After 30 years in Brazil and thinking of returning to Portugal permanently, my father decided to buy a farm. We were in the 60s and I was about 5 or 6 years old. I remember the first visits to the farm. Despite being 500m away from a national road, the shortest path to get here forced us to cross a river. And it was literally to cross a river: down and back up! Of course when it rained we had to go around. Sometimes, to shorten the time, the miscalculated crossings had as a result jams and we had to get a tractor to pull the car onto the road again.
However, there was a river with flowing clear water, where clothes were washed and where you could see fish …
Like any farm story worth telling, in this one it also rained indoors and rats abounded. In those years the farms were a place where you went on vacation. And this was no exception. There were huge cellars, a lot of houses and a land.
Once bought by my father, things were changing. The house was remodeled, the wineries were turned into warehouses and old vines and unused lands into Rocha pear orchards.
The farm, 1976.
The pear has become the queen of the farm.
We were in the 70s, a time when we were spreading the idea, which became a global project, that agriculture should be seen as an industry. And the field as a factory.
And then we constructed the bridge to make a passageway for the cars which was an excellent idea, had they not forgotten that it was water passing underneath…
The Quinta do Arneiro became a model farm. There were not many farms with 30 ha of orchards of pear, exquisitely well taken care of. The beginnings of everything are always times of experiences and experimentation. Monocultures require much greater attention and focus on productivity, nothing can fail because there is no escape. The 80s and 90s were years of great income.
And here are we at the turn of a century and often don’t realize, but we’re all within a cicle.
I’m sure today that if my father knew what was going to happen to the river, not that the farm had any direct guilt on the river’s pollution, what would happen to the health of nature, what would happen to this intensive agriculture, the waste that it would generate, it would have been him to start this project. He passed away before he could.
Início de um novo ciclo
However, the farm had long ago, since 1987, stopped being a place for me to spend vacation and turned into the family’s home. All my children were born and raised here.
In 2007, after one of those turns that life gives, I left a bookstore that I owned for 14 years to dedicate myself 100% to agriculture. My first two years here were like heaven, and I’m not exaggerating. I had the privilege of having two years without thinking much. I spent days working in the field and I can guarantee that work in the field has brought me peace, joy and indescribable energy. I remember fondly those times.
But who knows me knows that it is impossible for me to stop dreaming, designing and idealising. And thankfully, I usually end up realizing my dreams. Long ago I thought that if I managed the farm, a lot of things would have to change.
First of all, it was essential to convert the farm, step by step, into an organic production farm. The respect for nature, when we depend on it’s generosity, is a given course. It is impossible to have someone as a partner for a long time if we don’t treat them with respect. And what partnership can be more intense than the one that the farmer has with nature?
Second, it was common ground that we had to get our products to consumers without intermediaries. The farmer has always been the weakest link because the distance between those who consume and those who produce was increasing.
Where does this lettuce come from, how was it produced, how did it reach me? These are things that nobody asks. Our main goal is that our customers know where that lettuce comes from and, if possible, how long it took to grow, what’s the season of the apple, the sprouts and the tomato.
Some people say that life begins at the end of our comfort zone, so I’m sure mine started the day I started this project.
Some say that life begins at the end of our comfort zone, so I’m sure that mine started on the day I started this project.
And, who would say, a few years have passed since the conversion of the first hectare. Two years later, in 2009, we started producing and luckily we have been growing in a sustained way. These have been very intense years of hard work. We did so much in so little time that it seems to have passed a lot more. In August 2011 we opened the packing warehouse and in October we began producing our first greenhouse of 1000 m2. In January 2012 we had one more greenhouse of 1500 m2, and how good it is to realize that after some time, the area of greenhouses became too small. In December 2013, we began the construction of a greenhouse that doubled the space. We now have 5000 m2 of covered area. And we didn’t stop. It’s very motivating to realize today, that after a few years, all of our first customers are still with us.
We can’t nor want to let this story end without thanking all those who are part of it! Our customers, our suppliers and our employees. It’s because we have so many characters that this is such a rich history and that the end is not in sight.
Let’s go back to the river I mentioned earlier. Just pass over the bridge, which is now there for us to understand. What our evolution forgot, what we never remembered again was to stop and think. The consequences disrespecting nature are absurdly visible.
And this will be an even happier story when we break the news that that river is a river again. And if this is our dream, nothing will prevent it from happening.