One of the first steps was to dig swales (trenches following contour lines perpendicular to a slope), so rain percolates in the soil, allowing plants to make more use of the little rain water – rather than washing away nutrients or creating erosion. Mulching is also used, a technique of covering the soil around all cultivated plants with dry hay, leaves, coffee shells or sugar cane bagasse, in order to maintain humidity and avoid an overgrowth of weeds. This organic matter also decomposes, increasing soil life and nutrients.
The garden soil was literally created through a process of an extensive composting technique called “sheet composting.” Without it, growing such a broad variety of produce would not have been possible due to the depleted state of the soil and the naturally rocky subsoil.
Following one of the most important permaculture principles, each element must have several functions, so the farm also raises chickens in a movable pen. This pen is the exact size of each individual garden bed, providing eggs while also debugging the soil and leaving the scratched-in chicken manure as fertilizer, ready for planting after each rotation. A worm farm transforms the organic kitchen scraps produced in the restaurant into high quality soil for the nursery and gardens, keeping the cycle intact.
The vegetable gardens have been designed in the form of Mandalas in which veggies, fruit trees, culinary and medicinal herbs, ornamentals and native plants coexist, creating a healthy and balanced environment. Staple vegetables are regularly harvested such as garlic and onions; potatoes, sweet potatoes and winter squash; tomatoes, eggplants, sweet and spicy peppers; corn, and all imaginable leafy greens. Fresh Mediterranean, South American and Asian herbs complete the final touches on the dishes.
Temperate-climate fruit trees like peaches, pears, apples or figs are grown alongside tropical and native varieties such as pineapple, mango, atemoia, guava, graviola, and passion fruit. Includingthe many native trees that have been planted to reforest the land, including pau d’arco, tamboril, copaíba, quaresmeira, quina, angico and jacarandá da Bahia. There is a total of more than 200 species of plants being grown here – a veritable biodiversity hotspot!
After six years of hard work, the changes are visible and rewarding. Native and exotic trees are developing abundantly, while pioneer species give space to secondary slow growth trees. The variety and quantity of wild life is also increasing as a result. A number of reptiles are returning and many bird species are now present such as cardinal (Paroaria coronata), woodpecker (Piciformes), sofrê (Icterus jamacaii) and anu preto (Crotophaga ani). There have even been sightings of the local jaguar that lends the Bistrô its name.
The next step in the farm’s development is the development of cattle raising, using the Voisin system for dairy production and the provision of on-site manure for agriculture. The Voisin technique consists of raising cattle in small paddocks, where the time span the animals remain in each paddock is the minimum necessary for obtaining the highest quality feed. This allows for the least damage to grazing plants and grasses so they can make a rapid recovery. This practice helps soil retain its biodiversity, prevents soil erosion and consequently allows the original vegetation to recover in an efficient span of time. The natural pasture-based diet for the animals results in dairy that is highest in the essential nutrients needed for human consumption.
“We grow and think in an organic way, always looking for diversity and balance!”