The valley was teeming with activity; the warm autumn sun had brought families and friends out to the countryside to help with the olive harvest.
I’m not sure if it because of the crisis here in Spain, but this year I certainly believe a lot more people are working the land. Over the years since I have moved here, I have seen rural fincas neglected; their rich abundance of olives, almonds, figs and pomegranates just left to wither on the trees.
Yet this weekend almost every finca was full of people picking olives. Maybe more than any time in recent history, locals are re-evaluating the value of the land. Without any demand from the real estate and construction sectors, rural land is no longer being developed, and with high unemployment, even a few euro a litre for olive oil makes harvesting a viable option again for many families.
It’s also a great day out in the countryside – there are picnics, cold beers, and plenty of laughter; although I have to say it looks hard work!
Large green nets are laid out under the trees to catch the ripe olives knocked off by long staves. There are mechanised systems too; either vibrating belts wrapped around the trees, powered by portable motors or by tractors. Things here are much more homespun and low key compared to the enormous harvest one sees in Jaen where the estates are immense. In these local valleys around the inland villages of the Costa del Sol, parcels of land are fragmented and form part of weekend homes and small holdings – and the harvest is one of many ways to make some money.
Depending on the quantity of olives, owners can rent time in the local mill to create their own pressed oil, whilst smaller producers can sell to the co-op and the oil forms part of a blend of olives from different fincas. When I was taking photos the families were sharing their enthusiasm for their own oil, each claiming superior quality!
The valleys around Guaro are also full of fruit trees. In addition to the ubiquitous almond and olive, there are pomegranate trees and large commercial lemon, orange, clementine and avocado plantations. Against the blue sky, the fruit looked sensational.
It’s good to see life coming back into the countryside.