Ibizkus Wines joins campaign to save Ibiza’s dying almond trees

By Jenny Eagle

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: ‘Los Almendros de Ibiza’.
Photo: ‘Los Almendros de Ibiza’.
From Ibizkus Wines selling a limited edition almond wine, to an art auction at Sotheby’s, artist Sophie Stinglhamber is on a mission to save the dying almond trees of Ibiza.

Together with Diego Alonso, director, Mondo Galeria, Stinglhamber is highlighting the plight of the almond trees with her art installations across the island in Spain.

Urban growth

Ibiza was the perfect place to host the project, representing an example of an entire planet, people coming and going, the number of expats, a big urban growth that disturbs the agriculture where it used to develop crops​,” said Alonso. 

The almond trees are a good example of what is happening here. The almond has been a fruit exploited for many years and it became an important stable of Ibizan culture, but now the tress are dying for many reasons; natural forces and the lifespan of the tree was 90 years maximum​. 

Most of the trees we see have been planted at the beginning of the century so they are naturally dying, secondly there is a change in the customs or daily life of the island, no-one is taking care of them, so it dies, the trees are in a very bad state​. 

We want to collect funds through art to reconstruct the almond trees, the cultural changes are obvious, it is difficult to convince young people to work on the fields, but young Ibizans are now realizing they are losing something important to their heritage.​” 

Stinglhamber’s answer is to convert the dying trees into art sculptures to create a debate around the issue; the first one was called Jesús, the second one is the dancer, in the centre of Ibiza, and the third tree last year is in the port, called the bird. 

We don’t need to go back to the past but we want to reinsert the almond tree back into today’s culture. We are trying to create a situation where the almond trees can return to the daily use in the diet of the island or export these almonds,”​ she said.  

“The local almonds in Mallorca and Ibiza are much more interesting than from other countries because they are more compact and nutritious.” 

Charity auction

Stinglhamber organized a charity auction last year in collaboration with Sotheby’s in London and with the proceeds from that the Ibiza Preservation Fund started an almond plantation in Ibiza using it as a test pilot to grow the trees using old techniques and new technologies to find out how best to treat the almonds so that they prosper in the soil. 

The plantation has already planted 120 trees and will add another 240 in February after the farmers will look at the seeds to see which ones are reacting better to the contemporary techniques. 

The committee ‘Los Almendros de Ibiza’, is also preparing a project next year to raise funds again. 

“The plantation field will take five years to complete, so now we are fundraising again to sell some art pieces, the money goes directly to the project and the costs of moving around the trees​,” added Stinglhamber. 

Our planet is changing and in the last five years people have become more aware of what is happening regarding the trees. I used to live in Ibiza and for me the almond trees are a strong symbol of the island​.  

They represent Ibiza and we need an art visual expression to show people, not just those who live here but everywhere in the world, that almond trees have a beautiful history, they are emblematic of this small island but we don’t have time to discuss their resurgence, we need to call on the younger generation and publicise the plight of the trees now​.”  

Alonso added the traditional method of planting the trees was a scattered approach but now they want to grow them in one area to have a collection in one space, particularly as when they are scattered it is a lot of waste of time collecting the almonds and the machines can’t pass the rocks. 

Agricultural processing

Now they want to put them in lines like a vineyard and invest in a modern almond collecting machine once they have enough for agricultural processing.  

We want to focus on the almonds with high quality nutrients, but not quantities on a mass industrial scale, but facilitate the farmers with funds to do these things​,” said Alonso. 

The art project focus is raising awareness and helping to get funds and find sponsors but this is something we need to now not in four years’ time because then it will be too late​.”  

Alonso said last year there was a collaboration with Ibizkus Wines, who launched a local almond wine using raw, roasted almonds, to support the cause but production now is not that big and does not make huge commercial sense. 

It also wants to reintroduce a traditional Ibizan recipe whereby a Christmas dish used to be made with almonds and almond milk. 

Right now even collection of the almonds is mixed, it is difficult to find which almonds are organic and which almonds are not. Also the trade of almond farming is not that profitable. It’s more profitable for the younger generation to work in the hospitality industry rather than arable land​. 

It’s a long process it wont take one or two years to complete, the first almond from a tree will take five years to grow, so to move this into production is a longterm project​.” 

He added, of all the food consumed in Ibiza only 5% comes directly from the island. But now people are turning to local production and locally consumed foods so in the future it believes it can offer different products from almonds. 

“In Mallorca it’s a bigger industry with more of an international market, it has been in use for many years already,​” said Alonso.  

The production of almonds on the island today is not even calculated. Most go into a cooperative in San Antoni but it is not very well organized. All the almonds both organic and non-organic are mixed together in one batch but slowly once this industry is better organized it can improve the processes​.”

Stinglhamber and Alonso were speaking at Amorevore Food & Arts Festival in Ibiza (October 26-28, 2018).

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