Coop-era is an award-winning project that links the labour insertion of vulnerable groups and the generational shift in the countryside by adding value in rural environments and giving direct job opportunities to specific groups, especially migrants and young people from youth centres or sheltered housing. Christian Buono and Adrià Ramon are the project coordinators.
What services does Coop-era offer?
C.B. A wide range: from specific agricultural services, such as the olive harvest, to forestry work, through the integral management of farms and the sale of products. This is the case, for example, with the Ca la Marieta estate, in Sant Pau d’Ordal, in Alt Penedès. Two years ago, the owner was going to abandon it because he had no one to take over, but the project stepped in and, since then, we’ve worked the land, taken care of the vegetables and peach trees and, later, sold the fruit at the Ordal peach market. We’ve also produced jam with the surplus.
How did the idea come about?
C.B. There’s a growing problem of farmers without heirs or whose heirs do not want to work the fields. A.R. We offer external agricultural services such as pruning, harvesting, sporing... and we also find different types of crops that need to be worked all year round. C.B. The aim is not to depend on the seasonality of the crops.
You work the land of farmers who have no workers.
A.R. We take care of the direct management of properties that are at risk of being abandoned and that can continue to be productive. We’ve leased land and done different types of deals with the owners. With olive farms, the common arrangement is that we give them 10% of the oil produced in exchange for managing the land. With wine-making, it’s around 20%. C.B. Some don’t charge us anything. For example, we have one farmer who has uprooted his vines and wants to plant olive trees there, and to renew the organic matter he’s let us use the orchard land for free for a while. In other cases, we pay rent, always a symbolic amount though... We’re now looking at how we can transform other surpluses.
Do you sell with your own brand?
C.B. Yes, we have olive oil and also Ordal peach jam... We’re now looking at how we can transform other surpluses.
And where do you sell?
C.B. Ordal market is a good place and we have some restaurants that buy from us. A.R. The restaurants around Sant Pau d’Ordal know us well. People always say that local vegetables are very expensive, but if we end up with no people in the countryside and have to buy everything from abroad, then we’ll have sold out.
interview COUNTRY LIFE