FOOD, air and water are only a few of the things we depend on to stay alive. There are others, and all of than can only be ensured by Nature, here called the Natural System.
The relationship between Humanity and the living house it inhabits is played on several axis, but the connection of both entities through food is, for certain, the fastest to become more fragile and tainted. Our evolution on Earth soon generated food scarcity. As Eduardo Lourenço tried so hard to remind us, it was not to find the sea route to Índia that the Portuguese set to the sea, but rather to survive the misery they created.
The way we grew and eat led us to the tragedy of Empires, to war, the privatization of common goods, individualism, extreme competition, the attempt to control everything, and especially to a state of material and emotional need that subjugates us and has certainly kept us in a condition of survivors for at least 3000 years. Meaning that what we call «environmental crisis» is a matter first and foremost rooted on food. And what we today call «agriculture» is certainly a major part of the problem.
With this in mind, being ourselves responsible for a significant piece of this home of ours, meaning the 600 ha of the Montado do Freixo do Meio, and after feeling ourselves the lack of dignity imposed on a farmer these days by the socio-economic system we live in, we couldn’t do anything else then trying to find another path. Other methods. Other ways of obtaining and sharing what we consider a Common Good. That, is something that belongs to all and that all of the right to obtain without conditions, but that by being obtained does not destroy our home, and, quite the opposite, rebuilds it. To rebuild the Natural System is to regenerate. It is the very first priority, because without it, will we have conditions that allow life?
The Ecosystem of the Freixo do Meio, like our planet in general, has been submitted over the last 500 years to a process of active degradation by us, humans, instead of evolving to more complex, efficient and productive states. This degradation strikes several areas like soil, biodiversity, water, air, natural forest, among other. The practical consequences? Less production, less energy efficient, more vulnerable to climate change, for example. In short, it is comparably much worse, especially considering our needs.
Our path since 1993 has been to go back to the ancestral approach of trying to solve our problems while still respecting the limits of Nature, which means in practice to understand that we are here to be a part of a system that created us, because it needs us (Gaia, the macro-entity), and only acting on the whole can we get to us. This is Agroecology, an ancestral ethic, a science, but essentially an ideological movement. Here it is called Montado. A agroecological system initiated in the Neolithic, later developed during the Middle Ages, to where we return initially as a safe harbor.
We were helped by History through the work of Ana Fonseca. To move from a chemical and mechanical model to the ancestral agroecology of the Montado, was a first step supported by the, then pioneering, movement of organic agriculture that allowed us to essentially revert the path of destruction and dependency. We now count more than two decades of respect for the natural cycles of fertility, and the empowerment of biodiversity. More than two decades without chemicals or transgenics, promoting forest regeneration, after consciously and effectively abandoning the agricultural model followed by the Estado Novo (Portugal’s old regime) and continued through the periods of post-revolution and entering the European Union.
The Montado allowed us to create a different economy that besides creating jobs to 10 times more people than the regional average (30/3) provides food in a different way, every day, to fulfill at least 50% of their needs, to over 300 families (of 3 persons). We went from 3 products (sheep, wheat and cork) to over 50 with economic focus. We learned how to transform natural resources into food. And we built from the ground up, seven units of food processing. Many investments of various sorts were needed, but we survived. We were pioneers of “Farm-to-fork”, going closer to the consumers on the markets, later with a shop in Lisbon, creating one of the first Consumer Supported Agriculture movements (CSA Crop Sharing), as well as having one of the first farmer online shops in Portugal.
But it’s not enough. We should be able to feed twenty times more people without degrading the ecosystems in order to achieve true food sovereignty. For that we have to regenerate. And that is why we actively seek to experiment and introduce models and techniques that will allow us to get there. Through Agroecology, Permaculture, Montado, Organic farming, Biodynamic farming, agroforestry of dynamic succession, working with water, fungi and microorganisms, regenerative forestry, holistic animal husbandry, and many other visions currently in place. The Protected Area of Montado do Freixo do Meio, through its three areas, of conservation, montado and innovation, allows us to reconcile the past with the present, and both with the dreams and challenges of the future.
To get your food from Montado do Freixo do Meio is more than participating in the fair sharing of an essential good obtained in agroecological ways. t is essentially an opportunity to regenerate this piece of home, and making it yours. In a conscious, ordained, safe, and collective way through cooperation with the different projects operating at Montado do Freixo do Meio.