L’Olivera is a work cooperative and social initiative in the rural and periurban world. We grow grapes and olives and make organic wine and oil, including people under the umbrella of social inclusion throughout the process, putting their skills at the service of a common project.
We began this enterprise in 1974 at Vallbona de les Monges in the dry-farming land of inland Catalonia, when a group of people led by the Piarist Father Josep Maria Segura settled in the village with the idea of creating a community where to live and work. The idea was to include people with handicaps, especially those in disadvantaged social situations, and to set up a productive economic outlet based on local values.
This alternative and socialising experience filled with utopia sought humanising and inclusive ways to live and work – ones that in some way were breaking away from urban and industrial development. It was a collective endeavour in a rural setting, aligned with other experiences being developed in several places across Europe. Today it is known as the Social and Solidarity Economy.
The group aimed for an agricultural economy from the outset, like their neighbours in the village, and a cooperative economy because of the potential of this form of organisation. Social issues were at the heart of the production project, in the form of an initiative at a human scale that put people at the very centre.
That is why we continue to work the vineyards and olive groves manually, and to label and number our bottles one-by-one by hand. We are interpreters of the land and we work by applying organic farming criteria. Our challenge has always been to make products that started from the local agricultural legacy and were a reflection of the land and its people.
We have also been operating from the Can Calopa farmhouse in Collserola Parc Natural since 2010, where we are recovering the grapevines and producing the only wine from the city of Barcelona. A social farming project that also gives rise to social inclusion opportunities for young people with special needs. An experience that stakes a claim for farming activity linked to large cities.
The outcome of this work is a range of unique and honest wines and oils we invite you to discover.
L’Olivera is a project that is collective and inclusive, made of many hands and many voices, as stones of different shapes build a dry stone margin. A human landscape that fits irregular stones, different people, in order to build a solid project, stone by stone, person by person. An organic construction, a choral work with a shared objective: to interpret the earth by putting into play our own values, those that our immediate environment provides us, betting on making the limits wider from where we reinvent the world we dream of.
We draw our identity from the dry stone margins of this inhabited periphery (in fact, the Catalan word “marges” refers to the dry stone walls that serve as a support to land terraces carved into the sides of steep hills thereby making agriculture possible), the heritage of a cultivated memory. Ours and that of everyone who wants to make it theirs. Because there is no real change without a commitment to transformation, nor commitment without action.
We believe in people and put them at the very centre of our economic and social activity. We include diversity and embrace it from all spheres, putting our skills into play at the service of a common project.
We believe that social dimension and production economy must go hand-in-hand. We strive to generate employment and social opportunities through inclusive work and at a human scale. Manual work that gives us a structure and which respects and stimulates each person’s speed and ability.
We are interpreters of the land. We work on it respecting the cycles of nature and applying organic farming criteria to make products of our agricultural legacy that are a reflection of their land. We believe in agroecology as a model to make the shift to more environmentally, economically and socially sustainable food and farming systems.
We are committed to inhabiting the landscape, making it liveable and collectively building a welcoming present and a future. We anchor the rural world in an optimistic vision: we believe in a living world (a rural world) that produces opportunities and in a primary sector that promotes the economically, socially and demographically balanced growth of society.
We believe in food as ambassadors of the land and the basis for a food culture linked to its origins. Food that also conveys cultural values, those that tie us to an identity, that speak to us of a way of working and being, that express the cultural singularity of the place they come from. Food that cannot be explained without its landscape; landscapes that are expressed through their food.
Being a partner entails understanding that awareness and sovereignty around our daily actions are closely related to the world we want, the land we love and the future we build. We believe in food as a practical way of exercising our citizenship and are inspired and aligned with the three principles of the Slow Food movement to make and consume products that are good, clean and fair.
We can only achieve a fair society if all the people in it have the same possibilities of accessing minimum levels of social wellbeing and their rights are the same as those of other groups. We are making the shift to this fairer society, tackling inconsistencies to achieve equality in the broadest sense: gender, opportunities, work and social.
We are committed to cooperativism as a structure that guarantees equality, engagement and internal democracy, on the path towards building a democratic and participative employment ecosystem. We believe in networking and cooperation as a principle for developing a transformative organisational model capable of contributing to an economic and social paradigm shift.
We strive to be a transparent organisation inside and out. We believe in collective management and embrace commitments posited on participation and a sense of militancy towards a project that aims at being committed, transparent and collaborative. We do so in the belief that information and transparency matter more than fantasy and artifice.
Do what we say we do. Authenticity is achieved through honesty and we want to be meaningful regarding what we do, how we do it and the way we explain it.
Culture that cultivates. Cultivates soil, cultivates people. Cultivates on the margins. Physical margins: the drystone walls dotting the dry land where the grapevines and olive trees we work on grow and which support the cultivated life. But also, symbolic margins, those which cannot be seen but that separate and categorise people and marginalise those who fall outside the dynamics the new times impose. Experiences that endure on the margins of what is conventional.
1 1 f. [LC] The act or process of cultivating living material; its outcome. It comes from the latin word cultura, a compound of the word cultus, cultured, cultivated, past participle of the verb colere, and the suffix –ura, the result of the action.
Marge (Margins, translation from Catalan definition)
1 3 m. [AGA] A vertical structure, usually made of dry stones, that serves as a support to dry land terraces carved into the sides of steep hills, at different levels, thereby making agriculture possible and helping prevent potential landslides.
2 3 [LC] to be on the margin loc. adv. Being set apart or not taking part in something.
