made from the milk of red Mallorcan sheep (“Oveja mallorquina roja”), which of course you can buy in the store. There, customers will find a huge selection of organic vegetables and meat. Aguiló and González have even produced an organic Jamón, on the Spanish mainland.
Tela Mallorquina, a selection of natural products, is available here – a rare bonus on the island. Gourmet food and olive oil connoisseurs can indulge themselves. Nearly 50% of the stock items are olive oil products. The organic sauces and vegetarian pies from La Chinata are delicious. Personal recommendation of the author: The hot-chili-pepper-olive paste for €3.60. Aguiló plans to expand the store, which was opened in October 2009, to become a “presentation platform for Mallorcan organic wines.”
The company La Real Biogranja S.L. is run by three members: Manuel “Manino” González, Joan Aguiló and Carlos Velasco. The agricultural land surrounding the gardens belongs to the family of Joan Aguiló, who is also dedicated to the raising of livestock, horses, and crops. In the rooms of the organic farm, organic cooking classes and nutrition seminars are held. The buildings, which date from the 13th to 17th centuries, also house an art gallery, run by Joan’s sister Victoria. The entire project Biogranja La Real is still quite new – Aguiló knows that: “The Company is a result of a personal passion. To bring it to profitability, it is necessary that all three pillars – the organic shop, the cooking seminars and the garden plots – run very well. We believe that it will work, because so far the interest from customers has exceeded our initial expectations.”
Biogranja La Real
Secar de la Real (behind Palmaplanas Hospital)
Tel: +34 971 254 195
Monday – Saturday, 10.00 – 20.00 h