Mandarines Barrugat started 5 years ago, and it is a recovery project of a mandarin variety: Mandarina Fina. It is a very small and sweet mandarin, a sweet. It is the favourite variety of younger children, but also the most appreciated by older people. And, as with many other things, there is a huge  contradiction: it is the tastiest one, and the one that everyone neglects and stops working.

Luckily, little by little they find neglected plots where there is still this variety, and they recover them. They recover trees that are more than 70 years old through pruning: “The pruning art on citrus plants is very noticeable, mostly regarding old trees” says Raul while showing us how one of his colleagues is pruning a plot which was just recovered last year. Because modern varieties only last for 20/30 years, he tells us. After this period of time, they pull them up and they plant young trees. However, in their case, they are taking care of trees which are more than 80 years old and which, in good years, can produce up to 200 kg of fruit instead of the usual 50/70 kg.

And they take care of the plots in an environmentally friendly way, with vegetation cover, providing organic matter, with plant extracts (horsetail, nettle,
calendula/marigold, sow thistle…) that they ferment with rainwater or that they boil to infuse, and then, extract all their properties. They use the plants of the region, which are closer and easier to find. Each region has one or more plants adapted to the needs of the same region. In this way, they restore a working model, a lifestyle, which is simpler and more sustainable.

Located in Bítem, a village on the banks of the river Ebro, at the foot of the Cardó mountain range: “very wild… but it has some very spectacular parts”, says Raül. A beautiful and quite unknown spot. They decided to make their environment known.

And in order to explain it, they are going to rebuild some huts. The states of the region are small and many of them have access to the river. So, they, the ones who want to promote the environment, will make the river Ebro more accessible. The river. A walkway or a slope and small piers allowing us to see the riparian forest from very close. Black poplars, white poplars, ashes… which are more than 200 years old,  impressive, native varieties (which are gradually replaced by colonising varieties). They are a treasure only available for the fishermen neighbours. We are talking about only a few years ago, when the riverbank was cleared and busy. Now, the forest has recovered its importance and, although it has been extensively cleared, it needs improvement and accessibility. Very soon. They bear it in mind, and they are working on it. 

Having the riverbank so close causes woodpeckers, orioles and ducks to fly above the recently planted mandarin trees and lemon trees. A real privilege regarding biodiversity.

They also support a more sustainable and more respectful tourism model. Luckily, they are not the only ones in the village who support this model. They plan to prepare a plot with parking spaces for motorhomes, taking advantage of the fact that they need to replant some walnut trees and that these trees already have a bigger planting distance. They are not any walnut trees, they produce pecans, a variety from the Americas which
is very appreciated gastronomically, and which is very difficult to find in our region.

However, they have been late this year. Work has come, and they have not been able to do it. The small walnut trees have stayed in Raül parents’ orchard waiting for next year. It will be more difficult for them because the taproots will grow, and it will be harder. During the last 10 years they have started to receive visitors in the region. Places which were previously unknown, and which are not unknown anymore: “Today anything is hidden. The more hidden and beautiful a place is, the greater the number of people you will find there.” he mentions. Therefore, it is necessary to
guide this overcrowding, and luckily new regional initiatives have appeared following this same line. They are more sustainable.

Awareness is important. Rural areas are being neglected, and the danger of fire is taking a bigger place. Big fires around the planet which are dangerous, out of control, to close to the cities. Raül tells us this himself because he is a committed farmer and a  firefighter too. 5% of Catalonia were forests, the rest was cultivated, and this was not long ago, at the beginning of the last century. Now we talk about a 70%, and the percentage keeps increasing. It is not right. Society must understand that agriculture and livestock are the key: “They are the real firefighters” he says. Only clearing the forests will not solve the problem because we leave the mowed grass there, in the forest, and it gets dry. Its roots stay there, the biomass stays there. Therefore, it is
important to help the farmer who takes care of that bottom of a gully, because he will prevent the fire from spreading to the other crest line only with his crop.

It is necessary to find ways to bring the countryside closer to the cities. Some methods to bring the fresh product to the consumer in order to guarantee the livelihood of the farmer in rural areas, and also to make a fresher and healthier supply easier. Proximity, regional and seasonal products. There are many examples abroad of initiatives which are already working. There are also consumer associations which are directly aimed at producers. “There are alternatives” as Raül says. It is necessary to move forward little by little in the establishment of a new society model that respects and takes care of the territory in an environmentally friendly way, because it will respect us, and it will take care of all of us. Because “the simplest thing ends up being the biggest privilege”.

Thank you very much, Raül Colomé, for showing us your plots and telling us about the
care and recovery work of the region. We wish you every success in your project.

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