The project The Farm of the Possible is a project that began with the arrival of Natasha Prevost in Granada, Spain in 2013. Natasha is a Canadian with a PhD in anthropology, and at that time she was a researcher at the Centre de Recherche et de Développement en Éducation at the University of Moncton. After years dedicated to international projects, she had decided to invest her knowledge capital, incorporating both an action research and integral education point of view, in a project that would promote social transformation through the development of a self-sufficient community.
With this objective in mind, she joined the University of Granada’s Institute of Regional Development (Instituto de desarrollo regional (IDR)) in October 2013 as a guest researcher. Her intention was to adapt her previous project, “The organic garden and its social ramifications in the school and community: a transcultural study of the power of transformation through a process of integral education.” to the context of Granada. (IDR invitation, 03.09.2015)
IDR facilitated Natasha’s introduction to professors at the University in Granada, including José Castillo Ruiz, a researcher involved in projects concerning agricultural heritage and directly involved in social movements such as Salvemos la Vega platform. It is through him that, in November 2013, Natasha first heard about the Jesús del Valle estate on the Darro river. This was just at the time she was beginning her stay at a farmhouse in the Alpujarra Region of Granada province (Almegijar) for a few months of hands-on study in organic farming in Mediterranean mountain areas.
In her downtime, between work on the farm and learning from natural wine producers in the Alpujarra, she began to shift her research proposal with an eye to Jesús del Valle, which was taking shape as both a comprehensive and inclusive option, adapting the goals and objectives to the characteristics and location of the estate and targeting possible finance options towards the European program Horizon 2020 (2014-2020), with a focus on program-specific call ISIB-2015-1 H2020, H2020-ISIB subcall-2015 (Innovative, Sustainable and Inclusive Bioeconomy).
At this point, she began to contact people in both civil and public institutions who would be directly related to this new proposed project. Among these was the first request, to the Board of the Alhambra-Generalife in February 2014, as an immediate neighbour of the property (email of February 6, 2014 to Victoria Chamorro), although this meeting did not come to fruition at the time.
Following along the same lines of study she had applied to learning about organic farming in the Alpujarra, Natasha began to study Agroecology, food sovereignty and international cooperation (February to June 2014) as organised by the Centre of rural studies and international agriculture (Centro de estudios rurales y de agricultura internacional CERAI) in Granada. More specifically, she focused on the modules of Bioconstruction, sustainable construction and agroecological practice in rural development.
Through this course, Natasha met the people who, from this point on, would work with her on the next steps of the proposal for social transformation at the Hacienda de Jesús del Valle. Rafael Fuentes-Guerra, urban geographer town and country planner who was taking the course and had similar interests in bioconstruction and agroecology and Iñaki Alonso, an architect (“satt ecoarchitecture”) specializing in bioconstruction, who was an instructor, running the workshops for the “Bioconstruction” and “Sustainable Construction for rural development” modules.
On this now shared path, starting in May of 2013 they began planning the next steps, beginning with the creation of an Action Plan to position the proposal as an Action/Research project, beginning with the comprehensive renovations of the estate, and with a goal aimed at social transformation. With this in mind, they established criteria and objectives, including an analysis of the historical dimension, the point of departure from the comprehensive education point of view along with permaculture, and the initial framework of the concept of the three ecologies of Felix Guattari, addressing both the environmental and artistic aspects of the proposal.
They continued this dialogue with collectives and social movements such as Ecologistas en Acción, Asociación de vecinos del Sacromonte and the Plataforma por la defensa integral del Valle del Darro, organisations who had, in the previous months, called for group action to protest the speculative plans for projects in the Darro Valley, noting the interest they showed in their proposed project.
A few months later, with a new request (supported by La Plataforma en defensa del valle del Darro) on Monday, June 2, 2014, they met with the Board of the Alhambra-Generalife, represented by Victoria Chamorro. At this meeting (as registered in the minutes) the Board expressed interest in the project, promising a detailed reading of the proposal and committing to ensure that the Director of the Board Maria del Mar Villafranca (later replaced by Reynaldo Fernández Manzano) would receive a copy. The Board also showed interest in partnering in the proposal, offering their support and resources for a possible submission to the European commission.
