ven long-time Barcelona residentsmay have never suspected that just onthe rim o the city’s dense urban area,along the Llobregat River’s delta, lie ertileelds that have supplied the city with reshruits and vegetables or centuries. Just vekilometres south o Barcelona, the rich soil—complemented by abundant sunshine, mildtemperatures and the proximity o the Medi-terranean Sea—has long established the Llo-bregat valley as a armer’s paradise. Farm-ing began to evolve in this area some 6,000years ago, and by the 1800s three-quarters othe lands in the delta were being armed. Inthe Thirties, the ruit and vegetable harvestachieved its highest levels o export to therest o Europe.This idyllic landscape was so greatly a-ected by urban sprawl and industrial ex-pansion in the second hal o the last centu-ry, however, that the area’s ancient armingtradition was threatened with extinction. Inresponse, the Parc Agrari de Baix Llobregat(the lower Llobregat Agricultural Park) wascreated, in 1998, as a large-scale agro-en-vironmental project with a clear mandateto protect the agricultural tradition as acultural treasure. Now, more than a decadeater its establishment, Parc Agrari is re-garded globally as an impressive example osustainable ‘periurban’ arming.“We continue to have visitors rom all con-tinents,” Sonia Callau, the head o the Uni-tat d’Espais Agraris (Agrarian Spaces Unit)at the park told
. “Experts romJapan, China and many other countries cometo learn rom our experience and apply it intheir own projects.”In a ground-breaking collaboration be-tween government, experts and armers, alarge consortium was created to manage thepark, with representatives rom armers’groups,
and the Generalitat.The protection o the armlands rom urbanand industrial pressures were, by necessity,the park’s chie concerns. But in the ace oan increasingly globalised produce marketand nancial uncertainty, a central missionhas developed o providing armers withtools and strategies to remain competitive.Researchers and land experts have beenworking to introduce eco-riendly armingtechniques using less spraying and minimalamounts o pesticides, as well as modernis-ing existing irrigation channels and help-ing armers sell what they grow. As a result,instead o losing the armlands to an ever-growing city, the Baix Llobregat park areatoday encompasses nearly 3,000 hectares ocultivated land and continues year-round toput resh lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, cabbage,caulifower, and a prousion o ruits on Bar-celona’s tables.The king o the Llobregat valley is theartichoke. About 25 percent o the park’sarmed lands are covered by this crop. Ina joint research eort with the UniversitatPolitècnica de Catalunya, the Agrarian Parkis working to improve the quality o the arti-chokes. “It’s my avorite crop to grow,” saidJoan Ribas, a 55-year-old armer. “It hassuch a long cycle, it can be harvested romDecember until May.”Ribas is the heir o a amily with a longarming tradition, which has lived on theselands since the 1600s. Like his ancestors,he and his brothers have been working theelds since they were boys. He remembers
These felds are closer to Barcelonathan you might guess.
The Parc Agrari is the last local hold out o traditionalarming techniques. By Steana Serafna.Photos by Suzannah Larke.
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