XVII. OWN USE AND AGRICULTURAL TRADE
Buying seeds and plants
It should be noted that in the past in some cases, and for certain plants still today, seeds were obtained by selecting the best of the harvest or by trading between local farmers or from the surrounding areas. Plants were grown in a seedbed prepared for that purpose at the farmstead itself or there were ones that specialised in that work and people would go there to buy them.
Organic fertilizer was the most common and most valued one until the early 20th century. On the one hand, there was the fertilizer produced by the draught animals – oxen and cows, donkeys, horses and mules – formed by mixing their excrement with straw and ferns. The fermentation process took place in the dunghills, either located in the barn or in the yard of the farmstead, or on the outskirts of the village, next to the threshing floors, above all, on the sides of paths or the edges of some fields, and in the field pens, frequently owned and distributed by the local council.
For some time now, mineral fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, etc. bought on the market have been used as the result of the great drop in the number of domestic livestock and the near disappearance of barns and pens. There is a widespread awareness among farmers that even though they have been compelled to use those fertilizers, they serious pollute the earth.
In Bernedo (A), the local residents made many of the implements, such as biercol (heather) brooms; some people in Apodaka (A) also made their brooms using the heather sticks that they cut in the Larras. In Pipaón (A) and in Valle de Roncal (Ustárroz, Isaba and Urzainqui), the people surveyed explained that small tools were made at home.
In Aoiz (N), some of the agricultural implements and tools were made by the farmers themselves: carts, tangs for iron tools, yokes and others. In Abadiño (B), the wooden pieces such as rakes or handles for hoes, axes, etc were made and repaired at home. When baskets were needed, they were bought from local basket makers. In Urduliz (B), the handles for the tools were made on the homestead and they therefore usually a stock of well-dried wood brought from the uplands.
In Amorebieta-Etxano (B), they explained that there were people from the farmsteads working in the town’s factories and they would often make picks and small metal parts for farm implements.
In the past, during the long winter nights, neighbours would gather together to make ropes for the carts and tethers for the livestock. They made them with the rope from the bundles of bailer twine, removing the knots. The seed baskets were made out of light wood, such as poplar or pine. The rope makers would produce for several neighbours; the rugs for the oxen was made out of sheepskin and the chains for the oxen would be repaired by the local blacksmith.
The implements not made on the farmstead were produced by local craftsmen or bought from local stores and businesses in a nearby larger town. Livestock and agricultural shows were also good places to buy agricultural machinery.
It can generally be seen that implements were repaired as far as possible at the farmstead, mainly when the weather was too bad to work in the fields. Otherwise, the implements were taken to the farrier or local craftsmen. More recently, the new machinery is sent to be repaired by the manufacturer where it was purchased or by its representative.
Markets and agricultural fairs
Farmers have taken and still take their products to be sold in the town’s market, when there is one, and if that is not the case, to the most important towns or centres nearby.
Apart from going to the agricultural markets and fairs, it has been and is frequent to have regular customers, either individuals or companies and warehouses that buy the goods directly or through local cooperatives.
There are regular fairs and markets that are clearly for farmers as has been previously discussed. Special agricultural fairs are also held, some of which are mentioned in this section, even though there are frequently livestock agricultural fairs, where the emphasis is on the livestock, but farming machinery and implements are also sold. Those fairs and markets are also used by people selling homemade cakes, butchers, etc., and even craft items can be bought there and the wares that the tradespeople have not made themselves. The event attracts people selling clothes, toys, decorations, records and craft items from African and South-American countries that are in contrast with the rural and typical items of the traditional stands.
Numerous fairs dedicated to showcasing and selling certain products such as tomatoes, peppers, asparagus, oil, Txakoli wine, etc. are held all over the Basque Country throughout the year. Some coincide with local festivities or with Saint Isidore’s Day, the patron saint of baserritarras (farmers and farm labourers).
It should be noted that there has been a certain devaluation of the fairs, as apart from exhibiting agricultural products and machinery, they have become a place of deals and dealings.
Preparing products, contracts and terms of payment
In general, the people surveyed that in the past a person’s word was their bond in commercial dealings, but was particularly used when buying and selling livestock rather than in agricultural transactions. The importance of a person’s word can be seen from the expression in Donazaharre (NB): Hitza hitz, bertzela gizona hits (a man’s word is his bond or he will lose his honour).
There is no fast rule for everyone for selling goods at a good price. The previous week’s prices are more or less known, even though the starting amount can vary depending on the number of people, the haggling, weather, etc. The prices change from the start to the end of the market, but no-one is sure if they will go up or down. Haggling exists, but most people believe that it is not worth spending too much time on it as there the risk of having to return home with part of the merchandise just to make a little more profit. Knowing the break-even point is down to experience. In the past, a common custom was that with the money obtained from the first sale, the seller made the sign of the cross for the day to start well and there would be more sales.