After 30 years as an industrialist in Brazil and thinking about returning permanently to Portugal my father decided to change his activity and buy a Farm. It was the ’60s and I must have been five or six. I remember the first few visits. Despite being 500m from a national road, the shortest way to get here forced the car to cross a river, we had to literally cross it, go down and back up. Of course, when it rained, we had to “go around”. Sometimes, to shorten the time, poorly calculated crossings resulted in jams that forced a tractor to come to remove the car from the riverbed.
However, there was a river, there was transparent water running through it, where the clothes were washed and where you could see fish…
Like any self-respecting Farm story, it also rained indoors here, and rats were everywhere. In those years, farms were a place where owners went on holidays. And this was no exception. There were some huge wineries, a farm manor and “shabby” land.
With my father things changed, the house was renovated, the wineries became warehouses and the old vines and unused land became Rocha pear orchards.
The farm, 1976.
The pear became the queen of this Farm.
It was the 1970s, a time when the idea was spreading, which became a global project, that agriculture should be “industrialised”.
At that time, the bridge was built so cars could pass, which was an excellent idea. It would have been nice if they hadn’t forgotten the importance of the water underneath.
Quinta do Arneiro became a model Farm. There weren’t many with 30 ha of exquisitely manicured Rocha pear orchards. The beginnings of everything are always times of experience. Monocultures require much greater attention and focus on productivity. Nothing can fail because there is no escape. The 1980s and 1990s were years of excellent profitability.
And lo and behold, we are at the turn of a century, and we often don’t realise it, but we all walk around like a fish that bites its own tail.
I am sure today that if my father had known what was going to happen to the river, to nature’s health, the consequences of this intensive agriculture, the waste it would generate, he would have been the one to start this project, not that the Quinta was directly to blame for its pollution. I trust he’s happy to see what’s going on here.
Beginning of a new cycle.
In the meantime, since 1987, the Farm had also ceased to be for me a place where I spent my holidays and had become the family home. All my children were born and raised here.
In 2007, after one of those twists and turns that life takes, I left a bookshop that I had owned for 14 years to dedicate myself 100% to agriculture. The first two years were like being in paradise, I’m not exaggerating. I had the privilege of being able to spend days working in the fields and I can assure you, but I can really assure you that working in the fields has brought me peace, joy and unspeakable energy. I remember those moments with longing, and I’m not one to miss things.
But those who know me know that it is impossible for me to stop dreaming, projecting and idealising. Fortunately, I’ve been able to make my dreams come true. For a long time, I thought that if I were to manage the farm, “things” would have to change.
First, it was essential to gradually convert the Farm, transforming it into a Farm in organic production.
Respect for nature when we depend exclusively on its generosity is an obvious fact. It’s impossible to have someone as a partner for long if you don’t treat them with respect. And what partnership can be more intense than that of the farmer with nature?
Secondly, it was agreed that we had to get our products to consumers without intermediaries. In this activity the farmer is always the weakest link. The distance between those who consume and those who produce is increasing. Where did this lettuce come from, how was it produced, how did it get to me? These are questions no one asks.
Our goal: that our customers know where the lettuce comes from and if possible, how long it took to grow, and when are apples, cabbages or tomatoes in season.
Some say life begins at the end of our comfort zone. If so, I’m sure mine started the day I started this project.
It is very motivating to see today, a few years later, that many of our first customers are still with us and that more are arriving every day. And how they have helped us!! It is also very comforting to realise that we are building a project with good foundations. We prefer to choose a path that is not so easy but is guaranteed to be more lasting.
We cannot and do not want to let this story end without thanking everyone who is part of it, our customers, our employees, our suppliers. It is because it has so many characters that this is such a rich story from which there is no end in sight.
Let’s go back to the river I told you about at the beginning. You only have to cross over the bridge to understand everything. What our evolution forgot, what we never remembered, was to stop and think. The consequences of disregard for nature are absurdly visible.
And this will be an even happier story when we can break the news that that river is once again a river of crystal-clear water. And if that is everyone’s dream, nothing will stop us from achieving it.