We are offering a volunteering experience of the special kind: To counter the desertification of our region and answer current environmental and social challenges in a positive way, we are going convert our farm into a space of learning, teaching and experimentation, for those who want to develop a sustainable business on their own. This can encompass the full range from the simplest handcraft like handmade textiles to high tech activities like drones and sensor technology. We are planning to support the experience by setting up a curriculum that consists not only of lessons about how to run a business, but will move into areas like psychology, sociology, history, philosophy, science, sustainability and technology. Our trainees will be encouraged to enrich the curriculum with own ideas or to suggest additional study topics that we can explore together.
We do not just want to provide the framework for you to develop your business ideas, but we aim to question the very foundations economy and business are based upon, want to experiment with new ways of organizing work and decision-taking in groups, and through a regional network of mutual support mitigate the risk of self-exploitation and failure that threatens those who dare to try and leave the well-trodden path. One foundation of this is our vegetable garden. In the last years it has fallen out of use but we believe that the independence of knowing how to grow your own food can be an important element of an independent and dignified existence and of a more healthy work-life balance. We are aware there are many different approaches to run an organic garden and plan to experiment with various approaches in a systematic way to find out what works and what doesn’t. You are welcome to bring your ideas to be put to the test!
Another project will be our solar kitchen. Solar energy is free for anyone to use and its applications can be surprisingly easy. Combined with a biogas digester, a completey independent, off-grid farm kitchen can be built. We plan to experiment with different solar ovens and driers to collect data and possibly improve existing concepts, with a initial focus on easy-to-build, small scale applications.
Pedro is an agricultural engineer and a former teacher, whose subjects stretched from chemistry over biology to farming and ecology. His teaching mode is fueled by pure passion and has no OFF-button, so the best way to keep him happy is to keep him teaching. He has been riding and training horses for years and builds and flies model airplanes. Might appear stubborn at times, but his criticism is seldom out of place, and if you take the time to get to know him, you will be surprised by his open-mindedness.
Sarah looks back onto several impressive careers as hobo, radical eco-protester, artist and mediocre carpenter. In her current reincarnation she appears as translator, student of electrical engineering and drone racing enthusiast, and gets constantly scared of her own schedule (and life in general). Many years ago, she used to live in an eco community and would like to build on this experience to develop a more successful and grounded approach to leverage the power of community and develop a positive impulse for the region.
The Serra da Estrela is the highest mountain range in continental Portugal, and at its southern side stretches Cova da Beira with the City of Covilhã. Textile industry used to be the driving force in the city, nowadays it’s the local university that attracts people. Unfortunately the region suffers the same problem as other parts of rural Portugal far from the beaches: despite the beautiful surroundings and a great quality of life, it is very difficult for people to actually settle here. Work is hard to find and usually badly paid, and many students opt to move away after they finish university. We understand that changing this requires creativity and courage, and believe that the benefits can be immense. Therefore we want to join and increase the small network of pioneers who have started to appear in the area and contribute to the robustness and success of local sustainable business initiatives.