A sophisticated and efficient agroecological system.
Initially used in intensive agriculture, this 650-hectare farm takes a turn when it is taken over by the current owner in 1990. After years of transformation, the farm reaches a high level of production and a great diversification with more than 150 different products.
Today the farm produces its fruits and vegetables in permaculture, raises its animals in the middle of cork oaks, transforms its products on the farm and sells them in AMAP, on the internet or in a box on one of the most prestigious markets of Lisbon. The Herdade do Freixo do Meio also wants to raise awareness and bring about change locally. Many workshops and farm tours are organized to share knowledge about responsible agricultural production. A restaurant is also present on the farm to feed the visitors.
The Herdade do Freixo do Meio contributes to two aspects of the circular economy: sustainable supply and responsible consumption. The farm is almost autonomous and buys very few raw materials. It contributes to the reduction of food waste by upgrading these production waste or its unsold food for its farms.
Agro-forestry system : breeding of black pork in an oak woodland.
Les pigs are raised in the middle of plots of oaks. Their diet consists mainly of ground acorns, farm-produced cereals and fruits and vegetables that the farm was unable to sell. Although it is located in an arid zone, the oaks allow pigs to live in a cool area thanks to the shade they provide. In return, pigs provide natural fertilization to the soil and allow trees to develop normally. The acorns are salvaged and turned into a flour that creates cookies and bread. Cork cork is also recovered.
After slaughter, the pigs will be transformed on the farm which has invested in a smoking room to better value the meat of its porks.In the same spirit, part of the vegetable production is carried out between the rows of olive trees. Here too, the olive trees bring shade and freshness to the crops thus making it possible to limit hydric stress in the dry season. At the Herdade do Freixo do Meio, the land is cultivated in permaculture, using in particular cultivation associations. Market gardening does not compete with the olive plantation because both types of crops do not exploit the same layer of soil. In fact, the market gardening will rather seek its nutrients on the surface whereas the olive trees will develop roots able to go deeper into the soil. The farm produces its own compost which allows it to enrich its soil in organic matter.
By recycling its unsold animal feed, the Herdade fights against food waste and reduces its carbon impact by being more autonomous in its supply of raw materials.
The farm is also involved in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by planting trees for its agro-sylvo-pastoral systems. Agroforestry also increases soil organic matter content and combats soil erosion.
The farm has been growing steadily over the years and the profits make it possible to buy new installations (solar panels to heat water), to invest in processing sites or to have a box on most prestigious market of Lisbon. Thanks to its agro-sylvopastoral system and the revaluation of unsold animal feed, the farm minimizes its costs on its farms.
In addition, the combination of agroforestry crops, compost production and an efficient drip system allows a significant reduction in the number of inputs. Also, the Herdade do Freixo do Meio employs around 20 people full-time.
In addition to creating jobs, the Herdade do Freixo do Meio has a great training and tourism activity. Several cottages are available on the farm and allow tourists to learn more about permaculture or agro-forestry.
One of the main objectives of the farm is to transmit its knowledge and to link the consumer with the product. That’s why the farm opened a restaurant to bring people back to the heart of the production system. The farm also hosts school groups.
One of the keys of the project is its extreme diversification. Producer but also transformative and commercial, the company does not go through specialized resellers (GMS for example), thus saving margins.
The available area is also important: it seems obvious that the company could not have develop as much or as fast if she had not been able to take advantage of the inherited 650 ha.
Copyright CirculAgronomie 2020