Hortas do Vale is a farm project at Vale da Lama that aims at creating opportunity for regenerative entrepreneurs to establish an organic market garden micro business.

When we moved back to the Algarve in February 2016, first thing we did was drop by our beloved farm Vale da Lama. Interesting changes were on their way, as they always are at Vale da Lama. Our friend Yorgos was managing most of the farm’s activities. Many years had passed since we stayed for a longer period of time in the Algarve, this time around it would be three months, and half a year later in September 2016 we would move to the Algarve more permanently. Yorgos greeted us with his usual big smile, and after a short conversation we were all up to date on regenerative enterprises, ecological entrepreneurship, and Vale da Lama’s plan to support micro business experiments.

 

Interestingly enough my own learning process had also brought me from a focus on the land, to a focus on people, and lately a focus on ecological entrepreneurship. It seems like a logical progression, and when I look at the Permaculture movement as a whole I feel I see a similar trend; at its founding an almost exclusive focus on ecology, then a gradual shift toward ‘People and Permaculture’, and in the last few years a slow and gradual acceptance that people need to be able to make their livelihoods with these mostly land based activities; hence ecological and regenerative entrepreneurship.

people need to be able to make their livelihoods with these mostly land based activities

Back to Hortas do Vale. This unused half of an acre caught the eye of Mattia a charismatic Biodynamic farmer friend who came to the Algarve with his lovely partner Martha, who is a Waldorf art teacher. All parties talked and soon after Vale da Lama launched its second micro business partnership, the Market Garden was born! It was April, and seasons were not going to wait; and the seasons as any farmer knows are you biggest allies and toughest foes. I saw Mattia every single day in the garden with his Enchada (Portuguese farmer’s hoe), labouring away in the sweltering heat. Sure enough by the end of the month he had established many rows of beds, had the tractor do a single 30 cm ploughing, incorporated some manure, installed temporary drip irrigation, and planted a wide variety of crops. I….. was…… inspired!

Mattia stayed on till October or so 2016, but felt Italy calling him back he said. He planned on starting a farmer’s cooperative with some of his hometown friends around Venice, and produce Biodynamic vegetables. We (my partner Alexandra and our little daughter Elani) had just moved back to Portugal, after a more temperate climate summer, and we felt ready to rumble as a young family!

Upon hearing that Mattia and Martha were leaving, the question arose who will carry on Hortas do Vale? Yorgos was overcharged with projects already, and wanted to keep Hortas do Vale as an external project. So a call was sent out, and exchanges took place with potential ecopreneurs. However, none of them came through. During this time, I couldn’t contain my eagerness and enthusiasm, I had been gardening for some years now, and felt I picked up on some of Mattia’s secrets (I even interviewed him to get as much info as possible). I’ll do it!! I blurted out to Yorgos. Really? Yorgos said as always with his big smile. Yes of course! I exclaimed.

Long story short, I didn’t do it, life as a young father proved to be much more challenging than I thought, and I overestimated my power of persuasion to get more people aboard to divide the work. Hortas do Vale was without stewards and for a moment it looked like Mattia’s work wouldn’t be carried on, a real shame. Until one day we sat together, and Yorgos said with a smile (a less big smile, yet still a big smile) we must do it! Although Vale da Lama already had many projects to manage internally, its own vegetable garden was too important to let go, it is after all the base of everything else. So, together with Ricardo’s muscle power, and the rest of Vale da Lama’s crew: Catarina, Walt, Nita, Ana Maria, Bruno, Gabriella, Dewi, and many others, Hortas do Vale managed to survive, live on, and is currently thriving like never before!

Check out blog articles at Vale da Lama for more stories, hit up the photo gallery below, and register for the course in September if you want to learn how to set up your own Market Garden micro business! Thanks for reading, and make sure to sign up for our updates, which include loads of free tips and tricks, articles, courses, and free Permaculture E-Books. See you around!

Market Garden Course

Join us this 1st till 3rd of September at Hortas do Vale for an exciting Intro course! Bringing together Ecology and Entrepreneurship.

Check it out!