Monte do Camelo Wins Big with Sustainably Grown Native Varieties

The small-scale Portuguese producers earned a Silver Award at the 2024 NYIOOC for a Galega monovarietal. The company focuses on growing native olives sustainably.

Ana Cardoso and Paolo Morosi harvesting their groves in Alentejo (Photo: Monte do Camelo)
By Paolo DeAndreis
May. 28, 2024 11:54 UTC
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Ana Cardoso and Paolo Morosi harvesting their groves in Alentejo (Photo: Monte do Camelo)

For the third year in a row, Monte do Camelo has been rec­og­nized on the inter­na­tional stage. The Portuguese pro­ducer earned a Silver Award at the 2024 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition for its Tratturo de Fronteira brand, a medium-inten­sity Galega.

The ten-hectare farm is nes­tled in Fronteira in upper Alentejo, one of Portugal’s prin­ci­pal olive oil-pro­duc­ing regions.

Sometimes, sus­tain­abil­ity is cited with­out real merit. In our case, grow­ing bio­di­ver­sity is a rel­e­vant part of our work here. Our goal is main­tain­ing the soil while help­ing the envi­ron­ment thrive.- Ana Cardoso, co-owner, Monte do Camelo

Ana Cardoso and Paolo Morosi started grow­ing olives in 2017. They ini­tially con­cen­trated their efforts on the local Galega cul­ti­var and later incor­po­rated the Cobrançosa to diver­sify and enrich their pro­duc­tion.

Morosi said Galega trees pro­duce mod­est amounts of small olives. The trees are strong, healthy and resilient,” he added.

See Also:Producer Profiles

The cou­ple expressed a com­bi­na­tion of sat­is­fac­tion with the recog­ni­tion and moti­va­tion to improve for the next year upon learn­ing the news of the award.

We are, of course, very happy with the results at the NYIOOC,” Cardoso said. Last year, we won a Gold Award with our Cobrançosa mono­va­ri­etal at its debut. We hoped to win Gold this year as well.”

One of the unusual aspects of the excel­lent Galega olive oil is its volatile notes, which tend to quickly change so that on the nose, the green, fruity aro­mas might quickly turn to almost ripen while retain­ing that unique green, fruity fla­vor in the mouth,” she added.

When Cardoso and Morosi first acquired the farm in 2014, about 1,000 Galega olive trees were scat­tered across the prop­erty.

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Cardoso and Morosi cultivate Galega and Cobrançosa, both native to Portugal. (Photo: Monte do Camelo)

They are ran­domly scat­tered across the farm­land, up to ten meters apart,” Cardoso said. It is beau­ti­ful, even if har­vest­ing might require more effort than else­where.”

In 2018, the cou­ple expanded their oper­a­tions, adding 2.5 hectares of Cobrançosa olives in a densely planted orchard set­ting.

Those are the only olive trees we irri­gate,” Cardoso said. They are young trees. Once they grow a bit, we will stop irri­ga­tion.”

This approach reflects the grow­ers’ com­mit­ment to sus­tain­able agri­cul­tural prac­tices and antic­i­pa­tion of future self-suf­fi­ciency.

Four years ago, moti­vated by their stud­ies at the University of Lisbon and other edu­ca­tional pur­suits focused on pro­cess­ing tech­nolo­gies and pro­ce­dures, Cardoso and Morosi built a mill.

profiles-the-best-olive-oils-production-europe-monte-do-camelo-wins-big-with-sustainably-grown-native-varieties-olive-oil-times

In 2020, Cardoso and Morosi built a mill to control the produciton process. (Photo: Monte do Camelo)

We had to, as we did not want our olives mixed with those of other pro­duc­ers, which hap­pened before,” Cardoso said. We adopted an organic approach pro­mot­ing regen­er­a­tive agri­cul­ture, some­thing not many other pro­duc­ers in the area apply in the groves.”

Monte do Camelo’s extra vir­gin olive oil will be for­mally cer­ti­fied organic next year, com­plet­ing the legal require­ments for con­vert­ing to organic farm­ing.

