Portugal Farming Update

June 3, 2011 at 2:34 pm Leave a comment

Flower of pomegranate tree in northern Portugal (photo by Margarida Correia)

Grapes in northern Portugal (photo by Margarida Correia)

This is the first in a series of posts on my visit to Portugal.  Life on the two-acre patch of land in northern Portugal where my parents have their home breaks torrent of awful farming news around the world.

For a while, it seemed like I couldn’t catch a break anywhere from bad agricultural news.

On the day I left for Portugal the international development agency Oxfam released a report warning that prices for rice, lentils and other staple crops would more than double within 20 years. I was hit that day too with other worrisome news.  The Chinese limousine driver who drove me to the airport informed me of a long-running drought in central China and added that the Yangtze River was drying up.  “It’s very scary,” he said.

The bad news followed me to Portugal. Intense rain, thunder, and hail had wiped out most of the apple and grape crop of many growers in one of Portugal’s principal food-producing regions.

People were also concerned about the outbreak of E. Coli in cucumbers in several European countries. The deadly bacteria – believed to have started in greenhouses in Spain — had killed 16 people and infected more than 1,400 people in northern Germany with additional cases reported in Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and the U.K.

The state of farming appears to be in shambles, but here on this small patch of northern Portugal where my parents have their home, it doesn’t seem all that bad. It’s sunny, mild and breezy – perfect weather for the trees and vines that are just beginning to fill with embryonic apples, peaches, plums, pears, persimmons, pomegranates, figs, grapes and kiwis. The sun will help the fruit swell into different shapes and change from green into various shades of orange, red and yellow.  They’ll be ready to harvest in September.

I finally got my break from all the bad news, but as pleasant as this place is, I won’t let it lull me into a false sense of security.

Captions for photos above:

Top: Flower of pomegranate tree in northern Portugal.

Bottom: Grapes in northern Portugal will ripen and be harvest-ready by mid to late September.

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From City Dweller to WWOOFER Portugal Update: Rhythm of Farm Felt Miles Away

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