k Ca'n Pere Mussona k
k Ronnie Anderson - a rare breed in the farming world k
Ronnie Anderson looks every inch the ranch cowboy. Striding around his hundred plus acre sight shouting off orders to his happy team, bottle of beer in hand, cool boots and shirt accompanied by his infamous moustache, all he needs is a stetson perched on his head to complete the look. Although well known in Ibiza and with a friends list on his phone that would put most islanders to shame, there is something of a mystery surrounding this loveable rogue. Stories of sprawling farms in Ireland and England plus working for a mysterious British Government department for 30 years all add to the romance and notoriety of the man who moved to Ibiza after falling in love with island after many holidays. One evening not long after moving here, his beloved dog Kitty went missing, so armed with a torch off Ronnie ventured into the darkness to search for her. He didn’t have to go far, just a few hundred metres away there she was quite content sitting on the lap of a man who he had seen working the local fields that week. Armed with a Spanish vocabulary of only a few words, he was surprised when the guy started speaking to him in near fluent English, a language Pedro proceeded to tell Ronnie he had been taught by Irish Catholic Jesuits as a child.
“He told me he’d been watching me and could tell by the questions I was asking him that I was from a farming background. ‘I am tired now of running this farm, I have been waiting for someone like you to come along for years, the farm is yours’ he mumbled. Well I thought to myself the last thing I bloody need is another ‘effin farm, I’ve got them coming out my ears. And the poor bastard only had one cow left.”
Weeks passed and then one morning Ronnie’s phone rang. It was Pedro.
“You have to help me bury my cow Ronnie, I have chosen her final resting place by her favourite tree but it is too heavy for just one man. Come and help me dig a hole for the poor beast. Ten hours later the job was done and the exhausted pair sat enjoying a cold drink and reflecting on their day’s work. “Here” said Pedro throwing the farm keys at Ronnie. “The farm is yours…today was my final day.”
Sitting in the lawyers office a few weeks later to sign the contracts over, Pedro was late. Finally the door flew open and in walked his wife…”I am sorry Ronnie but Pedro isn’t coming” she snapped. “He died this morning, I know he has done this on purpose, he always hated paperwork.” And so it began, another terrific adventure for Ronnie Anderson where crazy shit like this happens to him all the time.
There is a contented look on his face Ronnie as he shows us around the farm. In a distant field the gentle rumble of a tractor can be heard going about it’s business, something that obviously gives him great satisfaction.
“The whole of Ibiza is changing” he admits with a knowing smile. “The days of the island just being known for nightclubs are over, the future is all about food which is the way it should be. Take that young guy over there driving the tractor, he spends his days working in a bank and then spends his evenings taking care of his father’s land. That would have been unheard of ten years ago, farming has always been associated with poverty but people don’t want to be poor anymore. I can’t believe the acceleration of food awareness in Ibiza these past six months, it’s wonderful.”
What is obvious though after spending a few lazy afternoons with Ronnie is that he is no fool. An acclaimed journalist for the Economist, an author and god knows what else. And he really knows Ibiza – the history, the locals (not many people have heard of the 12 Tribes of Ibiza – check the local cemetries and see how many families rule this little island) and good god he is interesting. His language may not be well suited to your Sunday service at church, but boy, he would have them rolling in the aisles with his tales. Here follows just a few projects on the go at Ca’n Pere Mussona…next time we’ll tell you about Ferran Adrià dropping by looking for the best meat for his new restaurant Heart, the orchard housing development where families signing up have to take on a pig farm or orchard as part of the deal, the underground tunnels running through Ibiza that few know about, his new saffron venture and the day the Dutch arrived trying to get heavy…
The Rare Breeds
Ca’n Pere Mussona is fully certified ecological which means all their animals are reared outdoors in an environment free from chemicals and pesticides, primarily focusing on the breeding and raising of three species of farm animals that are endemic to the Balearics and in danger of extinction: The Formentera/Ibiza Black Pig, the Ibicencan chicken, the Majorcan Cow and the Ibicencan Sheep. Ronnie’s pride and joy though is the Black Pig, a breed he has helped to increase it’s numbers from 26 to over 40 since taking over and is soon to have a book published through Random entitled ‘White Island Black Pig’.
