Farming in Lanzarote: Talking to Barbara and Manolo

Barbara Ramirez and Manolo Placeres have been farming land in Lanzarote for decades and so when Lanzarote Retreats general manager Dani decided to develop the vegetable garden at Finca de Arrieta he sought them out for advice.

“They’ve lived all of their lives through agriculture, farming in the northeast of the island” he explains. “Here in Lanzarote, each region has its own microclimate. The weather changes dramatically from one area to the next, along with the soil. And while I grew up in a farming family, their local knowledge is invaluable.”

The couple have seen many changes over the years. According to Barbara, before the advent of tourism, the whole family was dedicated to the land. She would spend all day out toiling with her siblings, each would have a task to do. There were no mechanical tools and so all work was carried out by hand, assisted by the animals including the plough pulled by the donkeys. Three of whom have retired and can be found at our eco-village Finca de Arrieta.

There was no irrigation system for watering the crops, they had to rely solely on rainwater, with water tanks shared amongst neighbours. Water was a luxury. This has come full circle, with the couple agreeing that it’s been three or more years since they’ve had reliable rainfall. Something they attribute to changing lifestyles and climate change. Water costs are high as a result and the land is often too dry to plant.

The sense of community demonstrated by the sharing of water was also apparent in the way neighbours would agree on a date to slaughter their pigs, chickens and goats to avoid meat going off and food waste.

Both lament the fact that farming no longer appeals to the younger generation. Manolo tells of times past when hundreds would wait in line to work on the land.

However, there is hope for the future thanks to the involvement of their son Manuel, who is adopting new technologies to expand his chicken farm, becoming one of the top producers on the island. Manuel supports his activities through different government-funded schemes and relies on direct sales of his eggs to local consumers and small business owners.