In 2019, Stone & Compass (S&C) intern Carter Murray decided to look into new projects that we could invest in. With help from interns Hana Feingold and Eila Sullivan, in just 12 months, our interns fabricated a service learning trip to the Azores, a small Portuguese archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic. The trip is centered in the rural village of Achadinha, around a local couple named Gena Pinheiro and João Mendonça. They own a small 3rd generation dairy farm, known quite simply as The Farm, and a holistic health business called ÂMAGO wellness. Gena and João are determined to bring food production and health full circle by combining their farming, sustainable development, and holistic health backgrounds to operate their farm as an educational wellness farm focusing on Regenerative Agriculture, Regenerative Tourism, and Regenerative Wellness.
In collaboration with The Farm, we have worked to support and expand their sustainable farming methods and sustainable tourism activities in order to benefit both the Azorean community and the environment. S&C raised funds to help restructure the inside of the milking barn, which practically eliminated the need to feed grain during milking. The benefit of this is that now almost everything the cows eat consists of grass produced on the farm, which further reduces their carbon footprint by not depending on imported grain. Even though the grain previously fed during milking time was a small percentage of the diet, it was one of the largest costs, so removing it from the equation further helps by moving this small family farm towards financial viability and self-sustainability.
When our interns reached out to The Farm, they were conducting reality farm tours as part of their sustainable tourism objective. The concept is the opposite of mass tourism and instead allows visitors to have an immersion in the true life of a local farmer while getting to know their food, their farmer and keep local life and traditions intact. Our service learning trips were the perfect complement to furthering this concept of regenerative tourism.
Through these and our future endeavors we address several of the United Nations sustainable development goals, as mentioned below.
Gena and João want to see their family farm become financially secure, but only if they can create a farming model that incorporates social and environmental concerns alongside profits. The couple’s hopes are that their farm can be an example of how to keep rural communities intact by preserving their way of life through viable farming practices that sustain the local community and ecology. Currently, Gena and João have no hired help on the farm, which means they work 7 days a week, without any holidays or days off, managing all the farm work, tourism, and wellness activities on their own. This prevents them from having time to further their sustainability endeavors.
S&C would like to help get them to a place where they can cut out the middleman and sell their dairy products directly to consumers. This would ensure they are paid a fair price for their products and allow them to hire their team so they can get the necessary support to move this meaningful project forward. Once this goal materializes, they can begin rotating their cattle more often to build soil by emulating how herds of ruminants migrate in nature; run their reality farm tours more frequently and offer new sustainable tourism experiences; and create a space on the farm where their wellness workshops can be held to connect people to the land, their food, and their bodies.
Stone & Compass runs a popular high school service learning trip in the summer that teaches students about sustainability. The high school service trip includes trips to The Farm where students work hands-on as well as learn about regenerative farming and dairy production. Here the students will learn about the importance of sustainable agriculture and immerse themselves in the Azorean culture.
Flagler College runs a study abroad program in the Azores, focusing on sustainable tourism and environmentally friendly practices. Professors and students fly to the Azores to learn about the importance of sustainable agriculture and the effects it has on the Azorean communities. They will meet with local officials and business owners to discuss the goals of green energy and sustainable tourism in the Azores. They will also help the communities incorporate sustainable farming practices while discussing ways it can further be implemented on the islands.