Paco Lozano is passionate about tomatoes. And not just any tomatoes – organically grown, ripened under the Spanish sun in his greenhouses in Almería, and bursting with sweet, juicy flavour. Walking through his greenhouses to oversee tomato production is the favourite part of the job for Paco, who runs EcoSur along with his three brothers and has been working with Riverford for over ten years.
Paco’s obsession with flavour and commitment to seeking out the very best organic tomato varieties hasn’t gone unnoticed – in fact, EcoSur won Best Overseas Grower at Riverford’s 2018 Supplier Awards, presented at a ceremony at Wash Farm in Devon.
But tomatoes are only part of the show. The family also grow Riverford’s famous mini watermelons, perfect in a summer salad mixed with feta or as a refreshing dessert, as well as sweet-tasting organic papaya, aubergines and a whole rainbow of pepper varieties.
Organic growing has always been in the Lozano family, even when it wasn’t known as ‘organic’. Paco remembers watching his grandfather farm the very same land he now owns, and watching his dedication to natural farming techniques. That care for the environment was passed down to the grandsons, who became pioneers in Andalucía for growing the first organic fruit and vegetables under glass, becoming organically certified in 1996.
EcoSur’s main greenhouses are based on the coast of Almería, close to the beautiful and protected landscape of the national park, Cabo de Gata. They also have the help of some extra acres around 200km in-land, close to the town of Granada, where the cooler temperatures help production during the scorching hot Spanish summer. None of the greenhouses are heated, to minimise reduce the environmental impact of the farm.
In the heat of southern Spain, you’d be forgiven in thinking water is a bit of problem. But the innovative team at EcoSur have come up with a three-pronged approach to make sure they always have enough to water the crops: they take water from a well in the ground, through a desalination plant that filters seawater and a collection system for when the rare rainstorm does arrive.
When not supervising the production and export of their organic fruit and veg to Riverford, Paco and his brothers are enthusiastic advocates for the organic movement in their local area. They already own three organic-only shops of their own, and with a fourth due to open in the local town. “The philosophy is simple: to encourage people to try organic,” says Paco.
When Paco isn’t growing veg in the fertile valley, he’s busy swooping around the surrounding mountains on his paragliding kite. He’s a licensed pilot, and recently bought a dual kite so he can take friends out. We’re hoping next time we visit we may get a flight…