How Ruben is transitioning his farm to regenerative management

Blog post 11 – manuel troya-featured image
27 Nov, 2023
— Arlene Barclay

Ruben Jorge is the manager of Carvalhal, a farm situated in the Castelo Branco region of Portugal. Since 2021, Ruben has been on a mission to regenerate his land.

We spoke with Ruben to understand his motivations, learnings, and the steps he’s taking to transition.

Farmer
Ruben Jorge

Location
Idanha-A-Nova, Portugal

Type of farm
Arable and agroforestry

Produce
Pistachios and chestnuts

Farm name
Carvalhal

Farm size
52 hectares

Social structure
Association

Sales channels
Markets and grocery stores

History and context of Carvalhal

 

Carvalhal is one part of a wider ecosystem restoration project that Ruben and his colleagues, known collectively under the brand RH Florestal,  have ambitiously pursued.

Their mission is to diversify farming and forestry land while implementing responsible stewardship that can generate long-term economic, environmental and societal benefits. 

“The forest must be valued not only for the material resources it produces but also for the ecosystem services it provides to all of us. We believe that carbon sequestration, conservation of soils, increased biodiversity, and regulation of the water cycle will one day be accounted for.”

The regenerative transition

Ruben kickstarted the transition of Carvalhal in 2021. He heard more and more about the concept of regenerative agriculture through various books and workshops. 

After realising the management style could have a huge impact on his land, he began running experiments and testing out new techniques.

Transition start date
Approximately 2021.

Necessary investment costs
-Tree seeds 
-Mower / 20,000 €

New practices implemented
Mulching, residue management, reduced herbicide and fertiliser application, no harrow usage, and increased diversity of tree species.

Educational courses utilised
Various books, articles, podcasts and workshops.

The benefits of regenerative agriculture

 

Ruben lacks data on how the land was performing before he took it over in 2019. However, from then until now, the impact of regenerative agriculture has shone through.

From dramatically reducing water usage to increasing soil organic matter, the farm has already experienced a cascade of positive outcomes.

Farm profitability
– 25% reduction in irrigation water
– Soil restoration remunerated
through Carbon+ Credits.

Social impact
– Happiness in his job
-Satisfaction when seeing the ecosystem improve

 

Ecological benefits
– 1.5% increase in organic matter
– More noticeable presence of biodiversity
– Reduced soil erosion and increased water retention.

Further expected benefits

“Down the line, I hope to see some sort
of basic payment for good land management practices.”

The Carbon+ Program

 

Carvalhal has achieved some brilliant results over the past two years. But unfortunately, obstacles remain. 

According to Ruben, one of the biggest challenges lies in the profitability of forestry. He states:

“Given the lack of public and private support, investment in forest conservation is impractical unless an extremely long-term perspective is adopted.”

The association has introduced a variety of fruit trees to address the issue. However, they require initial investment and takes several years to generate income. 

Ruben is utilising our Carbon+ Program to advance the regeneration of Carvalhal and overcome these financial constraints.

Planned additional practices
Cover crops, organic matter application, increased residue management, and agroforestry.

How Ruben expects Climate Farmers to support his transition
With information, advice and funding.

Motivation to join the Carbon+ Program
“I believe the future of agriculture lies in true sustainability, which includes the economic as well as the social and environmental.”

Earning estimates
Between 5,000€ – 15,000 € per year
(subject to carbon sequestration)

Closing remarks

 

Whether it’s extreme weather conditions or low margins, challenges are increasingly an everyday reality for farmers.

Through our Carbon+ Program, you can improve the health of your farm and boost your bottom line. In turn, you’ll be significantly better positioned in the years to come.

Do you want support for implementing regenerative agriculture?