The harvesting season has once again returned to Las Varas del Zumajo estate in La Mancha.
Every nine years, the cork oak trees are ready to give away their precious bark, and a crew of expert axemen from Extremadura descend upon the forest in the months of July and August to work on the saca, or cork extraction.
Cork harvesting takes place in a dehesa, that is an agroforestry system which exists in the Iberian peninsula where human intervention is compatible with the conservation of natural resources, vegetation and fauna. Here, locals work hard to make the most of the resources available to them, respecting the production cycles and the environment.
Spain produces 22% of the world’s cork and in this estate, eight to nine tonnes of cork are obtained daily, the corcheros working on twenty to two hundred year old trees. Using only their axes, wooden poles, ladders and hands. Respecting the tree, making sure it suffers no damage.
This short film is a witness account on the demanding yet respectful artisanal approach to cork harvesting, which has marked and influenced the region. A depiction of a rural Spain that still exists, where the landscape plays a unique and vital role. Where man does not affect the environment negatively, but rather defines it.
*Music by Hugh Mitchell