Crops of the convent

Two years after our first visit, Inside returns to Convent’Bio to bear witness to its evolution

– July 6, 2021

Anyone driving by Lagoa has certainly noticed the white building on the right-hand side of the road. It is the old Convento do Carmo de Lagoa, a convent founded in 1551 under the influence of Catherine of Austria, Queen of Portugal, and which is now home to Convent’Bio — a project inaugurated in 2019 and created by agronomist and local entrepreneur Jos  Pina. Upon our first visit, in February 2019, it was clear that this was to be labour of love.

Born and raised in Lagoa, Pina remembers the space as the convent that, in the 1970s, would hold religious and agricultural festivals, where producers and farmers would come with their tractors to be blessed by the Bishop, as a way of ensuring a good farming season.

It was with this in mind that, in 2015, when he acquired the property, he came up with the idea of maintaining the tradition of agriculture. “Besides my academic training, I have several other operations linked to the sector and this one had to be too,” he says. “Based on the history of the place, life and the way people lived, I decided to dedicate this project to organic farming,” he adds.

Spanning almost three hectares, Convent’Bio has a vegetable garden and a greenhouse, where a variety of vegetables are produced: asparagus, lettuce, tomatoes, beetroot, onions, cabbage, celery, carrots, and beans. There is also space to grow some aromatic herbs such as coriander, mint, parsley, and oregano. These products are used in the dishes served at the in-house restaurant, which has vegetarian and vegan options that can be enjoyed both on the esplanade and in the dining room, which is in the chapel.

On the other side of the room, the shelves and wooden racks make up the grocery store with all the vegetables from the garden, seasonal fruit, and eggs, and customers can take their jars to shop in bulk. There are also various organic and certified pro ducts such as pasta, chocolates, yoghurts, teas, biscuits, vegetable drinks, and even meat. In the drinks area, there are more than 80 types of wines, from Vinho Verde to whites and from reds to rosés. There is also a section for kitchenware and cosmetics. Another standout feature of this grocery store is the wide variety of flours, super-foods, and even detergents in bulk. According to the owner, the most popular product is the yeast-free bread they make in their wood-burning oven on Tuesdays and Thursdays. “All the spaces are focused on healthy food, ecological responsibility, and pure, organic, certified, excellent food that does not contain genetically modified organisms,” says Jos  Pina. In terms of environmental concern, Convent’Bio stands out for having solar panels, ecological septic tanks and for using only biological detergents and paper bags.

But what are the characteristics and advantages of producing and consuming biological products? “It’s a type of agriculture that uses no chemical products, no fertilisers, and is made with what nature gives us. The vegetables grow in their season and coexist with the weeds that are part of the ecosystem. In other words, the soil and the seasonality of the crops are respected.

There is rotation, variety and we avoid monocultures,” explains the agronomist. All these benefits give Convent’Bio a seal of quality and organic certification that seems to be gaining more and more followers. “Most of our clients are from the foreign community, but we are seeing more and more Portuguese people coming back. We can see more and more that people are aware of the importance of choosing organic products and including them in their diet,” states José Pina.

This spring, and for the first time since Convent’Bio was founded, they are growing asparagus in the garden — something quite uncommon in the Algarve. “They’re in season and there are three different sizes. It’s a 10-year production and we still don’t know how much we’ll get. We can think about exporting, but we must have production in quantity. Maybe it’s possible, but this is the first year we’re producing them,” Pina explains. And, as Convent’Bio values well-being above everything, on the top floor there is also a multi-purpose room, where there are exhibitions and yoga classes, workshops, and talks, focused on healthy and organic food.

As for the future, Jos  Pina’s plans are clear: to increase the product range at the shop, recover some convent traditions, and therefore renovate the chapel, as well as offering families and children “a walk in the vegetable garden, contact with nature, with agriculture and even picking vegetables directly from the land”, he predicts.

If you wish to visit the place, have lunch, or just enjoy some organic pancakes for breakfast, Convent’Bio is open Monday to Saturday, from 9am to 6pm. For those who cannot travel, you can order any product through the brand’s website, to be delivered at home, with free delivery for orders over €50. You can also choose vegetable, fruit, mixed or personalised hampers, to be delivered weekly or every two weeks to your home, with a variety of organic, certified, quality, and seasonal products.

TEXT Maria Simiris
PHOTOS Phaze Photography

Author: Inside Carvoeiro

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