“Diversification and collaboration among producers is key to the future of the countryside.”

By Miguel García Granda

She lived in countries like Switzerland, England, Canada and Dubai, but decided to return to Asturias four and a half years ago. With a degree in Economics, Business Administration and Management and a master’s degree in Hospitality Management, Isabel Rubio made a radical change in her life by settling in a beautiful place within the municipality of Cudillero. “My parents started it in 2007. They bought the house and a neighbor left them the land in front of it. They spoke with the IGP of Faba from Asturias and planted 20 areas as a hobby. My father lived in Madrid, my mother in Oviedo and they came on weekends. The hobby got out of hand and, in 2015, we already had a hectare of faba. They started to like it afterward with a blueberry plantation,” she points out.

What was initially a family hobby caught on with Rubio, who, after returning to Asturias, also changed her work life. “For five years, I worked for Education First as an accountant and was the head of department in Switzerland. Then, due to life circumstances, I decided to return to Asturias and saw what they had set up here. I started working at Arcelor as an accounting administrator and, during the pandemic, I left and came here to the farm. “I started getting involved in the field.” From those beginnings she highlights that “the IGP Faba of Asturias gave a course on cultivation for young people who wanted to join. Finally I joined as a farmer. Today, I have three hectares as a self-employed person and, in addition, the El Ribeiro farm has one and a half hectares of organic faba beans, 300 apple trees of ten varieties of table apples, one hectare of organic blueberries of an extra late variety and 700 organic avocado trees.”

Regarding differences with her previous lifestyle, Isabel Rubio relates that “I went from being in an office with 15 workers under my supervision, an accountant, numbers and several languages to coming here and having a Pasquali. My father says that I used to like bags and shoes and now it makes me happy to have a tractor.” Even so, living and working in the countryside involves many other aspects. According to the farmer, “working for yourself has nothing to do with working for someone else. The field not only involves working it, but many other things behind it. Accounting, marketing, social networks, website, workers, registrations, cancellations, monitoring, knowing what it is about, how many hours are spent on one farm and another and how to manage everything. In the end, it involves much more than being on top of a tractor.”

Diversification and commitment to ecological
While other farmers prefer to dedicate themselves to a single crop, on the El Ribeiro farm they chose to open themselves to more varieties. In that sense, Isabel Rubio explains that “what we intend is to offer proof of work in the field. Being able to have a worker since we started pruning the blueberry in February, harvesting the avocado in March or April, planting the faba in May and staking between May and June. Then, in July and August, take care of all the plantations to begin harvesting in September and finish in November. Between the harvesting of beans, apples and blueberries we can have a worker who starts the campaign in February and ends in November. We believe that it is a way to give continuity and that the farmer and the worker not only carry out specific campaigns.” Another reason that Rubio highlights for implementing different crops is that “you can’t put all your eggs in the same basket. Climate change is affecting us in faba, blueberries and avocados. Before it was thought that avocado could not be planted in Asturias and now it is something that is beginning to be planted in many places. For us also as marketers because we can have a range of products and not just specialize in one thing. We believe it is beneficial for everyone. We can have many more market windows open and offer quality products under the seal of the PGIs, Foods of Paradise or COPAE and reach more places and more stores. “We cannot live the entire year on a single campaign.”

The location of the farm was one of the reasons for undertaking organic plantations. “It was thanks to my father, he is dean of the College of Chemists of Asturias. “With this valley, how can we not go for organic?” defends Isabel Rubio, for whom “it is clear that it entails much more work than conventional plantations and requires much more care. For example, it takes us 200 hours to hand-clean one hectare of organic beans. There are also new pests and diseases that we do not know how to attack.” However, the rich landscape and biodiversity of the area make it worth that extra effort. “We have the Esqueiro River next to us, which belongs to the Natura Network and we believe that we must protect it. We have installed hotels for ladybugs, houses for owls, we clean the river by hand and ultimately we take care of the environment.

Share the article