History of the Cooperative
Our cooperative has more than 37 years of history. Having deep roots in the tradition of co-operation, democracy and agriculture, it is specialized in fresh Chestnuts, widely known as a top quality product with excellent alimentary properties as well as it’s unique taste and flavour.
The Chestnut is a natural product grown in harmony with the surroundings. The cooperative was constituted in 1985. Its first statutes were approved back then, when also the name of “Castañera Serrana Sociedad Cooperativa Andaluz” was chosen, which it has kept until today.
Although its foundations are based on the existence of several collective groups of farmers in neighbouring municipalities from around the year 1980 and 1981, its first precedent was the union of various groups of cooperatives in the area of the Sierra del Castañar. The corporate structure is adapted to the Law for Cooperative Societies in Andalucia in 1985 as 2nd Degree Cooperative, from the 1st degree Cooperatives from the Sierra area, transitioning in 1998 to be a 1st degree Cooperative, covering the whole of the Sierra de Aracena Y Picos de Aroche.
The initial facilities of the cooperative were a 1,350m2 covered warehouse facilitated by the town of Galaroza, located en Calle Sitio El Rebollar s/n in Galaroza-Huelva, with the cooperative members owning a total of 1,101 hectares of chestnut orchards. The localities that make up the producer group union are, among others:
Galaroza, Aracena, Higuera de la Sierra, Cortegana, Jabugo, Fuenteheridos, Almonaster la Real, Arroyo, La Canela, Santa Ana la Real, Castaño del Robledo, Corteconcepcion, Los Romeros, Puerto Moral and Cortelazor.
From here we want to especially thank the enthusiasm, affection and full dedication of the Governing Council formed by Dr. Francisco Pena Brioso, Sam Chesterton, Urbana Fernandéz González and Pablo Delgado Calero who formed the positions of president, vice president, secretary and treasurer respectively with the respective members. We also appreciate the commercial and accounting management initially carried out by Carlos Tobalina Uribarri. We remember that together and united they formed a family of friends between whom there was full trust, commitment, dedication, attention and effort to improve the quality of life and the socioeconomic conditions of all the small producers that make up the cooperative.
It started its operations during the autumn of the first year, being our primary objective the storage, conditioning and commercialization of the chestnut. The main activity is to prepare the chestnut for the internal and external market. Since its beginnings the Cooperative is an entity dedicated to the cleaning, sterilization, classification and packaging of chestnuts as well as necessary marketing and their sale. Specific quality and calibration criteria are controlled by sampling every batch delivered by each member. Traditionally the different chestnut varieties are categorized in three groups: La Pelona, La Temprana and La Tardía. Sales data for organic chestnuts started is available starting from the year 2000.
In this first year of existence, the coop administered 220.000 kilos chestnuts, of which at least 50% was sold internationally. Prices at that time reached 140 Pesetas/kilo. During its beginnings the cooperative implements great advances of the production process, which helps increase the number of members and the quantity of the commercialized product. Over time we achieve objectives that consolidate the number of producers and markets. The chestnut production reached its peak in the season 2002-2003 with more than 800,000 kilos and with an average price of EUR 1.66/kg. In the 1997/1998 season it reached more than 700,000 kilos of chestnuts, and it had a total of 227 members by 1998. Around 50% of the production was directed to the European and the American market while the remain was commercialized in the internal market, at large stores and supermarkets.
Right at the begin of this century, the cooperative sees it self obliged to develop a project of expansion and adaptation of its infrastructure to meet the new health and sanitary requirements, relocating to a newly constructed building at kilometer 0.200 of the road Galaroza-Valdelarco, here we have a “dirty area” for chestnut storage, sterilization and grading, and finally a “clean area” for conservation, selection and packing. The production capacity increased as a result of the acquisition of new machinery linked to each production process, resulting in the current infrastructure.
Over the past years we can observe a parallel to what is happening today, given the great uncertainty in the chestnut orchards. Progressively we notice a significant reduction of the member’s deliveries of their chestnuts and an increased abandon by coop members due to the low profitability of the orchards caused by climate problems, the aging of the trees in the orchards, the lack of disease and pest control, the need of technical assistance for the correct maintenance of the orchards, the insufficient aid to the sector and the cost of depreciation of the new facilities etc.
Currently, the cooperative finds itself in a healthy situation, and our members are looking forward to continue the legacy and the objectives of improving the quality of life in the Natural Park of Sierra de Aracena & Picos de Aroche, keeping the population from leaving the territory, promoting the conservation of the chestnut ecosystem. Our infrastructure allows us to offer our services to the entire sector thanks to the efforts of everyone who was and is member in the cooperative, to whom we are greatly and sincerely thankful for their contribution