Men fall comfortably into societal roles as leaders, protectors and providers, but to those categories and beyond, women are greatly misrepresented and generally unappreciated. This is something I find counter-intuitive considering women have the greatest responsibility of all: Continuation of life. This duty of women translates cross-culturally and inter-specially, but I did not realize the extent of female importance in agriculture until we visited an organic dairy and apiculture farm.
The day began with a trip to La Selvatana, a 100% organic dairy farm about an hour north of Barcelona. There we met Anna, a journalist who traded her city life in Barcelona for the the farm because she fell in love with her grandfather’s cows. Her husband did not understand her infatuation with them until he himself met the cows and fell in love, too. Together they made the move to the country where they bought a home to raise their family in, but when Anna’s grandfather ran into some financial trouble, Anna and her economist husband stepped in. Managing the financial aspects of the farm eventually lead to Anna taking over the farm completely, who takes great pride in running it herself!
Logically, it makes sense that a dairy farm would consist of all females, but I was surprised to know there was not one bull on the farm. Anna explained to us that bulls upset the balance amongst the females; Females are impregnated by insemination so there is really no need for males to be there at all.
Anna began the farm conventionally, but eventually switched completely to organic because it was a better way of farming, and it produced better products. They use everything from their farming practices to continue the cycle: Manure fertilizes the soil that their crops grow in, their dairy cows eat their crops, creates manure, and the cycle continues. They first only produced milk, but when they considered the poor quality of the lunches schools were providing, they decided to distribute the milk locally to elementary schools. When school was out they had a surplus of milk, and had to get creative. Anna came up with the idea to make yogurt, and eventually they made cheese! We had an opportunity to try some of their A2-A2 products, which is the highest grade of dairy – they were hands-down the best dairy products I have had in my life.
Our day concluded with a trip to an organic apiculture farm, La Casa de les Abelles, where we met Ramon and his wife, the master beekeepers. Ramon explained to us the importance bees play in the life cycle of plants and flowers all over the world. To give you an idea of how much work these little bees do, one kilo of honey is produced for every three million flowers pollinated. Talk about a small return on investment.
This great job is not done by just any bees: It is solely accomplished by the females. Female bees are the workers, protectors, builders, and scavengers: They run the hive completely. The role of males in the beehive are, for a lack of politeness, utterly useless, except to the queen bee, who only uses them to reproduce, and does some pretty gruesome things to them once they have served their purpose. All I will say here is that she relinquishes them of reproductive capabilities, and keeps them in private stash so she can produce 2,500 eggs daily. Interestingly, male bees are the only bees who do not need to be fertilized to be born, which to my knowledge does not happen anywhere else in nature.
I loved seeing the apiculture farm in action. I had been to a dairy farm, but never been to an apiculture farm. Seeing it run with the tenderness and care that Ramon and his wife exhibit made it a special experience. They only started educating others about the life of bees and how honey is produced when they presented to their son’s class in a sort of “Bring Your Parent to School” day. They loved teaching the children, and the children were fascinated by the bees – the interest spread like wildfire, and now schools from all over the region come to take tours of their bee farm. This showed me how their passion carries over into sharing knowledge with the future generations. Like many traditional skills, they are only carried by educating the youth and grabbing their attention. The difference I see between this culture and American culture can be gauged in many ways, but firstly by the level of interest: If the children were not genuinely interested in this craft, they would not care to learn about it. To me, this speaks to the influence parents have on prioritizing what is considered important. In American culture, we are not taught to consider the small nuances that make the world go ’round – the focus is on money, obtaining, and improving yourself. All of that is well and good, but focusing on the individual, you lose sight of community – not just the one you are surrounded by, but the global community as well.
As we saw with Anna and her dairy cows, and the role of females in the production of honey, females are instrumental in the continuation of life. This speaks to me because I am a female, but this experience also showed me the importance of taking care of your community. I feel that American culture likes to say it is too difficult or impossible to care for others, and makes the notion fanciful, like a totally utopian society could only achieve it. Then, I see how Anna and Ramon’s families invest in their communities, how they care for each other and see the value in providing their community. They demonstrate their investment by only distributing quality products and promoting healthy, viable options for making a living. I am certainly inspired to buy more locally sourced produce when I get back to Chicago. It was refreshing to see these beautiful people not just care about making a living, but respecting the environment in the process, loving and respecting females of all species, and educating their community. Women deserve respect because they are the source of life for all species. We are connected by this invisible thread that ties us all together: We would be nowhere without females. Children are the future, so they deserve respect as well, and to be taught with tenderness how to be responsible, ethical, and mindful people. When I one day have children of my own, I will do my best to support this responsibility; in the meantime, I pledge my support to my community by lending a helping hand, and serving them the best I can.