It is here, on the periphery, and becoming part of the landscape, that the L’Olivera project occurs, within the drystone walls that make the land arable, and this exploration of loyalty imposed by life on the margins. A project by stubborn folk who have been trialling a groundbreaking experience, running up against a number of established values, since 1974. Stubborn for working on a harsh and hostile land and doing so with a farming project at a human scale that puts each individual person’s skills into play at the service of a collective endeavour.
A stubborn character that inhabits this austere landscape that we endeavour to cultivate, that we identify with and are committed to and which structures us like a form of culture: the culture of ‘marges’.
L’Olivera is a project experienced in two landscapes: the rural one at Vallbona de les Monges, on the dry-farming land of inland Catalonia, and the urban one at the Can Calopa de Dalt farmhouse in Collserola Natural Park in Barcelona. Two experiences, two paths and two shared approaches.
An experience in two settings, a universe in two landscapes, a common outlook in two worlds.
Vallbona represents the initial utopia that in 1974 led us to embark on this enterprise that brought us where we are today. We had the feeling that this unirrigated land, dotted with drystone walls, had the potential to produce unique wines and oils, and that we could make them by leveraging a farming project on a human scale where economic and social considerations went hand-in-hand. An attempt to live with a crosscutting vision that made social inclusion compatible with the production of locally sourced, quality produce.
Doing it in a rural environment encourages us to go on believing in the future of these spaces where changes in farming and production models are constant and leave many open questions. We identify with this broad concept of agriculture that incorporates diverse functions and values (quality food, social action, local development, cultural value, etc.) and our experience is framed in what is known around Europe as Social Agriculture or Social Farming.
Vallbona is a land of ridges and small valleys reflecting the erosive power of the water that left its mark and shaped the countryside. It is a place of deep soil and hillsides supported by marges or walls that, along with the numerous cabins, speak to the area’s more populous, productive past. These drystone walls are a key factor in keeping the soil fertile and using water efficiently on dry-farming land where rainfall is in very short supply. They are living testimony to the wisdom and hard work accumulated by the generations that came before us, living heritage today at risk of disappearing into the mists of time.
Vallbona’s history is characterised by the presence of the oldest Cistercian monastery in Catalonia. The Cistercian order was founded in Burgundy and dedicated to combining spiritual activity with agricultural development and regional planning. This is the land where L’Olivera strives to bring added value.
The vineyards form part of the Corb River Valley subzone in the Costers del Segre Designation of Origin. We grow most of the grapes we use on our own estates and the rest come from neighbouring winegrowing families. From the outset we were committed to historical varieties as a central tenet in the expression of an origin. Winegrowing land that expresses and links climate, soil, landscape and varieties. We harvest all the grapes by hand between late August and October. The different locations of the plots give us a scale of ripening that means we can harvest gradually as the grapes reach their optimum state.
The vineyards that supply the L’Olivera winery are the only ones remaining in the Vallbona municipal area. A landscape that tells us of a crop that had been important in the local economy. In this scenario, generating opportunities that keep the land liveable is the challenge that drives us every day.
Our winery at Vallbona is an old loft in the town which we have been adapting and expanding on since 1989, the year of our first harvest. We want the work we do at the winery to express the full potential of the grapes we have been preparing in the field over the past year. We use gentle, environmentally friendly processes and natural produce. We ferment the grapes in stainless steel vats and oak barrels sourced from different places and barrel-makers. We follow the process closely, analysing the must and the wine, tasting it and deciding on the final blends. The wine is the outcome of this work that is a collective interpretation of the countryside we inhabit, a personality sought, a determination, fruit of the accumulation of knowledge shared and debated. We declare ourselves interpreters of the land and our wines are like signature wines that we all engage in creating, our footprint on the entire process, from planting the vines to tasting the end result of all this work.
The L’Olivera initiative at the Can Calopa farmhouse is the consolidation of an agricultural model that began in the rural world and was transferred to the urban one. L’Olivera has been managing the vineyards that Barcelona City Council owns at the Can Calopa farmhouse in the Collserola mountain range since 2010. L’Olivera works the vineyard and makes the wine in a small, refurbished winery with a commitment to farming on a human scale that combines quality produce with social inclusion and respect for the environment.
The winery produces the only wine from Barcelona, the outcome of a collective commitment to periurban agriculture that takes a contemporary view towards recovering farming activity linked to large cities.
At Can Calopa we also manage the vineyards of the Sabadell Agricultural Park and make the Arraona wines which are a further step in this approach of farming close to urban centres and asserting the winegrowing past of the city.
The Can Calopa de Dalt farmhouse is located on the road that joins Vallvidrera with Molins de Rei, on the northern side of the Collserola mountain range. It is part of the Barcelona municipal area, in the Sarrià-Sant Gervasi district, and is included in Collserola Park, classified as a natural zone of ecological and naturalistic value.
The Can Calopa vineyards are located on the north-eastern side of the Collserola mountain range, 300 metres above sea level. The estate preserves remain of ancient drystone walls and combines terraces with small flat plots in a landscape of forest areas mainly comprising pines, holm oaks and Mediterranean shrub species.
In this setting that is natural but at the same time very close to urban areas, where reason leads to abandonment or unbalanced urban development, farming has long been an activity in decline, particularly following the arrival of the phylloxera pest in the second half of the nineteenth century, which triggered the end of the vineyards. Recovering the crops with a productive approach and doing so with a social inclusion project is today an exercise in resilience that leads us to practice a resistant form of farming.
The winery is located on the ground floor of the Can Calopa de Dalt farmhouse. It used to be a wine cellar and still preserves a large press, telling us something of the local winegrowing past. The Can Calopa wines are made in this small, refurbished space, taking an approach to winemaking that includes environmental values and which endeavours to make wine loyal to its farming and human landscape.