Almost exactly eight years ago, on July 29, 2014, we published an entry about how there was an attempt to revive the Arto gorria or grand roux Basque variety of corn in the Basque Country.  You can find that entry here.

On July 28 of this year, Euronews published an article as part of their “Rural Rebels” series by Igor Arabaolaza and Olatz De Solaeche about the same topic: recovering this variet of corn that became so important for our country.

To understand the importance this corn and its farming acquired in the Basque economy, all one has to do is note that in 1513, Gabriel Alonso de Herrera was already discussing its farming in the mountains of Biscay, and it is know that there were corn fields around San Sebastian in 1521 (both facts come from El trigo de los pobres. La recepción del maíz en el Viejo Mundo (The wheat of the poor: how corn was received in the Old World), by Dr. Manuel de Paz Sánchez).  And let’s not forget that Christopher Columbus had only brought over the first seeds, just samples really, in 1493, after his first voyage.  That means that its implantation in the Basque mountains was very quick and very intense.

Corn and potatoes, both from the New World, triggered a true agricultural, and demographic, revolution in the Basque Country, where there were few places to grow other cereals well.

But back to Arto gorria.  In the Euronews Culture report, we get to meet Jon Harlouchet, a Northern Basque farmer who’s leading the recovery of this variety of corn north of the Pyrenees.

Bringing arto gorria back is no passing fad.  It’s a movement whose goal is for farmers to get back control over their crops.  Seed production and sales companies offer a “product” which has excellent results, but which forces farmers to buy seeds every year, as the ones the crops create are not viable for growing new quality harvests.  This way, they create a dependency on the industry, which gets hard when smaller or economically weaker farmers can’t pay.  It’s a kind of decimation on production.

Jon Harlouchet does an excellent job of explaining this in the Euronews report, in Basque.

It’s wonderful to see how this Northern Basque farmer discovered the seeds of this variety of corn in a Southern Basque convent back in the ’90s.  The seeds traveled in a txapela in order to turn in the based of a political project in the 21st century that seeks to give control of their lands, harvests, and future back to the farmers.

Euronews – 28/7/2022 – Europe

Why is this Basque farmer reviving a traditional, colourful and genetically diverse type of corn?

Jon Harlouchet comes from a long line of Basque farmers in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department of France. One day, back in the 1960s, when his father was working on the farm, a salesman arrived from a company selling corn seeds. The man was giving out free seeds and a recommended treatment to maximize yield.

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