"Trufficulture is evolving towards more professional and sustainable production"
Chencho is a truffle-harvester in the Navarre region who devotes himself exclusively to the world of truffles as a producer. He works with Laumont and explains the evolution of the sector over the last few years, the work of truffle growing, and we know that the future of truffle growing lies in its professionalisation. He himself created the company "Todo Truficultura" which offers products and services for truffle plantations.
How did you discover the world of truffles?
Completely by chance. We bought a house to spend the weekends and one day, while walking, we found a truffle outside, which had been taken out of the ground by an animal. We discovered that this was a truffle area, so we decided to take a dog from the animal shelter and train it to find truffles. So began our life linked to the world of the truffle.
Do you remember what year it was?
Yes. It's been 17 years since we found our first wild truffle. A few months later, we realized that truffle cultivation was possible, and we started our truffle plantations 15 years ago.
Did you know anyone who was already involved in trufficulture?
I thought I didn't know anyone about truffles, but when I started asking around, I realized that I was actually surrounded by people who knew about truffle farming. Back then, it was like a hidden world. I first started training myself in a self-taught way, then I had the help of a farmer who helped me in the first steps to start growing. Thanks to him, I'm a truffle-harvester.
How has the world of truffles evolved over the past 17 years?
I believe that the trufficulture is moving towards sustainable production. Unlike in the early days, today it is a profitable culture that attracts customers. I see you're targeting a fairly professional sector.
Why did you decide to plant truffles?
Here in Navarre, there are plantations that are 50 years old. We learned from them, who were the first ones, and those of us who followed were able to optimize the plantations. Over all these years, we have found that one of the most important decisions before planting mycorrhizal holm oaks is to analyze the soil and plants.
You explain to us that, over time, we are discovering things that make it possible to improve trufficulture in the years to come. What problems do you encounter today?
Today, the market is often focused on the beautiful image of the truffle, namely its shape... without considering the quality of its taste and aroma. This means that we will need to make improvements to ensure that the truffles have the uniform size required by the market, crushing the stone and making the soil more homogeneous and clearer.
How many years did it take for your plantation to get your first truffles?
My first plantation took seven years to produce truffles. It must be borne in mind that ours is a form of agriculture without irrigation, whose production begins later. We have an irrigation system, but we use it very occasionally during production periods.
How do you feel about harvesting truffles?
Harvesting truffles is the most beautiful thing in this crop. The harvest ends at the end of February or March. It is also the moment when we work a lot on the care, the size, the substrates, the manufacture of nests... But when you are in the country it is very pleasant because it is the fruit of several years of work. Plus, you never know how the truffle you pick will turn out, which adds a touch of emotion. And then there is the question of truffle dogs.
We're talking about dogs, what kind of connection do truffle-harvester have with them?
We like dogs. They are our co-workers and we work alongside them every day. You have to have a very strong relationship for the dog to work for you. Always think positive. In addition to rewarding them when they find truffles, you need to pamper them so they're happy to work for you.
Usually, the part of the work that is visible is the collection, but there is a lot of work before and after this phase.
The trufficulture involves a lot of working time. It's not enough to plant a tree and wait for the truffles to come out. For example, on our farm, we have 2,000 trees and spend 2 whole months pruning them. A poor decision in crop preparation can lead to disastrous production results.
What does Laumont bring to the truffle-harvester during this process?
I have been working with Laumont for many years and this allows me to have peace of mind and a guarantee when it comes to selling all the truffles. From my point of view, having a company that guarantees you that it will buy all your production and that will make a fair payment immediately after the delivery of your production provides a lot of peace of mind and confidence.
How do you think trufficulture can evolve in Spain in the coming years?
The sector of trufficulture is booming: there are more and more young people, more information and more support. My view is that the sector must continue to professionalize, and it is possible that co-operatives will be created so that there is more unity among producers to defend prices.
Will truffle production increase?
Planting truffles is profitable, and we know that truffle farms stop producing after 20 or 25 years, which means that nothing is eternal... so we must start growing again on other farms. If we want to continue to have truffles in the future, we must continue to plant. Spain, as the world's largest producer, can be reassured.
Spain is the world's largest producer, although it is not the largest consumer. Will Spanish restaurateurs be betting on black truffles in the years to come?
It is good that truffles are used more in our restaurants and even at a private level, while preserving their value as a gastronomic product.
Thank you for the interview, Chencho.
Thanks to you.