Finding visions for the future in the
Portuguese past.

North, center & Alentejo Region | PORTUGAL

“ Together we restore the balance.“

On Assignment for AHRESP (Association of Hospitality and Catering of
Portugal) I went to discover the „North, Center and Alentejo“ regions in Portugal and learn about the roots of Portuguese flavours.

„Quinta da Herdade Freixo do Meio“ is the name of an organic farm embedded in the beautiful landscape of the Alentejo region, 114 kms east of Lisbon, Portugal.
30 years ago the „Cooperativa de Usuários do Freixo do Meio“ was founded, based on the ethical values of agroecology, food sovereignty and permaculture.

Understanding food as a „common good“ and encouraging consumers and producers alike to support this understanding and the local agroecology and thus to preserve sustainable food systems, is the driving force of the cooperative. Putting the everyday into question, as well as advocating for increased environmental sustainability and improved, conscious approaches to food, their common goal.

Alfredo Cunhal Sendim has inherited the farm from his family and represents the 6th generation in the business. It was him, who brought the ancestral farming system of the region, called „Montado“, back to the farm in 1997.
On 520ha it is build on the principles of organic and biodynamic farming, as well as on permaculture techniques, better adapted to local natural conditions and thereby more efficient in terms of environmental costs.

The „Montado“ is closely connected to the oak trees and recognizes the important role those trees play in the ecosystem, providing clean air,
filtering soil nutrients, but also managing storm waters and overall preserving the biodiversity of the region.
The food production on the farm today follows a regenerative agroforestry model with natural fertility cycles, forming a perfect symbiosis between man and nature and keeping the balance intact.

The farm is formed as a community model. Every fortnight they meet to talk about current challenges; everyone working at the farm can propose ideas and is treated as equal. Discussions take place until consent is reached.
This effort to reach harmony between the workers and every participant of the community is also inspired by the symbiotic liaison,

shown by the hundreds of different native species in the „Montado“ and views a respectful relationship between nature and man as the highest goal.

Sven moved from Hamburg to this farm in 2016 and is working as the farm manager today. On a walk around the farmland he is explaining the ecological, but also societal principles and it becomes obvious,
that he truly found his place and purpose here.

Besides agroforestry there are also vegetable gardens, 7 micro-factories and animal production embedded in the farm, seeing animals as an inseparable part in their ethical model of food production, where the functionality of each species is valued.

The production includes more than 200 certified organic products, such as organic fruits and vegetables, artisan bread and cereals. Juices and wine,
as well as olive oil and vinegar are also being produced.

Further more aromatic herbs and – another specialty of the region –
acorn products like flour or „acorn coffee“, but also animal based products like organic eggs and meats, especially black pork.

To preserve this unique ecosystem, the farm invites everyone to visit and contemplate, to learn about the history and to taste their produce –
as humans, after all, tend to especially care for and save the things,
that they know, the things that are close to their hearts.
At the farm restaurant “Cabana dos Bois” you can taste their local products. A vegetarian menu is served as well as an „Acorn menu“ for the bold and curious!

Another possibility to experience the ecological diversity and their colors, smells, stories and sounds first hand, is to stay at the farm for a couple days and fully integrate in the work teams and the community of
„Quinta da Herdade Freixo do Meio“.
Courses on bread baking, acorn food production or the possibilites of cork can be booked additionally.

Currently the farm is operating different environmental projects: With future generations in mind, they perform reforestation campaigns, plant dynamic successive agroforests and foster habitat protection.

If you wish to contribute your time, knowledge, financial or other resources, please feel free to contact them and become a part of their
montado community:

Cooperativa de Usuários Freixo do Meio, C.R.L.
Herdade do Freixo do Meio; 7050-705 Foros de Vale de Figueira

The possibility of a sustainable farming system, that would serve beneficial to men and nature alike, might feel like a distant dream. Surrounded by the portuguese countryside, only disrupted by small villages, I’m tempted to believe we actually can put a speed limit on mankind and its crazy hunt for prosperity. On this small scale peaceful coexistence is even possible including consumption of animal produce.

How this could be true for densely populated areas and megacities… the lasting impression to me is, that it might be a Utopia of sorts, but one that can serve as a lasting reminder of how natural balance can and should
be achieved.
How we simply need to abandon certain „needs“, like consuming animal products, as soon as we leave the scope of possibility.

My mind kept wandering as my feet discovered the beautiful streets of Évora, the capitol of the Alentejo region. A city, that might very well check all the boxes when imagining the perfect Portuguese town.

At „The Noble House“ I had the pleasure of a short tasting with local olive oil and wines from „Herdade do Freixo“, built in 1808 and just a stone throw from the organic farm I had visited earlier.

Freshly revived another small scale producer was at my schedule on the next day:  The „Quinta do Barrigoso“ in the historical village of Castelo Novo in the central region of Portugal.

Transhumance is still existing here and walking a little while with the shepherds and the cattle is just one more reminder of the connection between all living things.

After visiting the production side, I’m offered a tasting of the various famous cheeses from this farm, which is exemplary for the Fundão region.
Of course the meal is completed with fresh local bread and olive oil.
Fine flavors of younger as well as aged cheeses are paired with different

local wines – another product the region is known for well beyond its borders – while the old masonry of the main building provides a welcome coolness from the unexpected springtime heat.

Stepping outside, this coolness immediately fades into a memory, as the fresh and slightly acidic smell of lemons warmed by the sun overflows
my consciousness.
Lemontrees brimfull with large yellow fruits surround the house…

Since my childhood travels I’m unable to smother a sigh, being reminded of the impossibility to grow one myself in Berlin.
How bittersweet, that climate change might render even this impossibility possible one day.

The last chapter of my Portuguese memories was written in the North of Portugal, in the Douro region, east of Porto.

While this region is especially famous for its port wine, I spent a few hours in a highly modern and dimlit museum, digging even deeper into the past:
At „Museu do Côa“ an impressive amount of prehistoric cave art from the surrounding Côa Valley builds a bridge to the life in this region
25.000 years ago.

Granted the status of UNESCO world heritage, in this place I once more feel the respect for the past and the awareness of our evolution since those early days of settlement. It was then, when mankind took the next step from hunters and gatherers to sheperds and farmers. These stunning Portuguese landscapes were the cradle of what nowadays seems ancient and outdated.

But what feels like romanticised stories and an efflorescence of nostalgia, could very well serve as a compass to find the direction which the next step of humanity should follow.

One day I will return and visit the cherry tree I planted in Alcongosta.
My gratitude and thanks to AHRESP for the invitation.

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