• Karla Galván Villaseñor

Connecting with our Roots - Guest Writer - Karla Galván Villaseñor

Connecting with our roots

All images courtesy of GOinsitu

During the last months, being indoors has generated the need to get closer to natural places to breathe fresher air. It has also increased our curiosity to know the origin of the products we consume daily.

A few days ago, I enjoyed talking with Lorena, the ingenious mind behind GOinsitu. During our talk, she shared how GOinsitu was forged during her three-month stay in Brazil, where she visited agroecological producers hand in hand with her fellow masters in Spain. Lorena has been developing this project for a few years now; the project started in 2016 from her own work experiences and personal interests; she is solely responsible for the project; however, she is supported by all farmers and ranchers as hosts.

Lorena, who has a degree in Environmental Sciences with a Master's degree in Ecological Agriculture and Livestock, has experience in the tourism sector. Her purpose for GOinsitu is to help visitors enjoy the traditional agriculture that takes care of nature and people and leads to the best products. Lorena is a mountain guide; this is how she enjoys showing the territory to her visitors.

In Lorena's opinion, agrotourism is much more than tourism, so it has many possibilities. Agrotourism allows knowing the productive process of crops and other agricultural activities. When receiving visitors, hosts, and rural nuclei perceive economic, social, and environmental benefits, allowing the perpetuation of the activity and conserving crops, livestock, and other local species, thus achieving a more sustainable rural world.

Carrying out an agrotourism visit allows us to become familiar with the field, and we can develop an awareness of life in rural areas. Being in direct contact with producers and shepherds who will show us how they carry out their work and will also share their history, traditions, and customs that reflect in a big way what rural areas imply.

From Granada and its surroundings, GOinsitu brings the traveler closer to having the most authentic rural experiences in Spain and enjoying its best artisan products. Lorena distinguishes three agrotourism experiences: agricultural experiences, farms and cattle raising, and artisan experiences.

In an agricultural experience, the traveler can enjoy a day in nature with traditional farmers' wisdom, savor vegetables from the garden and pick fruits, or stroll through olive groves. The traveler will understand why extra virgin olive oil, the so-called liquid gold, is the highest quality and healthiest; or taste wines from the most natural and beautiful vineyards in Spain.

For those who prefer more practical activities, experiences with shepherds and farms are ideal. In these experiences, visitors can discover what a shepherd's work consists of; they will make cheese, explore the world of bees and taste their honey, meet happy chickens or go horseback riding among the animals' pasture.

For those who enjoy gastronomy, the artisan experiences will allow them to know the process of artisan production of products such as beer, jams, liquors, essential oils, or chocolates directly. You will be able to see the Iberian pig in its natural environment, the Dehesa; taste the best acorn-fed pure pata negra ham, orange juices or surround yourself with lemon trees with incomparable perfume. All this from the hand of those who know it best, the professionals who make it possible. GOinsitu also facilitates the purchase of artisan products directly from the producer from its website.

Knowing how the food we consume is produced, we will begin to value the rural environment, its problems, and why we must consume products from producers who are aware of respect for the environment. Lorena seeks to support small companies in the agricultural sector through rural tourism and encourage short marketing channels through online commerce.

GOinsitu experiences are exclusive for small groups, always respecting the environment, local culture, traditions, and crafts of agriculture, livestock, and product production.

Lorena shares that she began doing trekking tours; she gradually noticed that travelers enjoyed complementing physical activity with tours that included tasting products such as wine, cheese, or other crops, so now she designs her routes considering this. In this way, it complements the enjoyment of the landscape with gastronomy and local culture, always considering practices such as Kilometer 0, Slow Food, and Slow Tourism.

Selecting agricultural, livestock, and artisanal product production companies is an arduous task, Lorena shares that the hosts who are part of the GOinsitu community must be willing to share their work, in addition to working sustainably and ecologically. This interaction with visitors fosters respect and value for the rural world.

Lorena is part of the Association of Shepherds for the Mediterranean Mount. Scientific knowledge is combined with shepherds' technical expertise. Through GOinsitu, she seeks to preserve its traditional ability to connect it with new technologies through its web platform.

When a traveler carries out rural tourism activities, she/he mainly benefits his health by acquiring products directly from where they are produced; he also learns respect for the animal and the land. In GOinsitu, all the tours are carried out in territories that practice extensive cattle ranching (that is, the cattle are free or semi-stable). Travelers who carry out agrotourism activities are interested in appreciating the landscape, nature, and territory; they enjoy knowing where their food comes from and how local products are made, including visits to the Almazara (oil mill) where the oil production process.

During our exciting talk with Lorena, we also commented on the importance of inspiring the traveler to visualize the landscape, to know the importance that the rural world has in society, the biodiversity that the territory has. Lorena says that there has been a School of Shepherds for years in Andalucia where it is possible to transmit this previously little valued knowledge.

To continue offering experiences in the rural world during this year, Lorena has ensured that the visits are made in small groups and mainly in open spaces in the natural environment. For those activities in closed areas, the hosts are prepared to follow hygiene and safety protocols to prevent the COVID-19 virus.

This is how Lorena, through GOinsitu, aims to create synergies between tourism, agriculture, and livestock, giving rise to fair trade that values what the rural environment gives us: relaxed settings, where you can feel indescribable flavors and aromas, welcoming hosts, and fun, the simple and the sophisticated, the rural narrated by its protagonists.

By connecting with the roots of essential activities for our day to day (unknown by today's society), travelers will connect with the best of themselves and nature.

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