In rural landscape history tells many stories. Oranges, olives and farming is with us all over the island and they ebb and flow in importance. To be a potato farmer in Sa Pobla held little attraction for the area’s young people.
In recent days they have education and choices in their careers. Some continued the family farming tradition and others now work in smart offices in Barcelona, Madrid and other European locations. History of feast and famine are well catalogued and created our many migration stories to France, Belgium and the Americas.
In 2021, alongside a normally thriving tourism model, rural life is again, very important. For large scale production in the Pla of Mallorca, invited migration brings in the fruit pickers and potato farmers. Covid problems have caused a problem in this lately and there are fields which remain unpicked. 2020 taught us how reliant the island is on people who could not travel to be with us last year.
My Nan’s Day Out this week took me to the Agricole of St Bartholomew which lies at the entrance to Biniariax. All our large spaces in the Valley have multi purposes and this one is no exception. It houses a working olive press, a shop selling local produce plus the gluts of farms and small holdings. The centre has been rebuilt to provide Capsvespre in the centre of the site.
This organisation, from its new premises, teaches us to make marmalade and use the produce of our fields. A great place set up to keep the traditions alive and pass the skills on to a new generation. In our visit we learned of tourism based round this model where groups are brought to see the authentic Mallorca traditions and take part in workshops. This is perfect autumn and winter tourism and the multi lingual groups are delighted to have found cookery, history and geography come alive in front of them.
Car parking is possible here and you enter an unprepossessing site with an industrial looking old olive press as the first point of interest. Communal pressing takes place here every year plus individual houses and hotels have their pressings. They share their unique oil to guests and friends.
From the main central space the shop is accessed. This has a wooden rail on the outside and it is not unusual to see a horse tied up there. This is where the area becomes reminiscent of a wild west town. Local people ride in on their horses, tie them up here and then go shopping. The first time I saw this I thought Netflix were in town filming. But no it is an everyday tale of local rural life.
The shop has local fruit and vegetables and shares the same from other Agricoles around Mallorca. They are very proud of their carbon foot print and is the reason so many do their weekly shop right here. The wine selection is interesting but the vats of locally produced wine is an art form. Turn up with your container or jug and fill up for the most authentic Soller Valley wine. It has to be said that no matter the low, low price this is not to everyone’s taste.
My family and I reminisced about the bonfires and demons we have enjoyed here. The demoni dancing, the local musicians and the largest winter bonfire develops into barbecue central on certain dates of the year. I am of course talking about non Covid times. Hopefully this will all be back for next year and the music nights and fiestas will be back in this space.
The Agricole is at the crossroads between Biniaraix and Fornalutx and it is at the same place in our lives. Many local people want to shop locally and buy things grown here or at least in Mallorca. Others want to learn how to make the olive tapenades, to can and bottle the gluts of vegetables and fruit and enjoy their own make jams and marmalades. We enjoy the convenience of our large shops but also want to support great initiatives like this one.
The Agricole is there for the planet, the seasons, to feed the people, to teach a new generation and a place to have great local fun. How many organisations would love to have all that as their ‘Brand’ statement? In the Soller Valley it is a reality.