Nowadays, in Galicia, Spain, as in many other places around the world, grandchildren of those who had emigrated to the cities as a consequence of a lack of resources in the countryside, return to their roots thanks to an environmental awareness and new technologies, revitalizing an ancestral landscape and their touch with nature from an original, younger, more viable and encouraging perspective. Prejudices have for a long time depicted the countryside as poor and antiquated. However, the contaminated and overcrowded cities (known as paradigm of progress) seem now to see clean and healthy horizons of freedom in the countryside, restoring our quality of life and experiences as living beings.
At this juncture, farmers revive as new entrepreneurs, whose capital is our most valuable heritage: nature. Tesouros de Galicia, which is assigned to U.N. Environment Program and a member of INTO, has taken after INTO FARMS and developed its own project ‘Sustainable farms of Galicia’. The aim of this project is to spread within society the sustainable values and revitalize its rural heritage, thus also enhancing the visibility of their green entrepreneurs as social role models: for their commitment, courage and ethical independence opposed to the consumerist society. Each of these farms is a living organism, with its own history and personality, where the civilized people coexist in harmony with nature. Tesouros has distinguished 4 sustainable criteria on its farm guide:  traditional farms based on organic production;  farms promoting typical products, Protected Designation of Origin products, or local breeds;  agritourism, farm schools, or farms invigorating places of ethnographical and/or natural value;  farms fostering energy efficiency or renewable energy technologies.
Galicia’s rugged landscape, peppered with valleys and hills, is fragmented into smallholdings which give rise to farms that look like they are straight out of a fairy-tale. There are farms dotted along the coast and in beautiful natural reserves; or at the top of high mountains (e.g. Sierra del Courel, where beautiful villages, agritourism and one of the better preserved natural forests in Europe are found); or in Sierra de Ancares where hotels and the traditional Celtic houses (pallozas) look like they are from Astérix & Obélix. Some of the farms protect the local breeds (cow, pig, hen). Others promote the natural and ethnographical heritage. Many focus on local gastronomic production (cheese, honey, wine). And others have turned their fields into solar farms to provide green energy to all of the surrounding areas.
What’s Galicia like? The country of thousand rivers
Galicia is placed in the westernmost point of Europe, taking up an old and minor corner on the hilly north of Spain, along the Atlantic Ocean. In Roman times it was known as Gallaecia, and there ended the world, after the river Limia (Lethe, or the stream of oblivion) and once reached the last cape in Europe: Finisterre (Finis Terrae). Historically, its location put Galicia aside, which also helped to preserve its cultural, agrarian and fishing wealth. Today, Galicia is to Spain, what the Shire is to Tolkien’s Middle-earth: a rural paradise at West’s ends. It is as green as the North of Europe, and also counts on the spanish beaches and weather, which results in an idyllic coastline (The Guardian named Rodas -in the national park of Islas Atlánticas- best beach in the World).
Geologically speaking is ancient; it has plenty of eroded mountains and a highly irregular coast: 1500 km of coast, far more than Portugal’s, folded as an accordion and resulting on their well-known ‘rías’ (tidal river), rich in fish and seafood. It is said that, during Creation, God laid down to rest and placed his hand over Galicia, leaving his mark as ‘rías’. Not only excited they big disputes for their natural conditions, but also for the hidden treasures left behind by numerous shipwrecks -today a valuable submarine heritage. Jules Verne located the treasure Captain Nemo used to supply the Nautilus in one of those ‘rías’. He was not the only great writer in love with this coast: Ernest Hemingway (The old man and the sea) was captivated by the brave fishermen working in their harbors.
Galicia is related to other regions in Europe (e.g. Brittany, and Great Britain), with which it shares the green landscape, a celtic origin and folk culture, and the bagpipe. Galicia preserves its own language, Galician, and a high appreciated gastronomic and popular heritage. It is rural and beautiful, depicted by picturesque barns made of stone and wood, called ‘hórreos’. Among the galician vegetation emerge monasteries, temples, castles and ‘pazos‘ (typical rural palaces from Galicia); remembrance of the Middle Ages, when the Camino de Santiago (Route of Santiago de Compostela) made Galicia a renowned destination for Christian pilgrims.
Galicia is lush and romantic, also known as the country of thousand rivers, and exudes legends and tales, fantasy, poetry and magic, witches and spirits all around. The Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez described Galicia as ‘the miracle of flowering stones’, when he saw its greenness and breathtaking charm.
Author: A. Pereiras, Tesouros de Galicia
Translator: Carlota de Cesero
Images: Provided by Tesouros de Galicia and Turgalicia