Camping on an organic farm in northern Spain: one of our favourite weekends during this summer’s house-swapping adventure!
A little research before leaving the UK introduced us to Vinyols Camp – an organic farm just a couple of hours south of Barcelona. A family business, the farming consists in the main of harvesting fruits and nuts. The camping is done under the trees, in tents, mobile homes or wooden chalets, with 90% of the guests from the city.
Only one hour and a half to set up our tent and famished, we made our way to the pavilion, which is the hub of the site. A great hall was being swept clean of the day’s activities, whilst a television showing the latest World Cup game attracted the attention of a few male guests. The dining hall was mostly empty, with coffees being served on the terrace.
Farm Produce Vegetarian Restaurant
Joan Mas laughingly assured us that 10pm was relatively early for dinner in Spain and after a brief discussion over likes and dislikes, he offered to just “bring us food“. As I write this it was almost 2 months ago and I’m sure over time my memory has played tricks, but I recall every member of the family delivering platters of delicious vegetarian food in steady succession. I knew I was going to love this place…
Guests are free to roam the farm, pet the horses, sit by the (essential for bio diversity) pond and – most fantastically – pick produce from the veg garden to cook. To be honest, cooking wasn’t really on my agenda – I was on holiday this weekend!
There was an attractively designed swimming pool to offer much needed respite from the blazing June sun and although it was lively in the morning, there was certainly plenty of space for everyone to enjoy. The free WiFi attracted us all to the pavilion, where we greedily consumed ice lollies – I wish they were natural home-made creations, but alas, Nestle had infiltrated even this small organic oasis.
That evening we were entertained as a by-product of some ladies who visited the camp to chant whilst playing some mysterious instruments. They didn’t mind us gawking at them in wonder.
Rosa, the mother of the business – whose forward thinking eco & spiritual philosophies ran through the very heart of the enterprise – came and went from the hall to the kitchen, with a kind word for everyone and by this time I was aching to speak to her, but alas, we had no shared language, other than lots of smiles and hugs.
Our next meal was, to borrow from Ruaridh’s vocabulary, awesome and we were already thinking how we could arrange to stay longer – but we were due to arrive at our next swap the next day. Perhaps we could come back – and bring some workshops with us?
Expanding Into Eco Tourism
Vinyols Camp has expanded into the eco tourism market not only to spread the word about organic agriculture, but to survive. It’s a tough economic climate, and the produce alone doesn’t fetch enough money to support the venture, so the camping is used to generate much needed revenue.
Because it was high season, the site was occupied by families in the main. Mostly down from Barcelona for a quiet, safe and natural holiday – we noticed that those guests didn’t seem to be participting in the ‘organic’ activities: the hall was quiet and the restaurant wasn’t full.
Joan Mas (Rosa’s son – in situ for a 5 year long development project) was generous with his time and explained that a campsite full of kids probably wasn’t conducive to a lot of quiet meditation or Tai Chi workshops. That accepted, we didn’t understand why more of the eco nature wasn’t on offer. The shop inside the hall was limited to only a few organic products and although there was an abundance of literature dotted around, the message wasn’t inherent in everything – case in point, the Nestle full freezer!
However, the Catalans were the forerunners of the organic movement in Spain – many spurred on to diversify after Spain was allowed to join the European Union, but exports were still restricted. All of these years later and the Catalans alongside the other inhabitants of Spain were still not consumers of organic produce – the majority of what they produce is exported to us folk here in more northern climes.
Swimming Against The Tide
This was an amazing family who were battling against a culture that was slow to adopt what is a fast growing movement elsewhere, in the US and UK. A family who were prepared to stand up to the harsh economic climate where bookings were lower than forecast and later than usual. And where an unfavourable municipal environment was doing its best to usurp them and their desire to live organically and share it with the holidaymakers.
An oasis of wellbeing in a natural environment where, enhanced by some magically healing wholefood, I felt completely at peace. I’ll let you into a secret : I’ve never camped in a tent before. Never, not even when I’ve been at festivals. I was always the girl who bagged the caravan, or the mattress in the back of a van, or slept in the car. And here I was, willing to exchange my next home swap for a few more nights in a tent, just to absorb the life force of a family I’ve just met and a farm where the frogs croaked day and night.
And so we have a mind to return to Vinyols Camp. Perhaps we can learn how to farm? Perhaps we can learn some new some skills and share some old in the pavilion? We’re not quite sure what or when – but you’re welcome to join us when we do. And if you can’t wait on us to decide, then you can always book yourself a natural holiday in the meantime. Reus airport is only 30 minutes away. And the beach only another 10. I really couldn’t recommend it more than to say I was in tears when I left … but then again some places just get to you, don’t they?
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