By Kacie Luckett, LSU AgLeadership Class XV member
As we pulled up to Flor de Donana Biorganics plantation, my excitement couldn’t be contained. The feel from the “back of the bus” was less than eager to visit another vegetable production, storage, packing, and shipping facility, as it’s been the fourth so far. However, with each visit I notice something new and become a little more aware of the time, money, work, anxiety, and love that is grows with each fruit and vegetable.
We quickly realized that the “rain” in Spain doesn’t stay mainly on the plain, it flows thru the drip irrigation lines. Our guide pointed out that they are constantly facing drought, so they rely heavily on the drip irrigation to water and fertilize the crops. The hectares of greenhouses and high tunnels are used to control the environment for production of raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries.
Glancing into the greenhouses, we saw luscious green plants and some ripening berries. They were planted in October and have just started picking in January here. To get a feel for the size of the operation they employ about 300 pickers during the peak of the season. Most are women as they tend to have a softer touch. I was a bit shocked to find out that most the labor is local. I did notice many similarities in this operation and my own back home, but the local labor is a BIG difference.
We tasted the strawberries and they satisfied my craving for now, but I am confident that our snow-covered Louisiana berries are much sweeter.
The trip has been exhilarating. It has appealed to all our senses. Our class has enjoyed amazing views from the hustle and bustle of the big city, knights of Toledo, and breathtaking beaches of Malagon. We have been lost in translation of the Spanish language while we consistently absorb the vibrant aroma of café far and wide. Our farm hosts have been very generous, allowing us to pick and taste the fruits of their labors. Thus far, we have enjoyed avocado milkshakes, green tomatoes, citrus, and strawberries.
When the food has been less than desirable, we can always rely on our wonderful tour guide to order us Domino’s pizza.
Overall, I am grateful for this experience. I have learned that despite the continental differences, all farmers have a common goal—to provide a quality product to the consumer.