A system inspired by natural ecosystems – permaculture – has been attracting the attention of a number of people who wish to create a sustainable form of life in order to produce their own food.
Eco123 went to see one of these projects located in Monchique that is registered with the Rede Convergir network. The project ‘Terra do Milho’ (Land of Maize) was created by Monique Volkers, aged 52, and her husband, Tom Stobbelar, aged 59, who have been working independently since 2010.
“My parents bought a piece of land and I came to Portugal, now I am working here and I try to pass on this idea that we have had for a long time, of self-sufficiency, local food, shared economy, these things that are very important for me,” says Monique Volkers.
At present, the couple live from what they get from the land. Cabbages, chard, herbs, strawberries, oranges, lemons, lettuce, beans and potatoes are some of their products.
The animals they have on their plot, the goats and the hens, help to keep the field clean and fertilise the plot to make it rich in nutrients. “My animals work for us,” says Monique Volkers.
From vegetables to fruit, the couple are self-sufficient with everything they produce. Cheese, yoghurt and their derived products are made with the milk from their own goats. They get eggs from their hens. The animal droppings work like a natural fertiliser in the soil.
The couple have been working their land for about four years, and they currently have “about 100 different species of tree” and are completely sustainable.
The farming couple’s fruit and vegetables are sold together with other producers who belong to a community. A group with the same ideas and values meet every Friday morning, on one of the stalls in Monchique’s municipal market, with the main aim of demonstrating the importance of small local producers.
This community’s stall is based on the idea of difference, given the great variety of products on show in small quantities and the fact that they do not use chemical products. Directly from the producer to the consumer.
According to Monique Volkers, “my vegetables are on the market but that is not the most important thing, the most important thing is that we have a community, and that we have a place to sell things because we are a small group of producers”.
The project ‘Terra do Milho’ recently registered with the network Rede Convergir because, according to Monique, “it’s important that we know about the places that are dedicated to this, that we can see them and cooperate, all the farmers, I don’t know, we can meet, get to know each other and perhaps one day we might have an idea and think that we can put it into practice. I think it’s important to create a movement”; and she ends by saying “we are all small groups here and there, and maybe one day we will be a bigger group, to change the path people are following.”
The feedback from this network of similar ideas isn’t very frequent yet, but the similar values make Monique Volkers believe that one day the concept of permaculture will be appreciated.