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In an untouched valley on the old Inca trail 150km south of Salta, Estancia Pampa Grande holds 74,000-acres of rivers, grasslands and hills. Cut off from much of the world, the valley and its inhabitants have maintained a traditional way of life, protecting both cultural and natural heritage. Sandwiched between the dry, high-altitude Andes and subtropical forests, Pampa Grande is a unique ecosystem. There are 137 species (and still counting) of birds, including two colonies of condors, and deer, puma and mountain lion on the property.
Pampa Grande is a certified organic farm, which means that no chemicals are used on the land. As well as this, the farm is developing a responsible grassland management plan and is the first estancia in Northern Argentina to do so. Community is an important aspect, too; the estancia has plans to employ more local women and support small-scale local ventures. Culturally, the farm is an interesting example of the interface between European and indigenous populations — several important excavations are in the Museum of Buenos Aires, but some remain on the property.
Founded in 1608, Pampa Grande is one of the oldest estancias in Argentina. The current owners want to preserve this history, as well as maintaining a sustainable income through small-scale ranching and tourism. Most of the people living in the valley have been there for several generations and have a deep relationship and knowledge of the land. It is this inherent respect for nature that the Estancia passes on to guests through riding, hiking, fishing, and shadowing the gauchos.
Estancia Pampa Grande joined The Long Run in 2019 and committed to a holistic balance of the 4Cs – Conservation, Community, Culture and Commerce – as a means to contribute meaningfully to the biodiversity and the people of their local region.
The Pampa Grande valley is trapped between the high and dry plateaux of the Andes to the West and the subtropical forests to the East. This has created a unique habitat for plants and animals. Due to its remote location, the valley has been mostly untouched by man, and the current owners want to keep it that way. Pampa Grande is a certified organic farm, which means no chemicals are used on the land, in the tree plantations or certain products for the healthcare of cattle. Pampa Grande is currently working with Ovis21, which is the Argentinian offspring of the Alan Savory Institute (US) dedicated to improving grassland management from a holistic perspective. Pampa Grande is the first estancia in the North of Argentina striving to improve the management of the natural grasslands in this manner. The farm is also seeking ways to increase its own and local knowledge of indigenous species.
The estancia employs many local people, but there are plans in place to expand this. By creating small ventures or enterprises, Pampa Grande hopes to employ more local people and eventually let them run these projects. It is especially keen to create more opportunities for women. The sensitive development of tourism has always been done with the community in front of mind.
Pampa Grande’s main living cultural element is the gaucho tradition. This entails everything from aspects of clothing to instruments of work (knives, lassos etc. ). It is a spectacle that draws many visitors to the ranch. These gaucho traditions are also manifest in annual gatherings (called Fiesta Patronal) in various localities. These are opportunities to show off special attire and often to indulge in competitions of dexterity with cattle handling or horsemanship. Pampa Grande supports its own fiesta patronal which draws about 800 people from the neighbouring villages and relatives from further away. It is an event with high touristic potential, but which the estancia like to keep as local as possible. That said, the small and exclusive nature of the new tourism offer is pleasing the locals — they are happy to see people interested in their way of life.
Commercial activity is through ranching and tourism, although plans are underway to expand smaller-scale ventures that will provide more employment for locals, especially women. There are 6,500 cattle, mostly Red Angus, on the farm, and several hundred horses – 150 are used by gauchos to work the cattle. Experiences for guests range from experiencing a day in the life of a gaucho to family-fun including cycling and swimming in the properties 50-acre lake. Expeditions take guests to remote locations, to sleep under the stars, and the estancia itself adheres to a sustainable culture – from hand-washed linen to farm to fork cuisine.