Meet a Cork Grower
Fourth-generation cork worker
Ponte de Sôr County, Central Portugal
Luis grew up in the cork forests of Ponte de Sôr County, where his family has worked stripping cork and breeding sheep since 1890. In the year 2000, he purchased two ranches and began growing cork, increasing his family's commitment to the land that has sustained them for four generations. Luis still spends the hot summer months working in the forest stripping cork trees, continuing a longstanding tradition with the men in his family.
Luis' two cork ranches are named Pernancha de Baixo and Ervideira, and both are located in the Foros do Arrão of central Portugal. Covering a combined total of 400 acres, these ranches feature the sandy soils where cork trees thrive (and where few other types of trees can survive). The trees are nourished by rainfall which percolates through the soil and drains into the central valley dividing the property. This creates an excellent water source for the family's sheep and cattle, which provide natural soil conservation by controlling excessive vegetation. Ninety percent of the land is occupied with cork forest, including a mix of old and young cork trees — the product of natural regeneration under the family's watchful eye. The remaining 10% of the land is home to rich natural pastures.
With over a century of experience working in the cork forests, the Nunes family knows how to harvest cork to achieve the highest quality while sustaining the trees that provide their livelihood. Luis' father, Antonio, has stripped the same trees four times over a period of 40 years, and has seen the quality improve harvest after harvest. His valuable knowledge and experience has been passed along to his son, who sold his very first cork harvest to Cork Supply. Now, each year, Luis helps Cork Supply identify other top quality cork ranches in the area.
"Some years we harvest many truckloads of cork wood, others only two or three loads, but the quantity is not so important. The most important thing is the quality," Luis says. "This represents all the work of our life, and it is our family's highest responsibility to care for the forest the best we can."
Although his children are still quite young, Luis is raising them to take their place in the family business. His oldest daughter, five-year-old Margarida, already enjoys a wide variety of ranch activities.