Organic Farming in San Juan – Part II

For every six days on the farm, you’re entitled to a day off. Since we hadn’t been to the big city yet, we decided to spend ours in San Juan.

San Juan is the capital of the Province bearing the same name and with a population of approximately 120,000 people it’s not exactly the most exciting city, but pleasant all the same. The only problem we had was making the mistake of going during ritual siesta time.

After over a month on this side of the world, we still haven’t learnt that city outings are not to be made between the hours of 2 and 4pm. That is if you want to get anything done. Consequently, our big trip to the big city resulted in a stroll, a lunchtime tango show, and a coffee, and not much else.

 

Back on the farm Emma and I were moving onto weeding the soil to make way for new plantations in the springtime, and the boys were still busy digging away to make the flowerbeds for the new vegetable patches.

Pedro and Lucia were busy with the Department of Albardon, who conducted a thorough check and analysis of the farm for organic certification. Granja Tia Nora is now a certifed organic farm.

We had well settled into farmlife and I even got to take one of the horses, Jengibre (Ginger), out for a run.

 

Four volunteers quickly turned into seven during the week when a Belgian brother-sister couple and a Mexican girl joined us at the Granja. It was now a full house, and an interesting one at that! At the dinner table conversations in English and broken Spanish were now mixed with Dutch and French.

We spoke of cultural and country differences and Lucia and Pedro told us stories about organic farming and their journey and we learnt about the polemic that involves large multinational companies, compulsory farmland acquisition and soy production. And that when it comes to farmland in Argentina, the rich elite in Argentina produces a large part of the world’s soy beans for consumption. Something to look into…

One lunchtime however, the conversation turned to the farm animals when David declared that he has never killed or seen killed a chicken for food before. Subsequently, Lucia and Pedro promised that Fran (their son) will show him how.

Now, my Spanish is getting better, but I still hoped to have misunderstood, and so I ignored the topic until it changed to other matters. It was only when after work, David came into the house with blood on his hands and a plucked chicken in a plastic tub that I knew they weren’t kidding.

Of course it’s part of farm life, and some might say it’s the best way to learn where food comes from, but I say it’s the best way to turn Natasha into a vegetarian, and so there was no roast chicken for me the next day at lunch.

 

Roxana the Mexican girl is a qualified horticulturalist, so the rest of the week the girls and I worked with her to identify better ways to cultivate the new plants and seedlings in la Huerta, and we also took flower and plant cuttings to replant around the place and make the farm a little more colourful.

Our time on the farm was nearing to the end and Pedro wanted to take us and the other volunteers to meet two of his friends, who happen to be among Albardon’s best producers – Luis, a hippy pottery maker and hobby farmer, and Juan Diapolo, viticulturist and wine maker.

 

First stop was Luis’ place. We were told about this Albardon hippy legend when we first arrived at the Granja, and after having met him briefly a few times we were yet to go and check out his home and gallery. Arriving at the gate we discover that he lives and works in his home, which above ground, much resembles a bamboo tepee, but it’s underground where his mastery takes place.

His house is built with mud and sticks, and he lives a simple life revolved around his pottery works which are on display as soon as you enter his property. In his underground haven, works are drying for orders from all around the country. Luis is famous in Argentina by word-of-mouth (and also by his blog wwww.luisartesano.blogspot.com), and it’s easy to see why as his every intricate detail is a complex work of art.

Next we stopped off for a visit at El Milagro winery to meet Juan and taste some of his finest produce. Although El Milagro wines are not certified organic, they explained to us that they use no chemicals in their vinyard.

In this part of the world there are two specialities when it comes to varieties of wines: Bonarda (red) and Torrontes (white). Neither of which we had ever tasted before. Unfortunately we couldn’t taste the Torrontes, but we liked the 2009 Bonarda so much that we bought some bottles.

Albardon is not a big place but it has a bit of everything that a small village may need, including a theatre. The theatre hosts regular shows and concerts that surprisingly come from all around the country.

This weekend was our big Saturday night outing to the theatre with Roxana and David to see a monologue called ‘Javiera’. Supported by the Instituto Nacional del Teatro, Javiera was about the destiny of one woman who makes jam for a living, when her tree bares no more fruit, and what happens when a girl called Carmina finds Javiera’s collection of paper fans which hide legendary fairytales of a tree full of mystery and life. The show was fantastic and out-of-the-ordinary of anything we would likely go to see elsewhere, and a good way to practice our Spanish.

The next day, the 21st August was ‘El Dia de los Ninos’ in Argentina and the farm was hosting an event for the day. In Argentina, there is a day to celebrate everyone – mothers, fathers, children, doctors. El Dia de los Ninos was declared to be the second Sunday in August (however this year was the 3rd) after a UN recommendation to promote solidarity  amongst children, their welfare and well-being.

As I mentioned in Part I, a large part of the farm’s livelihood counts on agro-tourism, and these services need to be promoted. Having a background in PR communications and marketing, both David and I lent a hand to help out with that aspect and spent a couple of days creating flyers and marketing the Granja via social media. David created publicity for the Dia de los Ninos, while I did the same for the Granja’s ongoing workshops in native plants and spinning yarn.

Our last day on the farm was spent cooking up a French feast for Lucia, Pedro and the volunteers. The day before, Pedro and Antoine were talking about French food, when he asked if we would make them a Boeuf Bourguignon before we left. The perfect way to end our stay on the farm. We were joined by Lucia’s sister as we ate, chatted and enjoyed our last afternoon at Granja Tia Nora.

“Ustedes son muy buenas personas,” said Pedro as he dropped us at the bus station. “Si quieren volver, no hay problemas”. “We love you too Pedro!”

We just may take him up on that offer to come back one day. Hasta Luego Granja Tia Nora!

Next stop…Patagonia!

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One Response to “Organic Farming in San Juan – Part II”
  1. la tejedora es lo mejor!!!!

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