The landscape of Freixo do Meio is an illustration of the great diversity in experiencing the project, as well as of the interaction with the natural systems, keeping the focus on what people need, and not only on what can be sold, through a use of resources defined by limits and rules.
The transformation of the Mediterranean Forest, typical of this bioregion, goes back to the Neolithic and was worked, up to the Middle Ages, in the context of an ethic that emerged from the way the human being interacted with nature.
Those early Neolithic communities that integrated animal herding and farming into the fire, hunting and collecting trio, created and developed, to our understanding, the original concept of the Montado.
In different ways and throughout different eras, the diverse cultures that moved through this area shaped the Mediterranean forest, consolidating the Montado system during the Middle Ages, while agrosilvopastoral model of multiples uses.
Says Ana Fonseca «A substitution occurs of the natural balances by others more or less stable, mediated by man, but that always knew to respect the limits of the natural system.»
She adds, «the Montado system definitely influenced the human community that created it» not only through professions, norms, and practices, but also through their way of living. Which is to say, their ethics. These small communities lived for themselves, for the collective and for the next generations, and not only for the individual.
The use of the hills and woods are characterized by harmony and abundance following the rhythm of nature. Namely by silvopastoral activities but also uses related to wood productions, making of utensils, fruits (like the acorn among many others), hunting, as well as the waters for the mills, and the fishing spot installed in them.
It’s that moment in history that keeps inspiring the current project at Freixo do Meio, and that is the trademark of its landscape. In circumstances that, initially, still mirrored the consequences of the wheat campaigns that took place in the first part of the 20th century and the contexts at the end of that century, that subjugated farming to the industrial sector.
This landscape today has, 30 years gone by, the unique character resulting from a sustainable management, with a strong social component in the almost 600 hectares covered by different approaches to the Montado. It is the face of a project made by people, by a great diversity of living beings and their ecosystems, by cultures, traditions, experiences and inspirations that inherited a long history of management around the main seminatural ecosystem and a main landscape of southern Portugal, the Montado.
It was this return to agroecological practices that allowed the soil to recover and to reestablish the various layers of the system (trees, bush and herbs). This conversion process ended in 2001, when all the farm and its products were certified as organic production.
The landscape matches the vision of agriculture that was adopted, fitting the way we relate to the place we inhabit and the necessary ethical ways of the man of the Golden Age, designated as Agroecology.
Gradually, the project has been organized around a multi-function concept, integrating forestry, agricultural and livestock activities, fruit, vegetables, food transformation and distribution, retail, environmental services, energy productions, investigation and tourism and learning services.
The macrostructure of this landscape, matches the one, proposed in 2020, for the creation of a Private Protected Area of Montado do Freixo do Meio. It includes a «Conservation Area» formed by 85 ha of Montado agroecosystem, with regeneration projects of several ecological habitats, Almansor River, Monte das Pedras Neolithic Park, Arrifes, Zambujeiro Pine Forest and Zambujeiro Creek, whose gallery of willows (Salix sp.) and poplars, (Populus nigra) at Almansor River constitutes an important ecological corridor for the region.
It includes also an extremely rich mosaic of native species, both animals and plants, like wild cats, otters, alders, the Portuguese oak, the strawberry tree, and the oregano.
The «Montado Area» refers to the mild plain stretching from the right bank of Almansor River to the Mosqueiro ridge, covered by cork and holm oaks.
The «Innovation Area» cover 100 ha at the norther edge, that were cleared at the beginning of last century, meaning all the trees on soils made richer by years of agroforest were cut down, leading to them becoming spent. This is where we develop today several experimental projects for reforestation. The rocky outcrops, some of which like Pedra Alta are used as lookout points and are associated with pre-desert Mediterranean bush habitats.
In this landscape also stand out elements of archeological value like the shrine of Pedra Alta, the Neolithic settlement of Freixo do Meio, the Menhir, and other archeological remains still being studied.
Fonseca, A. (2004). O Montado no Alentejo. Edições Colibri, Lisboa.