In October, a team of 24 University of Florida Extension horticulture extension personnel and interested guests recently explored a Horticulture and Cultural Tour of Southern Spain. One of the early visits included an exclusive meeting with the Mayor of El Ejido, Francisco Góngora Cara. If you are not familiar with El Ejido, it is the largest producer of vegetables under plastic in the entire world. With 51,000 hectares under plastic, it’s expanse as the ‘sea of plastic’ can even be seen from space.
Francisco welcomed the University of Florida group and granted us an audience with Emilio Gadeano (Professor of Applied Economics from the University of Almeria), Isabel Cidoncha (Tourism Management & Promotion of the Town Hall of El Ejido), and Lola Gómez-Ferrón, grower and owner of Clisol Greenhouses in Almeria.
Francisco explained that 60% of the work force in El Ejido is employed in agriculture with tourism as a distant second. And that this region was ideal in youth, climate, water and local spirit. Half of the total vegetable production is grown in El Ejido (population 90,000) with 72% of the products being used in Alameria. He takes pride in the clean energy used in the greenhouses boasting successful, sustainable and efficient greenhouses capitalizing on the abundant sun and wind resources. He concluded that this innovative industry was a work in progress hoping for an additional 2-4 year timetable to get future water solutions to unforeseen drought conditions.
Dr. Saqib Mukhtar, Associate Dean of Agriculture and Program Leader for Extension, represented the University of Florida and extended GATOR pride and fellowship on behalf of the group.