Last weekend was the 1st of November, when Catholics honour the dead, visiting their graves, a day when cemeteries all over the country are filled with the bright reds and pinks and yellows of the flowers left there by relatives, showing their loved ones may be gone, but not forgotten. Only, this year, there will be no visiting graves around the country, as the government has forbidden travels between different municipalities, to avoid further spread of the pandemic, which is bad as it is and growing.
I left Lisbon by mid-afternoon, even if the ban only begins at midnight. It was a lovely autumn afternoon, warm and sunny, and I as drove towards Sintra I called my son Afonso to ask if he was in his piece of land and told him I’d drop by.
I parked the car down the slope and I immediately saw the rows of different shades of green and purples, all sorts of lettuce and cabbage, and noticed how they had grown since I had last been here. The piece of land was beautiful, but now it has come alive, Mother Nature generous and kind, plants blossoming under the pink light of the late afternoon. The boys were busy picking lettuce and arugula and radish. In no time I joined Pedro, who explained I should look for the little red balls emerging from the earth – this meant radishes were ready to be picked. Then it was time to make bundles and tie them with a rope, put the appetising bright green lettuce into the boxes and stock them into Pedro’s car, who was going to make the deliveries in Lisbon. They were constantly checking their orders, while Afonso praised his brother’s selling skills – in no time he had called his huge group of friends and they had all ordered something.
The fact is – the plan was for production to begin in two weeks, more or less, but the recent heavy rain meant some vegetables developed more quickly, and from one moment to the other Afonso had quite a few products to sell. We all made the most of our networks – this is quickly becoming a family business – and people responded. After all, those who tasted the first lettuces were adamant about their quality and freshness. They make for a different salad, that’s the truth, they are lighter, their taste is more subtle. After all, they are grown without chemicals. Biological farming is about going back to our roots, to natural products, whose taste we had long forgotten.
The light is falling fast, and I’m invaded by the beauty of the moment, of this place. I pick up my phone, my hands brown with earth from picking the radishes, and I take a few photos to remember this perfect moment by. The errands I had to make on my way home are completely forgotten, while I help the boys pack Pedro’s car. Soon it’s completely dark and we’re not finished, so Afonso asks me to put the lights of my car on while we take care of the last orders. It’s kind of eerie, but still beautiful, to be out there, in the dark, the silence around us only interrupted by some bird singing from time to time while nature prepares to go to sleep.
Pedro’s trunk is full. He closes it, checks the orders one last time with his brother, and soon the lights of his car vanish into the night. He is heading to Lisbon where he will make sure my friends, and his and his brother’s, the client base that Afonso is building, will be able to savour a delicious salad tomorrow!
Tomorrow, when the sun rises, it will shine again on the greens and purples of the leaves that are coming out of the rich dark brown Earth, looking up to the sky. Afonso will be there early, preparing for a new workday. What a hard-working, entrepreneurial man my son has become. But he is much more than that – he is passionate about what he is doing. And he has bid his timing too – after all, biological farming is considered to be one of the pillars of this new economy that will rise from the ashes of the pre-pandemic world; and he is riding this wave of opportunity.
As I drive through the dark, finally going home, I feel happy, and proud. My son, my beautiful blue-eyed baby, has grown, and become a man. A man who is fighting for his dream and making it come true.