Deep in the hills of southern Spain, in the province of Jaén in a small town called Canena, the Vañó family has been growing olives and making olive oil since 1780. Brother and sister Francisco (Paco) and Rosa Vañó are the latest visionaries behind their small family company, Castillo de Canena (translated as “Castle of Canena” after the castle in the town that they now occupy), which produces some of the most incredible extra virgin olive oil coming out of Spain right now. If you’ve ever tried their sofi gold award-winning Smoked Arbequina Olive Oil or their Biodynamic Picual Extra Virgin Olive Oil, then you know the amazing quality and the attention to detail that goes into every bottle of oil that they produce. However, what you might not know is that Paco and Rosa are just as passionate about sustainability as they are quality. They produce their oil in a way that is not only less harmful to the environment, but that also enriches the earth – repairing, restoring, and giving back to their land in a way that will maintain soil health and biodiversity for generations to come.
Castillo de Canena has been working to reduce carbon emissions, water usage, and to make their land greener, healthier and more biodiverse through a wide range of restoration projects. Here are a few initiatives that make us proud to work with such an exceptional company.
Biodynamic Farming Practices
A large number of their picual olive groves are both certified organic and biodynamic, which means they farm in a way that goes beyond normal organic requirements, incorporating principles of biodiversity as well as cycling wastes through a system that enriches the earth rather than detracts from it. Castillo de Canena now graze sheep and horses on the farm, plant native trees and plants that attract birds, insects and other wildlife, and recycle tree cuttings into compost that generates electricity for the farm. They have even begun tending beehives to help pollinate their olive trees! Castillo de Canena Biodynamic Picual Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the result of their efforts – a deep green pungent finishing oil with an extremely high antioxidant content.
Use of Precision Agriculture
By employing sensors within the groves that measure wind speed, temperature, hydration, and tree growth, they are able to minimize the use of water and fertilizer, applying just what the tree needs so that none is wasted. They estimate that using their newest water sensors (now in testing phase) will cut back water usage by 20-30% alone.
Reforestation Plan and SEO/Birdlife Partnership
In 2012 they began implementing a reforestation plan to re-plant native tree species in and near the groves. This effort initially began with their biodynamic farming certification, but has also allowed them to sign a commitment with SEO/Birdlife to promote biodiversity in the olive groves by continuing to plant trees and preserve natural habitats that house wildlife. They are now working with SEO/Birdlife on wildlife research to study the effects of reforestation on native species.
Castillo de Canena has been awarded an “EPD” or Environmental Product Declaration for their olive oils. The EPD is a third-party verification that registers their use of natural resources and certifies that Castillo de Canena is improving its carbon footprint every year. Rosa and Paco are constantly looking for ways to innovate, and have even begun using fully compostable pallets for shipping their olive oils within Europe. If left outside in the elements for 6 months, the pallets completely disintegrate.
The Vañó family believes that their efforts to make their farm more sustainable and in tune with the earth’s natural rhythms and cycles not only benefit the planet, but also produce a superior extra virgin olive oil. Their oils have won countless awards, and their Family Reserve Picual was given the maximum score by the prestigious Flos Olei Guide 2016, which is the fourth time they were given this score since the guide was published. They were also named “Best Farm” by this same guide in recognition for their efforts. Rosa and Paco are driven every day by their desire to be the very best olive oil company in the world – in flavor, quality, packaging, and sustainability.
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