Claude came from a lineage of farmers and was exposed to farming from a young age. That cultivated in him a passion for agriculture, but he never imagined to take it on as his full-time job. This occurred as he was farming for fun, he got curious and started learning and looking in-depth into the techniques used so he decided to make his living out of this.
When the farm was run by his grandfather it was a conventional farm but when Claude took over he immediately switched to an organic-based farm as he believes that artificial chemicals and pesticides do great harm to both the biodiversity of the environment and to human health. He noticed quite early on that the biodiversity in the soil began to thrive once again and stated that worms could not be found anywhere when it was still running as a conventional farm due to the number of chemical fertilisers and pesticides used.
In order to be more sustainable, Claude uses rain catchers which are located all over the premises to store water in his two wells. Claude makes his own pesticides out of common herbs and vegetables that he grows himself as well as a compost bin to make special pesticides that he sprays plants with, and only uses natural fertilisers from his free-roaming animals. He is even wary of overusing natural substances such as sulfur as overuse of this can also cause harm to the environment and disturb not only the pests but also the useful insects.
It is very clear that Claude uses these techniques as a last resort as he believes that these methods should only be used when it is crucial to the plants. He has several cats which act as biological pest control against rats which work quite effectively. He mainly sells his produce to restaurants but also to individual consumers by order and same day delivery in the northern part of Malta. Some feedback he gets from customers is that the taste of his vegetables are different from others as they are packed with flavour.
A challenge he faces is losing most, if not all his crops, at times which can be very discouraging after investing so much time and energy. Claude also believes that no farm can truly be 100% organic due to the pollution in the atmosphere which is then transferred to rainwater and the contamination of the water table. He grows seasonal products – in fact right now he is growing carrots, cabbages and broccoli, just to name a few. He does not receive any financial support from the government nor the EU as to do so, if he is selected for such grants, he would need to stop production for 9-12 months which is impossible form him as he doesn’t afford to stop production for such a long time.
The land is still owned by his grandfather, so he is concerned as to what will happen to the land when he passes. He has tried to rent some land from the government and look for land to buy for himself but has had no luck so far, and this makes the future of his business rather uncertain and his job more precarious. If he isn’t able to secure land for farming, he is considering leaving the country to start an organic farm somewhere else. In his opinion, anything that you manage to grow and sell is a privilege especially considering how hard farming is. When he doesn’t manage to sell his produce instead of throwing it away he donates it to the Maltese Ursuline Sisters of St. Angela Merici and what he can’t donate goes to his animals or the compost bin. The reason for not being able to sell the product is having too much of the same item and consumers get fed up eating too much of the same thing.
He gave words of encouragement to young aspiring farmers in Malta and for them not to lose hope – start small and great things will ensue with determination and perseverance.
This article was written by Otis Said, a young MCAST student studying for an Advanced Diploma in Environmental Sustainability.