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La Fageda

Author: Delphi Jarrett
Published Date: 18 October 2010

La Fagota is a cooperative of 270 workers, of which 150 suffer some form of mental illness or handicap. It offers high-quality dairy products whilst ensuring the social integration and labour market participation of its members.

Recognising that 95% of mentally ill people in Spain remain jobless, the psychologist Cristóbal Colón came to the conclusion that these people needed to be given real work: paid jobs that were meaningful and involved making products recognized by the market. Along with two other therapists, Colón began La Fageda as an independent organization located in a rural area of Catalonia, Spain. Initially he bought dairy cows planning only to sell milk. However the introduction of quotas on milk production by the European normative put the production continuity at serious risk, implying the closure of the farm and consequent destruction of work positions for the disabled from the region of la Garrotxa. Then Colón saw an opportunity in the growing interest in healthier food and set about making quality artisan yoghurt. He decided to convert the milk produced on the farm into dairy desserts. The yoghurt division became the economic motor of the company. This project involved not only the care of the cows to get the milk, but also demanded the responsibility and efficiency to elaborate yoghurts for public consumption. This also contributed to the social recognition of the work carried out by this people with mental disabilities.

Currently, La Fageda has an annual turnover of 10 million euros and sells 35 millions yoghurts. Competing with some of the world’s largest food producers, La Fageda offers high-quality dairy products while ensuring social and labour integration for people with mental disabilities. La Fageda is a cooperative of 270 workers, of which 150 suffer some form of mental illness or handicap. The cooperative is owned by the workers, who become shareholders by paying 60 euros upon entry. A support programme has also been developed and comprises of a group of psychologists who follow each worker's personal and professional rehabilitation.