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Lanzarote: Agriculture as Art

Articles: Lanzarote: Agriculture as Art

To understand the fashion of any life, one must know the land it is lived in and the procession of the year.
Mary Austin, The Land of Little Rain

Just sixty miles off the coast of the Sahara, Lanzarote is a dry little island, with six to eight inches of rain in a good year and less during a drought. Yet this easternmost of the Canary Islands has become famous for its grapes, figs, almonds, onions, and row crops, all grown without artificial irrigation. This makes Lanzarote farming worthy of scrutiny by gardeners in dry climates of the West and Southwest.

The pleasant surprise is that, in solving a crippling horticultural problem, Lanzarote islanders have invented an arresting landscape unlike any other in the world. Geology was destiny for this desert isle, as for all the Canary Islands. Lanzarote’s most recent volcanic activity took place in just the last century, when a series of eruptions destroyed farms and transformed a large part of the island into a scorched moonscape. During a six-year period in the 1800s thirty-two fresh craters were formed and nine villages were buried under lava and ash, resulting in a topography both forbidding and forbidden.

Today much of thi...

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