Today we visit two farmers in the rural village of Manikata. A small hamlet situated in the north of the main island of Malta, in the limits of Mellieħa. The area is full of agricultural land and therefore it is no wonder that the village is home to generations of farmers.
We meet up with two brothers who have kept the family farming tradition alive. Ġanni (John) and Ġużeppi (Joseph), better know as ‘ta’ Brodu‘. They are busy with the current tomato harvest. Packing up crate-loads of red plum tomatoes (żenguli) to be transported to Magro Brothers in Gozo for processing into tomato paste (kunserva) amongst other tomato-based products.
“At the moment, we are loading the boxes on the truck which will then depart for Gozo for processing. We have about 26,000 square yards for our tomato plants. The tomatoes are processed to make tomato paste, tomato pulp and other sauces that may be used at home on a daily basis. Little do people know about our hard work and long processes that our products go through to reach the customer.
Back in the day, we called this harvested tomatoes, nowadays we call this processed tomatoes. We also have potatoes, strawberries… depending on the season. Throughout the year, we plant and grow four different products. The favourite is always the strawberry. It involves a lot of hard work but the satisfaction is greater because you can keep harvesting them for a long time, for about 6 months. Now we’re in the summer months so it starts dwindling. We say that strawberries have a long life span.
We sow tomatoes at the end of February and plant them at the end of March. They are sown in pots and then later on, they are planted in the fields. Tomato’s arch nemesis is the ‘Tuta Absoluta’ (Tomato Leaf Miner) – an insect, that can ruin and destroy your whole produce. Heavy rain can also damage the crops because it can cause several woes. I’m not referring to the rainfall that occurs in the rainy season (that is between November and March) because that is necessary and crucial, but the rainfall that occurs after that period of time can be harmful and dangerous for crops.
Tomatoes are very popular, used especially with the traditional meal “Ħobż biż-Żejt” (bread with oil), salads and even for homemade sauces which are made from scratch at home. This is our bread and butter.
With a heavy heart, I have to admit that once we’re gone, this will all fade away. Our children do not wish to continue the family business. In ten years’ time, you will pass through the area and say: “Once upon a time, this was an irrigated land.”
Ġanni & Ġużeppi, ta’ Brodu. Il-Manikata