Meeting the medronho and honey farmers

Yesterday Nic and I met Americo Telo – an expert in rural/community development and cooperatives who also works at the local bank helping agricultural people develop their businesses. Super sweet, clever and interesting man.

We talked about our project ideas – wanting to help local people promote their products better to tourists. He works with all the local producers and has helped set up cooperatives for modrono, honey, forestry producers. He has also tried to set up an association for artesanatos but the ‘artists’ and ‘craftspeople’ dont want to be put together.

In order to sell their modrono (local spirit made from crushing the red and golden modrono fruit) producers need to have a biological certification. Modrono can not have over 200 points acidity. The less acidity, the smoother the alcohol. Modrono recently distilled sells at 20 Euros, after 3 years it becomes vintage and can sell for over 28 Euros. It is drank widely locally, and has ‘magical powers’ but is hardly known outside the area. Americo has been working with the producers to help them sell their modrono. This has not been easy, as most of the farmers are very old, are not used to change and PR and marketing are not words in their vocabularly!

Americo is trying to develop a quality kite mark – like ‘ product of Monchique’ – for the produce that has been properly tested, approved and comes from Monchique. This is one of the things we are going to help him with. Nic is a designer and can do this easily.

Americo also has the idea to create 3 small shops along the main tourist routes – to Foia, to Caldes, to Portimao which will sell produce that has been kitemarked.

The pilot for these shops has been created by Americo in the centre of Monchique. It sells honey, modrono, meloza (modrono with honey in it), home made jams and has a tiny section promoting lemons. Everything in the shop is produced by local people. What works is:

  • There are photos of the producers beside their products. This gives a personal touch and helps people choose.

  • There is also a ‘modrono of the day’ and the farmer who made that modrono comes into the shop on that day to promote his product
  • They are opening a shop in Portimao which is the same and promotes Monchique products
  • The shop is also quite nicely laid out, there is a girl there to answer questions and it has nice wooden signs outside.
  • There are samples to taste of everything

What doesn’t work is:

  • All the labels are different and there is no coherency between the products
  • Some of the labels (rotulos – new word of the day!) are really unattractive
  • There is nothing to differentiate between the different modronos – eg. no description of the unique taste of that product over another – so nothing for a tourist to choose one over another except the label and the photo of that man
  • The prodoucers dont know how to sell their products – when I asked the producer of the day what made his modrono more special than the others he said they are all good – that his isn’t special!
  • Only one producer creates little bottles that cost less than 5 E – the others are 10-30E.
  • The girl who works there only speaks Portuguese

Opportunities and ideas for us to get involved are:

  • Create a quality kite mark brand for all the products – ‘producto do Monchique’
  • Make a map which shows where all the different products are made
  • Visit the producers and ask which would be interested in receiving tourists on their farms (this would be a great business idea – to set up tours for tourists of producers and artesanatos)
  • Create descriptions of the different types of modrono
  • Investigate making a gift set of meloza, modrono and honey in the same pots and packaged nicely
  • Create a new label which defines the modrono in different regions

We are going to do this and hope to present the work on Fri 17 Dec at our office space – creating an ‘alternative tourist office’


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