“It has taken a lot of work, money and help from the Department of Genetics at the University of Cordoba…not to mention the likes of Abel Matutes who has helped by breeding these pigs on one of his farms.” Whilst historically these animals thrived all over the Balearics for thousands of years, they began to disappear over the past fifty years as they did not fit in with the new intensive systems of industrial scale agriculture demanded by the modern supermarkets. This traditional breed like so many others were just not suited to high density artificial indoor living and the chemical growth promoting fodder associated with it. These animals usually thrived in the outdoor environment and the varied, seasonal and natural diet it provided. Consequently they were slower to mature and less attractive to the supermarkets who driven by economics wanted quick turnaround food, vast quantities of it and, of course, at the cheapest prices possible.
The Ca’n Pere Mussona wine
Evie – a new delicious wine available this summer at the likes of Babylon Beach, La Paloma, Jockey Club and Tamarama where a percentage of every bottle goes towards the Children Education Program of Ca’n Pere Mussona on Ibiza. “I have high hopes for this wine, it received a rating of 93 which is pretty much unheard of for a first grape.”
Life on an Ibiza farm…
“I feel at peace here. Farming roots you. The animals keep you interested in life. It’s little things like a lamb we nearly lost this morning who was twisted inside her mother which took an hour to free and save. A few seconds after coming into this world she was on her feet walking. I mean, who teaches an animal that? It’s remarkable.”
The new farm shop
“Open every morning from 9am until 1pm, and then on Saturday 10pm until 1pm. Lemons, oranges, season vegetables, preservatives and eggs. Get there quick before it’s all gone.”
“One good things these overpriced DJs have done for the island is they go home with a bottle of hierbas in their suitcases. This year the State of California have finally legalized it, up until now they didn’t know what the hell was in the bottle, they thought it was some hallucinatory drug or something. So that’s the plan for next year, hit America with our hierbas, they won’t know what hit them.”
The tradition of Matanza
“The ritual family slaughtering of a pig is still practised on the island with the season running from October until March. It all depends on the weather of course as too much heat turns the meat too quickly. Whenever we have a Matanza everyone from the local community comes down and helps out, we keep half of the meat and the rest is distributed to the families for their winter food. The practise has declined over the years as farming gradually became a dirty word, but now with the recession, the Matanza is back with a vengeance. Every single piece of meat is used, we normally kill the pig at 300kg but a while back we had a real monster and decided to take him to the weighing machine at the builders yard at Can Curreu to see what he came in at. 380kg…he is now a legend. But the best story regarding Matanza that has happened to me was two years ago. They have to finish the whole ritual on the same day, they don’t necessarily have to clean up the mess but all the sausages and whatever have to be done that day. So we normally all meet up at the bar in Can Curreu at 7am, have a few drinks and then go and do the killing which normally only takes a minute or so and is done as humanely as possible. I then leave them to it, go and have some lunch and have a siesta. However two years ago I woke up a bit late, threw my clothes on and ran down to the yard only to find a police car there. I was thinking what the hell has happened now? Only to be tapped on my shoulder by two cops with aprons on covered in blood who’d been called by their friends doing the Matanza who were running out of time and needed some help. These guys were experts apparently. A proper YouTube moment.”
Looking after his neighbours and beyond
One of the nicest things about Ronnie is that he really does care about his neighbours. Heck, he took over the farm from one of them! Whilst we were sitting in his yard one of his staff rolled up ready for a morning’s work. To the older clubbing generation everyone knows Vaughan, host of the Funky Room at Pacha and now Babylon Beach. Not everyone knows his son Saxon though, a hard working kid who on Ronnie’s orders loaded up the van with hay stacks that his boss then instructed him to drive around the local countryside checking on neighbours who may need some free hay for their animals over the dry summer. It’s the little things sometimes in life which make all the difference.