Sometimes, sus­tain­abil­ity is cited with­out real merit. In our case, grow­ing bio­di­ver­sity is a rel­e­vant part of our work here,” Cardoso said. Our goal is main­tain­ing the soil while help­ing the envi­ron­ment thrive.”

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The farm dis­con­tin­ued the tra­di­tional prac­tice of tillage. Instead, the cou­ple has begun plant­ing legu­mi­nous plants to enrich the soil and pre­vent ero­sion, a com­mon prac­tice in the arid region of Alentejo.

Additionally, the farm reuses com­post from prun­ing remains and olive milling byprod­ucts spread across the orchards to fer­til­ize the soil.

Monte do Camelo is also the guardian of a vibrant ecosys­tem around the prop­erty.

In the outer areas of our prop­erty, we main­tain a rich diver­sity of autochtho­nous plants, shrubs and trees, which define the bor­ders of our farm­land and are also a sig­nif­i­cant habi­tat for ani­mals and insects,” Cardoso said.

Furthermore, the cou­ple has imple­mented mea­sures to sup­port local wildlife, includ­ing pro­vid­ing water stor­age tanks acces­si­ble to ani­mals dur­ing the region’s often extended dry peri­ods and cre­at­ing quiet nest­ing areas for birds and bees.

profiles-the-best-olive-oils-production-europe-monte-do-camelo-wins-big-with-sustainably-grown-native-varieties-olive-oil-times

Hiring enough harvest workers is among the challenges Monte do Camelo faces. (Photo: Monte do Camelo)

Birds in the orchards are pre­cious, as in day­light they can effi­ciently com­bat the spread­ing of the olive fruit fly,” Cardoso said. We also pro­vide houses to the local pop­u­la­tion of bats, which at night will have the olive moth as part of their diet.”

The most recent sea­son was par­tic­u­larly fruit­ful for the Portuguese pro­ducer. The 2023/24 sea­son was boun­ti­ful, despite a quite dry win­ter fol­lowed by a drought, which prob­a­bly trig­gered even higher lev­els of polyphe­nols,” Cardoso said.

While the pre­vi­ous sea­son was really bad for us, as well as for so many other peo­ple in the coun­try and else­where, this one has gone much bet­ter,” she added. A rea­son for this is the organic treat­ments we pro­vide to our trees, be it potas­sium, cal­cium or boron. Those are all aimed at rein­forc­ing the plants.”

As Monte do Camelo aspires to break into the North American mar­ket, it faces ongo­ing chal­lenges, such as labor short­ages and reg­u­la­tory hur­dles, but it remains focused on pro­duc­ing high-qual­ity olive oil.

profiles-the-best-olive-oils-production-europe-monte-do-camelo-wins-big-with-sustainably-grown-native-varieties-olive-oil-times

Winning awards at the World Olive Oil Competition helps Monte do Camelo reach new markets. (Photo: Monte do Camelo)

The har­vest is man­ual, with the sole help of the har­vesters, and you have to arrange the nets for the olives under the trees and move them around,” Cardoso said. I would say that the lack of sea­sonal work­force is the num­ber one prob­lem for high-qual­ity olive oil pro­duc­tion in the region.”

As the num­ber of high-den­sity and super-high-den­sity olive farms increases in Alentejo, the cou­ple admit­ted in an October 2023 inter­view that it makes it harder for small-scale pro­duc­ers to com­pete.

Small-medium scale pro­duc­ers, in addi­tion to hav­ing to cope with drought and other chal­lenges, find them­selves forced to con­tend with the ever-increas­ing num­ber of super-inten­sive groves, both envi­ron­men­tally and eco­nom­i­cally,” Cardoso and Morosi said.

Despite these chal­lenges, the farm’s suc­cess at the NYIOOC fur­ther strength­ened its rep­u­ta­tion, attract­ing new cus­tomers and con­firm­ing its sta­tus as one of the world’s top olive oil pro­duc­ers.

Winning in New York was a con­fir­ma­tion,” Morosi con­cluded. Our cus­tomers look at those Awards when decid­ing whether or not to con­tinue buy­ing our olive oils.”


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