ESR03 – Nidal Khalaf – “La Fageda”: A Journey to Well-Being


After a week of continuous networking, communication and discussions, a visit to a local dairy product cooperative was scheduled. As a group of scientists and researchers, we had elevating expectations around the technical and economic aspects of such a cooperative. Along the road, our expectations were challenged as the breath-taking scenes leading to the site revealed one further dimension to a dairy processing cooperative.

“La Fageda”, read the big sign under the cow figure at the entrance. It was early in the morning, and upon our arrival, we were startled with the simple, yet beautiful design centralized at the heart of a natural sequence of giant green mountains. Catalan hospitality followed us from Barcelona to Vic up to La Fageda. From the friendly cafeteria, our tour was launched with a local guide and a fellow researcher volunteering for translation.

Throughout the tour, we were introduced to different layers of “La Fageda”. Once we entered, we witnessed a “journey” of a cow herd into the large green field, which is a chance for the cows to maintain and elevate their connection to nature. Next to them, our guide introduced us to the open-air sports facility that is specific for the employees. As we went further through the facilities of “La Fageda”, we were introduced to the cow barns, where dairy cows are fed while listening to classic music! You might ask yourself, “What’s the point?”, but then you might as well compare your own productivity at work before and after listening to your favourite music. Once the cows are ready for milking, they advance to the milking machine, which relieves the cows while providing the raw milk into the first step of dairy processing. Further steps of milk processing and waste management were explained thoroughly, and the efficiency of the process was only overpowered by the cow-friendly environment.

After we finished the technical aspect of our journey, we entered the core of “La Fageda”. Into a rich beech forest, our guide explained to us how the forest came to existence in an “unusual” habitat. From the volcanic lava activity, “La Fageda d’en Jorda” came to existence with outstanding beauty and undeniable charm of nature’s serenity. The special trees and soil of the forest are actually “different”, yet they bring upon an unprecedent experience of natural beauty and inner peace. 

And that is exactly what “La Fageda” is all about. 

In fact, production of dairy products is simply a secondary outcome of “La Fageda”; that is, human development. All the employees in the cooperative belong to the vulnerable groups suffering from mental and physical disabilities. These people are rarely offered the chance to have a spot in society and to develop their skills and talents. Yet, much like the soil of the volcanic lava, “La Fageda” spots the difference as a bliss and brings beauty out of the “rare”.

Our visit to “La Fageda” cannot be summarized by describing the efficient techniques for dairy processing. What the cooperative offers on the human and social scale might be the most successful outcome of “La Fageda”. After all, what is science and research but a tool for human well-being?

As the famous Catalan poet, Joan Maragall, describes it: “The walker, when he enters this place [La Fageda], he begins to walk slowly. It counts his steps in the great stillness: he stops and feels nothing. He is lost from the world.”

This is the true meaning of La Fageda; our short yet rich journey into well-being!

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