In Villafranco del Guadalhorce there is a very special supermarket. It is the home of the Gualdalhorce Ecológico Association and cooperative.
Since 2008, this association has brought together the sustainable farmers in the region to market their produce "as a response to the crisis" that altered the economic structure of the area in 2007. This was explained by Alejandro Hevilla, president of the organisation, who also adds that the project aims to "dignify" working on the land without harming the ecology of the area or the environment.
Guadalhorce Ecológico has a very diverse range of products, "the region is made up of smallholdings, so there is a lot of agricultural variety". In the creation phase of the project, this peculiarity was a challenge because they could not access large distribution areas since the size of the production is small. This led the members of the association to create what today most characterises them: "We established a shorter distribution chain, the organic markets. First we started in this area, but then decided to sell them all over the province."
Almost ten years after the launch of the association, the ideals of Guadalhorce Ecológico have become an important reference in the field of ecological produce: "Our presence is welcomed by the town halls in the region because we promote the values of protecting the environment and healthy eating," explains Hevilla. In addition, the markets, held at spots all over Malaga province one or twice a month, allow the association to sell produce that was "harvested the previous evening", and at a price that is not affected by the usual distribution chains, "which makes them more affordable for the customer".
The size of the project "has been growing year after year because people demand organic products", said Hevilla. This vision is shared by the manager of the cooperative, Luis F. Jiménez: "A key part of this project is the ecological certification of the produce". The Junta de Andalucía verifies that the vegetables, oil and milk that arrives at the cooperative comply with the regulations. "The distribution process is also documented as sustainable" said Jiménez.
The idea of creating an eco-friendly supermarket was devised as a way to "move excess produce destined for the markets," explained Jiménez. "We sell straight to the consumer, consumer associations and distributors throughout Spain". Anyone can go along and purchase fresh and sustainable products from the small warehouse near the Guadalhorce de Villafranco reservoir.
In turn, the cooperative is responsible for distributing to the rest of Spain. "Our buyers are eco-shops and consumer associations." This is why the region's agricultural diversity is so beneficial to this business idea: "Consumers aware of the environment demand products for a healthy diet". The growth of the cooperative has led them to include a variety of produce, from citrus fruit, typical of the valley, to oil and dairy products.
Jiménez explains that these products have a number of features that make them unique. "They are richer in vitamins and tastier because they are produced naturally, at their own pace." These qualities define the association and the cooperative, which recently created an online shop on its website so that no one is denied the chance to sample the products.