Every morning at sunrise, with her twins still tucked up in bed, Francesca Munizaga brews fresh tea and takes it outside to wander among her garden where she surveys the dahlias, cosmos and peonies that she’s planted. Watching, observing, compiling notes; the cultivation of copious, colourful blooms is a gradual process of trial and error. “When I first started it was all an experiment,” she explains. “The only thing I knew was that I didn’t want to use chemicals in the soil. Some things grew really well, while certain things didn’t grow at all. But little by little I started to understand what works best.”
As the owner of Floral Studio Ibiza (and The Farm Ibiza, alongside her husband, Alonso Colmenares, who also founded the Farmers’ Club), Francesca is an integral part of a new wave of women devoted to organically transforming land in Ibiza. It’s a thread she followed upon realising that the majority of stems used decoratively on the island are shipped frozen from the mainland or sometimes even as far away as Colombia, a method that she felt obliged to challenge, not only for the diversity of her own floral creations but also for wider sustainability purposes.
Having spent a few years fully immersed in the task, she now recognises that her role within the delicate growing ecosystem is both passive and essential. “You have to take care but without interfering,” she reflects. “Just being in contact with nature reminds you that you don’t need to push so much in our society, where everything needs to be immediate. Patience is so important.”
Jess Dunlop, who moved to Ibiza from the UK in 2019, agrees, admitting that she views an empty field as a blank canvas. “Most land has human input in one way or another,” she says. “We are part of the natural environment, not separate from it.” It’s a mindset that’s pivotal in her role as a manager of the Ibiza Land Bank, an initiative from the Organic Producers Association of Ibiza and Formentera (APAEEF) that unites new farmers with access to land, or expands the sites of existing producers. It’s estimated that 20,000 hectares of agricultural land on Ibiza has fallen into disuse since 2008, so it’s designed to ethically but directly counter that increasingly high statistic.
Symbiosis is also a fundamental strand of Herbal Hay, Jess’ personal project that’s received support from Fondos Illes Sostenibles. Her aim is to experiment with different seed varieties of wheat and to produce organic, dry forage for horses and cattle. “To put back into the soil in a sympathetic way that promotes biodiversity and conservation gives me a lot of joy,” she muses. “There’s a freedom to it, and a creative element that I’m really enjoying.” If successful, she will be able to provide livestock owners on Ibiza with hay, which historically has had to be imported. “There are some farmers who don’t have land to grow anything themselves,” she explains. “And so a local supply is essential. There’s a real demand for it on the island.”
Sophie Daunais is no stranger to that concern, having embarked on her own regenerative agriculture journey with Juntos Ibiza, which started as a small seed of an idea when she lived in London and has since blossomed into a project spanning two farms, a gourmet food products division, a concept store, and Juntos House, an expansive farm-to-table restaurant in San Mateo. Alongside her business partner, Christian Jochnick, she’s determined to ensure the processes behind their output are as local and low-key as possible. “We want to do everything from A to Z,” she affirms. “Our own micronutrients for the soil, our own seedlings, our own animals, our own compost, and that way we can really control the quality of the produce and do everything full circle.”
But more than this, moving into farming was about implementing a lifestyle change for Sophie, especially once she became a mother. “We thought about what was important to us and realised we wanted to raise our children in a way that was more connected to nature,” she adds. “It’s about being conscious about the impact that we make and the legacy that we leave behind us.”
Neus Costa faced a similar dilemma when her father hung up his boots at Can Soldat, the family-run farm that’s been providing islanders with produce for over 80 years. “I was very sad to see the efforts made by my parents wasted,” she declares. “So I had to decide whether to stop with the farm or take over the business myself.” Eventually, she chose to maintain the cultures and traditions of her ancestors, swapping a burgeoning banking career and an office for the wide open fields and boundless blue skies. These days, the daily balance between risk and reward still loom but the numbers mean something different. “The field doesn’t understand schedules or holidays,” she smiles. “You always have to be present.”
Many who return to the terracotta tinted soil of Ibiza, with its layered textures and scents, say it can feel visceral, almost primal. That’s certainly been the experience of Marina Cardona Baos, who initially trained as an occupational therapist but inspired by her grandparents, later decided to rejuvenate some abandoned land into Can Puvil, an ecological farm. “Daily work with the land, ensuring soil fertility, responsible water consumption, fighting pests without using chemicals, knowing the lunar cycles, reading the clouds — it’s all going back to our roots,” she affirms. “It is to be human again when every day we forget that part of ourselves.”
She bats away the idea that this is a new endeavour for women. “Planting and harvesting tasks have always been carried out by women throughout history,” she explains. “It’s just that today, they are also businesswomen. To be economically profitable, an orchard requires much more than muscles and a beard.” As one of 14 members of farmers’ alliance, EcoFeixes, which hopes to improve the availability of organic local produce on Ibiza, Marina is proof not only of the possibility for individual prosperity but also of the strength of the farming community on the island, which freely exchanges ideas and practises in order to pave the way for the generations to come.
“Learning about agriculture has surprised and fascinated me so much,” she says. “It is wonderful to know that little by little you can grow a whole field of nutrients. Life takes many turns but I am happy to have fulfilled a dream. It’s not been without sacrifice but at the age of five years old, my son already knows the growth cycles of fruit. I have given him an apprenticeship that will accompany him throughout his life. For that alone, it has all been worth it.”
[…] to the Ibiza Land Bank (Banc de Terres de les Pitiüses). Did you know that within 10 years, 50% of Europe’s farmers will retire – often with no successor to take on the farm. Which of course leads to closure. In Ibiza, […]