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Meet a Cork Grower

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Pedro Sousa Prates

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Fifth-generation cork grower

Ponte de Sôr County, Central Portugal

Pedro owns two cork ranches, where he continues the work begun in the year 1700 by his great great grandfather, António Lopes Prates.

Ninety percent of the 250-acre S. Martinho de Cima ranch is densely forested with cork trees. It has sandy, loamy soils on both sides of the beautiful Sôr River, which crosses the middle of the ranch on its course downstream to the spectacular Montargil dam. Ancient ruins dating back to the region's period of colonization under the powerful Roman Empire dot the forest landscape. Even in ancient times, this land supported the growth and harvest of cork, which the Romans used for a wide range of purposes including construction, fishing and stoppers for wine and olive oil.

Pedro lives on the smaller Ervideira ranch, in a house his father built in 1920. Old family photos show mules performing the heavy fieldwork, and highlight the exceptionally thick bark that has long characterized the cork trees grown here — the result, Pedro says, of careful forest management sustained by generation after generation.

"Besides being a dependable source of my family's business income, this land has great sentimental value as well," Pedro says. "Five generations of my family have lived and worked here, so this land and these cork forests hold a lot of my family's history."

Looking ahead to future generations, Pedro is preparing his two grandsons — Antonio and Manuel — so they may carry forward their family's work.

What is Pedro's philosophy toward cork growing? First, he cherishes his family's long connection to the ranches, and considers it an honor to follow the work of his ancestors. Pedro also keeps pace with modern forestry practices, paying special attention to soil conservation, and often meets with other cork producers to exchange ideas and experiences. And finally, he values his partnership with Cork Supply, and appreciates the feedback he receives regarding the quality of his cork.

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