Sichuan pepper

Agroecology and regenerative agriculture

With so many advantages, how come it is not yet a common practice?

In a rapidly changing world marked by climate change, continued extinction of high numbers of animals and plants and marked by the degradation of fertile and productive soil, we face the greatest challenges of all times: changing the way we understand and treat soil; changing the way we understand forest and agriculture; changing the way we eat; choosing well what we consume, to whom we buy and how far from our homes.

Inspired by nature, agroecology or regenerative agriculture brings together trees – forestry, and the production of vegetables and animals – agriculture, in the same productive system. The different elements complement each other and increase the system’s resilience, increasing biodiversity and the ability to respond to changes in the climate, maintain pests and diseases levels low, offering diversified and high quality products, without soil degradation and increasing its fertility.

The first major barrier to adopting this type of production systems is the mental barrier, the barrier of acquired habits. Unfortunately most of us grew up internalizing the forest and agriculture as separate things. Unfortunately, our governments also regard the two as stagnant areas, with financial support being planned for silviculture projects or agriculture ones (orchards, vegetable production or livestock).

In Portugal, only one agroforestry system is recognized – the «montado» – in the south of Portugal, where we have cork oaks and pigs coexisting in extensive pastures. Other agroforestry systems adapted to other ecosystems with other ecological balances in the country are not supported, and are even prohibited – either forest or agriculture!

No luck for those who remember to make co-exist, for example, oaks and chestnuts grafted for fruit! And have aromatic plants and vegetable gardens and animals also in the system! If you want to compete for financial support distributed by the Portuguese State you cannot do it. So, you have to find other ways to fund starting up your project. To begin with. Then, you just need, if you want to live from a diversified seasonal production and with small quantities produced, to be able to organize local markets, and associations of small producers, and to educate the public to buy local and seasonal,… that is, to influence the world around you to concern about all these issues.

Well, this is precisely what Peneda ecofarm is dedicated to. Implementing new ways of sustainable food production. And new ways of being alive and happy.

Drawing, experimenting, producing and learning. Sharing methods and results, learnings, successes and failures with the public. Implementing regenerative agroecology models in northern Portugal, specifically in Alto Minho, in Arcos de Valdevez, near the Peneda-Gerês Natural Park.

To do this, we have to be able to fund ourselves, especially in these years of the system’s start-up, which implies financial resources to plant and keep alive hundreds of trees and shrubs, to infrastructure water capture systems and irrigation networks, to keep grass weeded in order to give new plants the opportunity to establish themselves and to defend the plantation in the event of fire, to fence off areas in the early years from the penetration of wild fauna and also native cows that graze freely and love to eat young trees, to multiply hundreds of shrubs and aromatic and medicinal plants to diversify the system, among others.

Our sustainable tourism project thus fulfills the functions, on the one hand, of educating for natural values ​​and for the development of conscience, and on the other hand of helping financing the regenerative agriculture project so that we can invest in building functional and sustainable agroforestry systems. Find out more here and here, have a good time with us and contribute to our work in regenerative agriculture!

In practice, each agro ecological regenerative agriculture project can have a different shape and they can look very different from one another. In each specific place, with its soil, its climate, its naturally present plants, its biodiversity, different combinations can be designed.

In general, in the world, 3 types of agroforestry systems are most common:

1) Agriforestry systems, in which the production of vegetables coexists with fruit trees, trees with other vocations, cereal fields and/or shrubs and aromatic and medicinal plants.

2) Silvopastoral systems, in which trees coexist with pastures and animals that graze.

3) Agrisilvopastoral systems, in which everything coexists.

The latter is our ambition. Mostly we are building agriforestry systems, and we hope little by little, in the future that we can introduce more animals – for now we have chickens!

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