After my supervisor meeting I headed home to Portugal for a couple of weeks. I am now at a crucial stage when, as it seems, I am not as close to a concrete research proposal as I would like. There are still 'too many options' and even more, a plethora of interesting things I keep finding. In times of doubt, it is always important to go back to your source for inspiration, the reason for doing what you do. This to me is Portugal, its natural resources, its lifestyle, and specifically to research, it's food culture.
I visited farm Herdade Freixo do Meio in Aletenjo Portugal, an awarded and large organic farming development. It manages 650ha of oak and holm-oak plantation, totally converted into the Biological Production since 2001. Although this was an informal visit, it was the first time I didn't photograph or take notes, I was keeping busy absorbing this experience of sight, smell, sound..
Images and text from website: "The Freixo do Meio farm has been developing an activity of promotion of the country life and of the practice of sustainable agriculture, in respect of the existing natural resources and cycles of nature. Indifferent to the hegemony of the market and to the maximization of immediate results, it seeks an economical sustainability together with the effective practice of social and environmental policies. Freixo do Meio places high value on knowledge and on the efficiency of the processes, on the constant and progressive reduction of its ecological footprint through the production in a Organic Production Mode, on the decrease of the meat production, on the resource to local products or on the decrease of distribution distances. It looks to contribute to a new energetic order based on the local energy production and on the progressive independence of fossil oil. Freixo do Meio farm tries to manage the ecosystem of the oak-plantation in a responsible way, respecting its vocation for multi-functionality and complexity."
I chose to visit because it's a project that understands and invests in the importance of direct communication between producer and consumer. They have an awareness of this proximity gap and work towards bridging it, through strategically allowing transparency and aiming to communicate through alternative channels. Some of these strategic aspects which interest my research; part of WOOOF network (farming holidays) visitors stay from all over the world; the shop in Lisbon is only open few days a week, because on these days the owner can be present allowing for direct communication with costumers; organizes workshops and events on production sight bringing city people to the countryside; invests in social media communication; understands the importance of educating the consumer.
I am now considering how to incorporate HFM in the stakeholders of my research and how my project may develop from here.