Granja Cantagrullas |  Through the lens of X-E2

It's not that easy finding somebody like Rubén Valbuena. Not it's not, in so many ways.
To share table, wine, cheeses, illusion and passion.

In an inland Finisterre (end of the earth).

Ramiro (Valladolid, Spain), an inland Finisterre, as Rubén likes to call this little corner of inner Spain. He's chosen this land to settle, to be where Quesería Granja Cantagrullas was to be founded.But, ¿who is this Rubén? He is a cheesemaker, but not an ordinary one. He masters his job.I've come here with a group of fellow photography enthusiast like me, in a visit organized by Piensa en Foto to know Granja Cantagrullas project: a life project.

Why do I say it's not that easy to find someone like him?Not because in just two years he's started from scratch a project that has led him to be one of the most renowned cheese makers in Spain.It's not because he used to be working for UN (advisor in development projects) with no previous experience in anything related to cheese making at all.Not because, now that many Spanish young people are leaving our country in their quest for a future far from our unemployment huge figures, he's decided to settle in a small corner of the inner lands of Spain.No, I don't even say so cause he's developed his mastery making cheeses working with methods far from the tradition in this part of Spain. Granja Cantagrullas produces cheese with raw sheep's milk with a concept wich is far from the pressed paste cheeses produced in Castile (the region of Spain where Cantagrullas is).The qualities that make Rubén so special are his honesty, his self-confidence, his illusion and passion. And that is infectious.

Honesty. Granja Cantagrullas is a business that intends to be faithful to its values: innovation, being a business seed to promote other local business around, to use goods from the vicinities, to size the bussines according to the project and not according to the demand, etc.
Self-confidence. Rubén knows what he wants and what his next steps will be. He has a vision, and he fights for it with no hesitation. His self-confidence can be overwhelming, but it comes from somebody who has previously turned down his old beliefs on how a business like this should be run. He questioned his ideas before fighting for them.
Passion and illusion. He has a most enthusiastic passion for the craft of cheesemaking, a passion for the place where he has decided to make this happen. Passion for learning and discovering. He has that kind of illusion that make his eyes shine when in the night he is taking care of the preparations in a new process of fermentation.

The team at Cantagrullas is crazy enough to think they can make this world a better place by cheesemaking. Crazy, huh?

The meadow

In the morning we go for a walk with Rubén and Juan Carlos (the shepherd). The herd moves freely in the meadow. A most beautiful landscape of pines and oaks (not a very common mix here).
Carrots and onions on the ground. Not beautiful enough for human consumption, they are discarded and serve to feed the herd when grass is scarce. Wasted food from a society that gives a greater value to the way food looks over flavor and quality.
Castilian sheep is the only kind of stock you'll find in the herd. It is managed the old way, moved thorugh the fields, from meadow to meadow, sleeping outdoors. Both are signs of identity of the project: traditional methods.

The lambing facility

Here is where pregnant sheeps are taken apart from the rest of the herd.
The time is coming; some of them can barely move. We go into the facility. All the sheeps inside run out. All but one. It has given birth a lamb just minutes ago. Lamb tries to stand on its legs and searches for its mother udders. We keep away from them. The sheep might reject the lamb if we didn't.


Hospitality. Rubén and Asela (his wife) have a table ready for a meal with a delicious stew cooked for us by a woman of the village. Lunch ends with a tasting of cheeses from Granja Cantagrullas. Rubén, slices the cheeses, serves, fills our cups and tells us the story behind each cheese. The variety, flavours and textures are surprising.
Rubén slices and serves again. He tells us about cheese fine-tuning and the cruel world of cheese distribution.
I close my eyes and enjoy. Just enjoy.

The Diary Farm

At the end of the day we visit the diary farm, just a few steps away from the house. There is where cheese is actually produced. It's so close that Rubén and Asela sometimes get there in the middle of the night to keep an eye on the fermentation process of new varieties.
They tell us about the cheese-making process, the molds they use, their apprenticeship process.
We visit the room where cheeses mature, where cheeses wait patiently till someone receives them for their enjoyment.


Late in the afternoon, by the time I leave Granja Cantagrullas I'm tainted by the passion they put in their project, tainted by the hospitality of Asela and Rubén, tainted by their conviction on the ability to transform and make a better place around from a small corner of the world..
A small basket of cheeses comes with me. It has been made and decorated by a local workshop for employment. A last small gesture to remember how Granja Cantagrullas wants to promote small business around theirs.

Passion, illusion, not taking for granted the way you use to do your stuff and honesty.
All of these I want it for my photography journey ahead.

Shot with a Fujifilm X-E2 kindly provided by Fujifilm España.
Processed using VSCO Film.
If you want to enjoy this series with better image quality, go visit my gallery.

This visit was organized by Piensa en Foto.

2 comentarios:

  1. What lenses where used for which photo?

    1. Hi Nicolai. Thanks for asking.
      You can have detailed information (and better IQ) in my gallery at SmugMug:

      I've used XF18-55mm, XF55-200mm and XF35mm for this series. There's a shot I made using Canon FD 24mm f/1.8. Love using legacy lenses on X-mount bodies. Have some Canon FD and Olympus Zuiko legacy lenses.
      Hope this helped.