It was a Sunday afternoon when I headed towards Siggiewi, a rural village where the feast of St. Nicholas is celebrated with great pride. John Paul Farrugia, an eighteen year old farmer from this same village, was waiting for me at the gate of his family’s farm. While I drove towards the gate, I went through several rural roads offering stunning views of the Maltese landscape. He invited me in to meet his parents, who were both working in the fields at that time. As I walked along, I spotted a bunch of orange trees surrounded by active bee hives and started taking some snapshots. Some of the branches seemed about to break as they were bearing many fruits. I asked John Paul some questions to get a feel of how he got into farming. He told me that his family has always been into farming land, and that it’s their passion. They believe in their products and their principle is to work with, rather than against, nature.
|Proud of his perfectly shaped cauliflowers – Photo by Jeanette Borg|
His parents taught him all they knew about farming but he decided to learn more by following a diploma course at the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology. After the diploma, he got back to his fields as his father needed his help. By now, we were walking through more fields where I could see a wide range of products growing next to each other, on small patches of land. John Paul added that although their fields are not certified as organic, they take great care of their crops and do whatever is possible to avoid using synthetic chemicals. While pointing at a field of courgettes, he explained that sulphur, a natural chemical, is spread on the leaves for the prevention of fungal infections. This prevention avoids spending heaps on synthetic pesticide, thus gaining more profits out of this cash crop.
|Oranges at the Farrugia Farm in Siggiewi – Photo by Jeanette Borg|
What hobbies could a young Maltese farmer have, I mused? Well, pretty much as those of his peers. He loves cars, farm machinery and going out with friends. Social media keeps him linked to his family and friends since it’s so easy to share information nowadays. John Paul believes that their genuinely produced crops should be more appreciated by locals, since so much dedication and hard work is put into every vegetable and fruit produced.
I didn’t feel like leaving that heavenly place but the works on the farm where halted because of my questions, and it was time for me to go. On my way out, I ate an orange, freshly picked (of course)… the fragrance on my fingers persisted for hours!