Martí Juan Mayans swapped the grey concrete walls of the office where he worked as a manager for the fresh air of the Formentera countryside. At just 29 years old, he has been running AgroMartí for six years. His company produces organic cereals, fruit and vegetables, recovering the work that used to be done in the fields of Formentera which has been abandoned in recent decades. AgroMartí sells their zero km products to some of the best restaurants on the island and also has its own retail space in the mercat pagès.
Martí Juan Mayans is in continuous evolution. His persistent desire to excel pushes him to continually test himself at work and in a variety of sports. He started with windsurfing when he was just a child and even competed at an Olympic level. Currently, there is no half marathon or Ironman that he can’t do. Not to mention his professional career: every morning he harvests his produce from the 12 hectares of agricultural fields he manages, distributed throughout the island.
And it all started as a hobby. Martí says that his father always liked to work the field for his own consumption. But gradually, and without even realizing it, father and son began to harvest more hectares. Until one year they harvested more surplus than usual. It was then that they saw the strong demand for local produce on the island and Martí decided to convert his love for the land into a way of life. “I started from scratch and now we work two horticultural hectares, in which we plant potatoes, courgettes, aubergine, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, onions, lettuce, leeks, garlic, etc., and ten hectares of rainfed land, where we mainly plant cereals for animal consumption and Xeixa wheat, which is a variety that is native to the Balearic Islands”.
Martí has been adding hectares progressively during these six years as an entrepreneur. The farmer carries out a curious barter system through which he manages several other farms: “The owners allow me to harvest their land and in return, I maintain their property and provide them with a percentage of the produce.” As he explains, maintaining a farm and taking care of it throughout the year involves many hours’ work and a lot of money. Along this same line, Martí confirms that “the Formentera field cooperative has a programme in place to preserve the island’s territory: landowners who cannot work their fields, cede them to be harvested by those who can”.
His company also works to recover certain native seeds whose cultivations were being abandoned on the island, such as Xeixa wheat, certain types of tomato and the meló eriçó melon from Ibiza. Another variety that AgroMartí is also producing is the famous Ibizan potato, although he states that, “since it is not productive, it is not planted often. The key is to bet on high quality varieties that are productive. You have to find a balance,” he states.
Formentera’s main agricultural challenge is the scarcity of water and lack of organic matter in the land
Regarding the farming sector’s health on the island, Martí is optimistic. “Agriculture was going through a rough patch in Formentera, but it has recently been getting better,” he says. However, he notes that “if you do not have your own well, it is very difficult to irrigate, because there are no aquifers and rain is scarce.” There are many difficulties that the farmers on the island have to face, although, according to Martí, the main challenge is undoubtedly the scarcity of water and lack of organic matter in the land. “Because there are no livestock on the land, its quality has become poor and that forces us to look for varieties that can withstand these conditions”. To tackle the problem of drought, the Council of Formentera has created an irrigation reservoir, filled with treated and desalinated water. “But I can’t use the water from the reservoir for my horticulture because it is not potable water and AgroMartí practices ecological agriculture, so we can irrigate exclusively with potable water,” he states.
Martí is currently the only farmer on the island who sells his products at the Formentera mercat pagès. “I am fortunate to be able to work throughout the year. In winter, I sell cabbage and in summer, tomatoes,” he explains. The summer season has the greatest demand for products and are AgroMartí’s production peaks. “In summer, we harvest everything that we planted and took care of over winter. Summer is the season for tomatoes, watermelons, melons, apricots, medlars, etc.” But Martí laments that his production is limited due to the scarcity of water. “I could try to produce more, but it would not work, because I don’t have enough water to irrigate and the quality of the product would decrease. Most of my products are seasonal; it is impossible to have the same product all year round, there are no greenhouses in Formentera as regulations do not allow them. The solution to supplying sufficient local produce on the island involves adapting to the consumption of seasonal products. Restaurants want to work with the same ingredients all year round, and that is not viable,” says the farmer.
Restaurants want to work with the same ingredients all year round, and that is not viable
Sol y Luna, Quimera, Sa Platgeta or Can Dani are just some of the restaurants that rely on AgroMartí’s zero km produce. He says that “the field in Formentera produces high quality raw materials. That restaurants want to use them is a different issue, because that would oblige them to work with a seasonal menu. I invite the chefs to visit our facilities; they will be surprised to find so much variety,” he says. Regarding the zero km produce being more expensive, he argues that, although “the prices of my products are not high, retail is more expensive because of the cost of production. But there is a huge difference in taste because as soon as a product is put in the refrigerator, it loses flavour and properties. I harvest the product every morning and take it directly to the market. And that freshness is noticeable.”