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Organic Man in Algeciras
Antonio Gallardo from organic shop La Almaciga is as vocal a proponent of organic agriculture as you will find anywhere and dropping by his co-operative style store in the calle Seneca of Algeciras is an enjoyable, enlightening and inspiring experience. Not only will you come away with something fine to sample for dinner you will also be ready to do your bit for the organic cause.
Antonio’s family worked the land in this area of what is now high rises, motorways and urban sprawl around Algeciras. Far from driving him further out into the country though, he has dedicated himself to bringing the same healthy food and way of life he enjoyed as a child back to the population of his home town. The scandals which abound in modern agribusiness are familiar to Antonio, and his conversation is peppered with information which makes your hair stand on end. When crops are sprayed with pesticide, for example, a meager 5% actually reaches the intended destination on the plants themselves, leaving 95% floating in the air and contaminating the immediate environment as well as the farm workers and anyone in the vicinity. Not only do many of our food stuffs travel thousands of unnecessary kilometres before they get anywhere near our tables, but they are also frequently sprayed with a toxic cocktail of chemicals so that they appear to be freshly picked when they left the earth they were grown in several days if not weeks before.
With the energy of someone who is passionate about his work, Antonio is doing everything in his power to turn this around. For him, the most important word is ‘respect’. We need to relearn the respect which was natural in our society when we lived much closer to the cycles of the land and the living the land gives us. The high consumption of toxic chemicals in our food is the root cause of many of our societies’ problems and symptomatic of the ‘disrespectful’ relationship we now have with our home on earth. For more than 11 years, Antonio has used the shop front of La Almaciga to re-educate the public back to eating locally produced and seasonally available foods. Along with a group of producers in the Sierra de Cadiz, he is building a distribution network to sell products that meet these criteria. Even the international organic production business is becoming disconnected with these essential and simple precepts. It is all too easy to buy Israeli organic potatoes, or Brazilian organic mangoes that contribute to the destruction caused by agribusiness due to their huge distribution ‘footprint’ despite their organic certification. When produce is grown locally, using strains of plants developed in that area over generations to produce the best crops possible under local climatic conditions, and when the distribution is local enough to cause minimum ecological damage in terms of fuel miles and storage, then ‘respect’ returns to the cycle of food production. Under these circumstances ‘we are what we eat’ becomes a truly positive statement.