As well, letters of endorsement were written and sent (in line with the one sent to Board of the Alhambra-Generalife) to regional ministries and various faculties of the University of Granada, performing related activity derived from the proposal for Jesús del Valle, soliciting affiliation and collaboration.
|Andalusian regional government||Ministry of economy, innovation, science and employment||25/06/2014|
|Ministry of education, culture and sports||25/06/2014|
|Ministry of equality, health and social policies||25/06/2014|
|Ministry of development and housing||25/06/2014|
|Guadalquivir hydrographical Confederation||25/06/2014|
|Ministry of environment and territorial management||25/06/2014|
|Granada University||Fine Arts Faculty||25/06/2014|
|ETS engineering roads, canals and ports||25/06/2014|
|Political Science Faculty||25/06/2014|
|Science of education Faculty||25/06/2014|
|ETS building engineering||07/07/2014|
The general response of many of the contacts made was that our proposal was very interesting answer urgent needs in many fields of actuation but they saw it as complicated or impossible considering the legal situation of the property, prompting a positive reaction and hence the name of the project “The Farm of the Possible”.
In a similar fashion, in June 2014 specialists were contacted on dimensions related to the activity to be developed in Jesús del Valle, such as Luciano Furcas, permacultor and Mexican Eugenio Gras, industrial engineer, livestock farmer and director of Mashumus permaculture group. Raquel Gomez Almaraz, forestry engineer. The two latter visited with us Jesús del Valle in July, after which they join the project as collaborators and for which they later developed a proposal for hydrologic design and ecosystems regeneration for Jesús del Valle.
In the summer period, Natasha starts a new volunteer training (April 15 to September 15, 2014) in a small agroecological farm in the village of Fuente Vaqueros, member of the association of producers and consumers “El Vergel de la Vega“. This stay is intended to cover the necessary preparation for seasonal fruits and vegetables crops, under the tutelage of Matilde Castro (Maty). Thanks to shared work and family life, Natasha is introduced in the channels of agroecological production of Granada municipality, knowing firsthand the situation and market reality of agroecological production, as well as the emerging demand from Granada consumers though still incipient period on both production and marketing levels.
In the same spirit, Rafael remains as a guest in the garden of Damian Ortega (from the agroecologic course practice), in the municipality of Gabias, learning annual crop rotation and becoming an agroecological gardener himself.
Meanwhile, on September 3, 2014 the Association for the integral recuperation and development of Jesús del Valle is registered at the Ministry of Interior and Justice, the founding act of the association is definitely inscribed on 17 October 2014 with the following founding members:
– President. Natasha Prévost
– Vice-president. Rafael Fuentes-Guerra Soldevilla
– Secretariat. Iñaki Alonso Echeverría
– Vocal. Miguel Angel Mancheño Segarra
Once registered and inscribed, on December 26, 2014 the administration issues the definitive tax identification number.
In the months following, Eugenio Gras and Raquel Gomez Almaraz engage in the preparation of a preliminary budget for the permaculture design, while Iñaki Alonso takes on the elaboration of the rehabilitation of buildings. On November 14, the Association founders work on a preliminary project proposal, the drafting of letters of intent and the beginning of the business plan for viability assessment.
In order to complete her training in activities to be developed at the Farm of the Possible, Natasha initiates a new volunteer training (November 25, 2014 – January 25, 2015) in the municipality of Monachil, in this case for learning the breeding and care of goats as well as the making of ecological artisan cheese and dairy products tutored by Javier Aguilar “El muchacho de los quesos“. The experience was totally positive and amply covered the planned learning expectations.
By the end of Natasha’s training in Monachil, the team set a meeting of the Board of the association, to address the main pending tasks: creating a new planning and scheduling of work of which the first result will be the improving and updating of the project presentation, adapting it to potential public diffusion.
In the same period, we have a first meeting with one the official receivers, responsible for the property management of Jesús del Valle and beginnings are made with strategic planning for seeking potential funders both nationally and internationally. Another meeting takes place with the owner of the property, interested to sale the estate.
