A cork farm, like a fruit orchard or vineyard, is a long term agricultural project, so we learned. The one we visited was working for sustainability and earned certification for sustainability due to their practices. The farm and had been owned by the family for generations with the hiccup in 1974-76 when the family lost their estate and immigrated temporarily to Brazil. According to our guides, two sisters
, signs of mismanagement and over harvesting still exist from the revolutionary period in mid-1970’s.
The first harvest from a cork tree after years of growing is
very poor quality cork. The second harvest, nine years later is better, but not until the third harvest nine year later that one can hope to get market quality cork. We saw the special ax used by the highly skilled harvesters. If not harvested correctly the tree can be damaged and destroyed. The trees had numbers on them in black.
A number “9” would be a 2019 harvest date. The next harvest for that tree would be 2028. In the cork forest were some olive and pine trees olives and pine nuts were the harvest.
This was dry country, with wild boars, deer and other wildlife roaming freely We moved through the country in a covered wagon pulled by a tractor. We had lunch with wine in a dining room and were able to ask questions of the sisters. There were three generations of the family at the farm that day.
Below is a link to a slideshow of the Cork Farm and other places we visited in Portugal.