Ontario Agriculture

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Day 7 of AALP Class 17 IST contintued with one of the highlights so far on the trip, a fruit cooperative named Cuna De Platero. We were lucky enough to be taken on a tour of their greenhouses where they allowed to try some of the different varieties of strawberries that they grow.  The greenhouses are once again made with plastic and are of similar style to our previous visits this trip. They have a cooperative structure, which is something we have come to find is very common here in Spain. In this case they have approximately 80 growers that contribute towards the production of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and black berries, which strawberries being their biggest crop.

There are many different microclimates in Spain which allows different areas to produce different products, even when they are in relatively close proximity to one another.  This cooperative grows both hydroponic and field strawberries. In the hydroponic system they are very accurately able to control and monitor the water and nutrients that the crops require. This system allows them to grow twice as much fruit as they can in a field system. They have external inspections completed by the supermarket chains that buy their product and must keep strict records for traceability purposes. 85% of their product is exported to Europe including Germany, France, Italy, Austria and the Netherlands.

 Quick facts about strawberry growing in Spain:
- 6,800 Ha grown
- 342,000 tonnes of berries produced
- 70% of total production exported (mostly within Europe)
- Total value of exports is approx. $471.5 million

Day number 8 started out with a trip to the Sierra Mountains on our way to the Eiriz Iberian ham farm. This stop provided a contrast to some of the pork production that we have in Ontario. The model they use is limited by the space they have to process the pigs and are maxed out at 2,000 pigs per year through their current facilities. The tour started with a visit to the fields where the Iberico pigs are pastured. Each animal requires between 1-2 ha of land and this is a requirement by law in order to get the Iberico certification. Prior to harvest the pigs need to consume between 10-13kgs of acorns from oak and cork trees for 60 days during acorn season. This is monitored with blood tests by the government to ensure the high quality of the product. Our tour guide Manuel was very knowledgeable on the production system since it is a family-owned business, that was founded in 1840, with a small workforce that all assist in looking after each aspect of the operation. The trip was rounded out with an incredible tasting of the different pork products they produce, and some local wine and sherry.

Next up was travelled to Jerez de la Frontera, which is a town that is known for it’s wine and sherry production. We toured Jose Estevez S.A. who produce sherry, brandy and vinaigrettes. The company was founded in 1974 and is now run by Jose Estevez’s three sons. The expanse of the compound was incredible, with 52,000 casks of product being produced on site, magnificent art work throughout all of the buildings including a Picasso exhibit and a stable of horses that has turned from a hobby into another line of business for the company.

Rounding out day 8 we attended an evening Flamenco & dinner show at The Restaurante El Palacio Andalusia Cartuja back in the city of Seville. Flamenco is a staple of Spanish culture that we have seen throughout our travels through the country and while not all of us understood the language we certainly felt the passion for which the performers have for their art.

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