In the context of the strategic planning of the proposal, the first public presentation of the project is led by Rafael Fuentes-Guerra in the Carmen de la Victoria (University of Granada) in early February 2015. It was during a conference on Albayzín-Sacromonte neighbourhoods together with representatives of the Board of the Alhambra-Generalife, the Sacromonte and Albayzín Bajo neighbourhoods associations, Ecologistas en Acción and the Plataforma por la protección integral del Valle del Darro. The following month (March 27) public presentations continue with a conference organised by the Instituto de Desarrollo Regional, in the premises of the University of Granada, where Natasha and Rafael presented the outlines of the proposal, and a month later, on 23 April at the headquarters of Ecologistas en Acción of Granada.
In the meanwhile in April 2015 (after contacting Jesuits of Cordoba and Granada) the first request for support to potential investors or sponsors are sent to:
– The Vatican. His Holiness Pope Francisco
-Economist of the commons. Leonardo Beccheti, Luizino Bruni, Stefano Zamagni, Renzo Fratini
– Chefs of renowned restaurants. Andoni Luis Aduriz, Ferrán Adria. Martin Berasategui, Elena and Juan Mari Arzak
In early May we presented the project in Cordoba in the 12th Meeting of Alternative and Solidarity Economy – IDEARIA in an setting of proposals surrounding cooperation and solidarity where our proposal received great interest.
A few days later we visited Jesús del Valle with Alvaro Calleja, Granadaimedia journalist and press photographer Jesús Ochando, in order to develop an audiovisual reportage for an article on the project and the result is as follows http://granadaimedia.com/project-recovery-hacienda-jesus-the-valley/
In the following days the pace of information relating to the property is precipitated, as an official administrator (responsible for managing the legal charges against Jesús del Valle owners) makes a public announcement of the auction of one-third of the property.
Because of the electoral time conjuncture, with an eminent municipal consultation, Jesús del Valle re-emerges as the subject of media interest, because of its predisposition for strategic intervention proposals by political parties. Thus, the newspaper Ideal of Granada (May 30, 2015) published an extensive article on the farm, which includes an interview with Natasha and Rafael on the proposal of the Farm of the Possible.
The auction takes place at the end of May, and was declared void. Thereafter we made contact with the official administrator (Francisco Zurita) receiving us diligently in his office, in which we express our intention to rehabilitate the farm through a process of social transformation. We were summoned to a subsequent meeting in September, before a new call for auction of the property.
While these contacts are made, the public diffusion of the project continues, so that the social sensitivity is monopolised for a greater support towards the project. With this, on June 9 Natasha, Rafael and Miguel Ángel give the conference: “Jesús del Valle, the Farm of the Possible. Heritage Integral Rehabilitation and Social Transformation” in the new headquarters of the school of architecture organised by the Ateneo of Granada and the department of urban and regional planning from the University of Granada.
On June 23, the Board convenes a meeting at the headquarters of the Association, in which a review of the current status of the project, the actions to be taken and Natasha’s emergency evidence to obtain residency, renew the necessity of fundraising. They also discussed the funding of the initial work and the need to finalise the business plan and organise a campaign of Crowdfunding and define a brand image, for which the finalising of the website initiated by Natasha is urgent. In this meeting the proposal to submit the project to the Biodiversity Foundation is voiced. Another proposal is to start an action-research project on the market of ecological products at provincial and regional level, analysing their specific needs and how to help the organisation of small producers to achieve public education on the matter and more consumers. Finally, it is also suggested to launch a “time bank” that would allow to assess the time spent until today by each of the members of the Association at the same time of offering the possibility of compensation for the work of potential partners on the different tasks required by the proposal.
At this stage and with the collaboration of the economist Renato Lion, Natasha finalises the business plan; in order to specify and itemise each and every one of the items prescribed in the future exploitation of the estate, further demonstrating the viability and solvency of the proposal. In parallel and complementary to the development of the business plan, Jesús Ochando photographer, with whom we had made the press video, filmed a promotional video, this time for a campaign of Crowdfunding. In the meantime, in collaboration with the graphic designer Antonio Casas, Natasha finalises the website to be launched in a campaign of communication.
With the intention to initiate the research on the market of ecological products we met with the director of the Instituto de desarrollo regional of the University of Granada, in mid-July. Although the director showed interest in the proposal he made explicitly clear that the research staff of the institute would lead the research, which made us decide to venture other partnerships for its realisation.