Son Alegre as a finca used to be a dairy farm. During the Eighties, the finca was sold to a German group of investors who wanted to convert the fertile land into yet another project of investment and applied for planning permission for an urbanization. Thanks to Miquel Manresa from Calonge, the land has since been converted into a hortus of organic farming.
Since when do you run Son Alegre?
I bought Son Alegre in about 2002 from some Germans who wanted to create an urbanization with 20 parcels of individual properties, which luckily did not go down well with the authorities. Before that, an almond plantation existed here and for the last 20 years, Son Alegre was a dairy and sheep farm.
What did you plant there?
Land without trees is like a plant without flowers. I planted a vineyard as well as olive and carob trees. I wanted the trees to do well and for that I planted them in the traditional Mallorcan 8×8 pattern. I had the idea to create a small forest of trees that would eventually allow the land to become self-sufficient: our experience of the land would be what is inside of us.
Had you been a farmer?
I was born into a peasant family in Calonge (Santanyí). But for the first 16 years of my professional life I worked in tourism. Then I realized money was not everything and that I wanted more quality of life. My idea is that by the time I am gone I will have helped create a space that would be beneficial for our society.
What type of vineyard did you create?
So far, I have planted 3 hectares of red grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Petit Verdot, together with some white grapes, Chardonnay and Malvasía. In the near future we want to plant Callet as well as some other native varieties. This year we have started to make our wines with the bodega of Armero i Adrover in Felanitx.
What else have you done?
Alltogether, our estate has 51 hectares and we want to continue to plant more olive trees and some more vines. We also have some 60 sheep and a dozen Mallorcan goats. Everything is organic. We have sowed Santanyí Xeixa wheat and some barley and legumes as our own natural animal feed.
How are your olives and how is your olive oil?
The olives are of the Arbequina variety and I have started to produce some virgin olive oil. This year I began to bottle the ‘Sileo‘ olive oil which comes from the Latin phrase Sine Sole Sileo, which is found on our sundial meaning ‘Without the sun, I am silent.‘ Without the sun there is no life.
Has it been easy to make this product?
It actually takes a lot of work to make oil. We have planted olive trees on 6 hectares of land and have harvested 10,000 kg of olives to yield no more than 1,100 litres of oil. One either goes for volume or one aims for quality. The olive harvest has to be done at its best moment. It is quite hot here in Mallorca and by mid-October the olives would normally be ready to be harvested, but then the olive is still too water-logged. The later the crop is harvested the better the yield, but then then there comes the risk of more oxidization and more acidity. We tried to make an olive oil of low acidity, fully aromatic and very fruity.
Have you had any problems with pests of any kind?
Mallorca is one of the places where it is difficult to grow olives organically because of the olive fly. We tried to combat the fly with bottles of Diammonium phosphate. With that we caught quite a few flies. During the flowering period we used Kaolin (a soft white clay) which has some effect on the fly. During the night, we washed the leaves with a natural product and if the fly is harmed by this it dies, but the following day the product no longer has any effect. This way, we try to protect our crop, but it requires a lot of work.
How do you see agriculture in Mallorca?
Mallorca is like a big garden. In spite of everything Mallorca is a massive orchard. Hoteliers should see that because we are all sitting in the same boat. If this garden would no longer exist there would not be nothing at all. It would be important if some of the resources generated by tourism were reinvested in the land. By the time our products reach the end consumer there is, all too often, no margin left for the producers. The farmers of Mallorca have disappeared because parents wanted their children to go off to do different things. Now we have a land devoid of people, and this proves to be wrong and we have to change.
What can we do to change all this?
There are 12 million people coming to Mallorca every year and still, we cannot sell our almonds to them. With the almonds we could do so much and with the carob too. We have become too entangled. We have no sense of valuing what we have and where we live. And we are surrounded by a garden. If only we could sit in a plane and see our island from above us, we would marvel and value this land. Tourism has to join forces with the rural world and its products. That is the solution to revive farming and the land.
What do you think of public subsidies?
In the absence of any general profitability of farming land, some form of public funding would encourage young people to stay on and work the land. This could fulfill an important function. The future of the our land is in the hands of young people, and some financial incentive would allow young farmers to get ahead of the game.
(The above article is from an interview with our Miquel Manresa, held by Mateu Morro for dbalears.cat, April 2nd, 2011)