Catalan Producers Emphasize History and Sustainability in Tourism Initiative

The award-winning producers Mil & Un Verd are on a mission: preserve the historical structures and millennial olive trees of their estate while sustainably producing extra virgin olive oil from native varieties.
Harvesting for Arbor Sacris in 2018. Photo Marc Morella Cabanes
By Daniel Dawson
Feb. 11, 2021 06:54 UTC

As the num­ber of new Covid-19 cases and deaths con­tin­ues to climb in Spain, the world’s largest olive oil-pro­duc­ing nation remains under a strict state of emer­gency.

The slow roll­out of the vac­cine across the coun­try likely means there will be no respite for the restau­rant and hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor any­time soon.

We want to attract the kind of peo­ple that visit a place to expe­ri­ence its bio­di­ver­sity and its nat­ural value; not only for tapas and paella.- Marc Morella Cabanes, Mil & Un Verd

For the many small pro­duc­ers scat­tered through­out Spain, the Horeca sec­tor is one of the largest des­ti­na­tions for their prod­uct. Local mar­kets and fairs – another pri­mary income source for small pro­duc­ers – have also been resched­uled and halted.

It was very hard to try to sell the olive oil this year as a result,” Marc Morella Cabanes of Mil & Un Verd told Olive Oil Times. We had to impro­vise, adapt and over­come. We had to change our busi­ness objec­tives.”

See Also:In Spain, Some See New Opportunities for Tourism in Pandemic’s Wake

In the shadow of the Muntanyes de Benifassà, at the south­ern tip of the autonomous com­mu­nity of Catalunya, the pro­duc­ers of the award-win­ning Arbor Sacris brand only started mak­ing olive oil two years ago.

It is a dif­fer­ent con­cept of olive oil com­ing only from mil­len­nial trees, with a focus on qual­ity and pre­sen­ta­tion,” Morella said.

Arbor Sacris is a mono­va­ri­etal com­posed of the endemic Farga cul­ti­var and is char­ac­ter­ized by its sweet­ness and tex­ture. Along with their coupage, Arbor Senium, the com­pany pro­duced 600 liters of olive oil in the 2020/21 crop year.

This year was very dif­fi­cult because many of the trees entered an off-year,” Morella said. We had very good pro­duc­tion [of about 1,600 liters] in 2019, but this year, it has been much lower.”

However, qual­ity and envi­ron­men­tal stew­ard­ship are more impor­tant to Morella and the fam­ily than quan­tity.

For Arbol Sacris, we have 19 olive trees, but also we have this project of tak­ing mil­len­nial olive trees that are com­pletely aban­doned and recov­er­ing them,” Morella said.

We talk to the own­ers who are unable [due to age] to take care of the trees and leave them there to grow wild,” he added. We make a deal with them to take care of the trees for free, but we get to use the olives for our pro­duc­tion. There are a lot of mil­len­nial trees in the area that have been recov­ered thanks to this project.”


Marc Morella Cabanes

Taking care of the trees helps all of the pro­duc­ers in the area. Abandoned olive trees are a sig­nif­i­cant reser­voir for dis­eases and were iden­ti­fied as one of the causes for the dev­as­tat­ing spread of Xylella fas­tidiosa in Puglia.

While the pan­demic did not severely impact their abil­ity to pro­duce olive oils this year, it made sell­ing their arti­sanal prod­uct much more dif­fi­cult.


Morella said the clo­sure of restau­rants and the can­ce­la­tion of fairs caused the com­pany to focus on sell­ing olive oil online and devel­op­ing an oleo­tur­ismo – olive oil tourism – project.

We changed our objec­tives to sell less olive oil and more so pro­mote tourism,” he said. Our olive trees are cat­e­go­rized as mil­len­nial olive trees and are pro­tected by UNESCO.”

See Also:Best Olive Oils From Spain

During last year’s brief sum­mer tourism sea­son, Morella said that the fam­ily-run oper­a­tion focussed on attract­ing local tourists to come and see the mas­sive trees, learn about the area’s rich his­tory and taste some of their award-win­ning olive oils.

We bring the peo­ple to come and see the mil­len­nial olive trees so they can see part of the area’s his­tory,” he said. We also explain about the ter­races and his­tory of the groves as well as their archae­o­log­i­cal and nat­ural her­itage. We also offer the pos­si­bil­ity to have a tast­ing under the trees.”

Highlighting the dry-stone ter­races is one of the main high­lights of the tour. Morella esti­mates that they were built between 500 and 600 years ago to pro­tect the trees from ero­sion, flood­ing and wild­fires.


Marc Morella Cabanes

Despite their age and state of dilap­i­da­tion, they still do so effec­tively. Along with high­light­ing their con­tin­ued impor­tance to the land­scape, Morella and the fam­ily hope to pre­serve and restore them.

Also located within the estate are mon­u­ments to Spain’s bloody civil war. While the fight­ing ended more than 80 years ago, the con­flict remains rel­e­vant to cul­ture and pol­i­tics, espe­cially in Catalunya.

We have dif­fer­ent con­struc­tions inside the estate that are mostly hunt­ing con­struc­tions and have a lot of his­tory,” Morella said. Some of the maquis – Republican guerilla sol­diers – dur­ing the Spanish Civil War used to hide there from the Nationalist sol­diers.”

They also used those con­struc­tions for hunt­ing in the after­math of the war, which brought famine,” Morella added.

Along with these struc­tures, Morella said that sol­diers also hid among the olive trees.

The olive trees that are more than 500 or 600 years old tend to grow into strange forms,” he said. At some point, they form nat­ural caves with their roots, so peo­ple could stay there and hide. [Fortunately], they were not dam­aged dur­ing the war. ”

The fam­ily has enjoyed mod­est suc­cess while cater­ing to mostly domes­tic tourists who visit from the sur­round­ing provinces.

Once the pan­demic ends and inter­na­tional tourism begins to open up, Morella believes the oper­a­tion can broaden its appeal while main­tain­ing its com­mit­ments to cul­tural preser­va­tion and sus­tain­abil­ity.

We would like to focus on sus­tain­able and eco­log­i­cal tourism,” he said. We want to attract the kind of peo­ple that visit a place to expe­ri­ence its bio­di­ver­sity and its nat­ural value; not only for tapas and paella.”


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