As city streets faded into fields of hay on our drive from Barcelona, nature demonstrated the theme I would be observing all day: going back to basics.
The first stop of our excursion examining food production was La Selvatana, an organic dairy farm run by Ana. Organic dairy farmers must keep smaller numbers of cows to ensure product quality and cow health without vaccinations. Ana owns 170 cows, whilst her neighbors that practice conventional farming often own over 800 cows that produce twice the amount of milk of organic cows. This is because the conventional dairy farmers often inbreed cows for milking and fed them excessively high protein diets to increase yield. I was grateful that Ana valued the quality of life for her cattle over profit, which also was evident in the way she regulated the size and breeding of her herd. Ana was pained by watching the crippling aging process of the cows inbred for milking, so she decided to breed her cows with those made for beef, ensuring sturdier offspring that live healthier lives, but produce less milk. Countless times, Ana proved to be a producer that thought about the benefit of her herd before her own financial gain, gaining my respect and admiration.
Ana also ensured the safety of her herd by purchasing an automated milking machine that stops when milk flow slows down, preventing damage to the cow with excessive suction. My knowledge of muscular anatomy allowed me to further understand the implications of this damage and thus was even more grateful that Ana invested in this machine. The milking machine was the only automated aspect of Ana’s farm, fitting with her favoring of simplicity. Ana noted that humans have fault in trying to improve processes that are naturally efficient by adding on steps that belittle nature’s intentions, so she prefers simplifying processes to their origins. Her devotion to a small herd that receives quality feed, minimal human intervention, free roaming space, and respect encapsulates the values that all farmers and consumers should support.
Our next stop was at Casa de les Abelles, an apiculture farm owned by Ramone. Ana’s emphasis on leaving nature to its devices also translated to Ramone’s beekeeping as he allowed his bees to travel across the Pyrenees to collect nectar for their hives. Ramone only collected honey from the bees once they produced honey beyond their baseline sustenance level and installed artificial screens for the hives to build on.
Both Ana and Ramone give back to the youth in their community, albeit in different ways. Not only do their products promote health of their animals and the people they serve, they also are vital sources of knowledge in the food production industry. Although Ramone teaches youth during field trips to his farm while Ana donates yogurts and cheese to thousands of students daily, the outcome is the same: supporting food production in its purest form. While the phrase “ignorance is bliss” often comes to mind regarding the food production industry, I am thankful for the newfound information about organic farming and what my purchases fund.