At the beginning of 2007, Real Idanha, Lda. acquired its first 15-hectare property on land in Idanha-a-Nova, starting one of the first organic farming projects in the municipality. The choice of organic farming was unquestionable, given that, in the 21st century, aware of and sensitive to environmental problems and emerging climate challenges, it was inconceivable to start a farming project with only profit in mind. Environmental sustainability was the premise.
We dedicated the first 7 years of our existence (2007 to 2014) to the production of organic strawberries, where we made a name for ourselves on the national market, despite all the adversities imposed by geographical isolation and market fluctuations. At the same time, we discovered a passion for regional olive oil, through the exploitation of our olive grove. We soon realized the beauty of the olive oil sector, its weaknesses in the region, as well as its unique potential.
Bical, Cordovil de Castelo Branco e Galega da Beira Baza are the autochthonous olive varieties present in our olive groves as well as throughout the Idanha-a-Nova Council. Nevertheless, they are underutilized. We understand that, if an efficient strategy is not found, the fate of the region's traditional rainfed olive groves and these native varieties would be, in the medium term, completely abandoned. Followed by their replacement for more profitable crops such as eucalyptus or intensive monocultures.
We felt that the presence of the traditional olive grove is a landscape and cultural heritage of the region. Closely linked to the history of this land and its people, which needed to be revitalized. We decided to intervene. That's how, back in 2014, we radically reversed our business strategy and chose to focus on the traditional olive groves of Beira Baixa as our main sector of activity.
By taking a fresh look at old customs and understanding regional resources and knowledge, we have opened up a new sector of activity in the project, (re)introducing grazing in the olive grove. Reinforcing our social responsibility, we chose to work with the indigenous Beira Baixa Merino sheep breed, since it was on the verge of extinction, thus becoming certified breeders. The symbiosis between olive groves and sheep has been perfect, with one activity complementing and completely benefiting the other in a productive cycle.
By placing sheep in the olive grove, we can keep the land clean and naturally fertilized, and control the growth of basal shoots, thus benefiting the vigor and productivity of the olive tree. We reduce the use of tractors or other mechanical means in the olive grove to a minimum, guaranteeing a permanent vegetation cover for the soil, protecting it from erosion, and promoting a growing biodiversity. The process of improving the soil and overall productivity is notable, plus the sale of lambs for meat as a substantial financial complement to the project. We have thus reduced costs, increased revenue, and productivity, working only with nature.
Egitânia olive oil brand (named after the ancient town of Idanha-a-Velha) was finally created. Producing a unique identity for organic olive oil from the Idanha region, synonymous with superior quality and environmental sustainability. In the field, we are perfecting and refining the management of sheep in the olive grove, developing and investing in means of composting and improving the soil, and boosting systems for capturing and distributing water in the soils of our farms. We believe that traditional rainfed olive groves are financially viable when they are enhanced and combined with other productive activities. These activities are compatible with olive production and the approach should be focused on environmental sustainability and the preservation of biodiversity.
Our aim with this project is to create a national benchmark in the management and rehabilitation of traditional dry-farmed olive groves, preventing their destruction and abandonment, and preserving the cultural identity, heritage, and landscape that they represent in Portugal.