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Fundacion Monte Mediterraneo

What is a "Dehesa"?

If you have ever seen a mobile by Alexander Calder, like this one, for example,

your idea of stability within a flexible, mobile and multifacetted system – in opposition to a conventional concept of stability – might have changed, right?

If we want to approach the "operation mode" of a "Dehesa", the mobile is a perfect comparison. It produces stability by movement, flexibility and interaction between many different elements.

That´s more or less what happens on a "Dehesa". There we have three main sectors: agriculture, animal husbandry and forestry. Each of these three sectors branches out into subsectors of different size, characteristics and – depending on the time of the year – more or less importance.

The "Dehesa‘s" genesis takes us very far back in the history of humanity, when the Mediterranean woods ["Bosque Mediterráneo"] were thick forests. The species, which existed there were the same as on today’s "Dehesa", only the frequency distribution was different.

Step by step, men started to thin out the thick forest and so created what wikipedia defines as "a light forest composed by holm and cork oaks and other plants".

Under the protection of the pruned and shady trees a patchwork of fodder areas, fruit and vegetable gardens and pasture for cattle, sheep and pigs was created.

The sheep, for ages, have been the landscape designers of the "Dehesa", but not during the whole year. During the hot Summer months, when food was scarce in the South, they would go north on the famous "vías pecuarias", a net of paths for livestock and shepherds to migrate to Northern grazing grounds. We call this the "transhumance".

So the "Dehesa" could recover from the livestock density and the sheep whilst doing their job as landscape designers in the Northern mountains, enjoyed the mountain grass: they would light the forests, keep paths free, clear shrubs, etc. and fertilize.

The goats would serve as "icebreakers" opening the way through the shrubs, so that the sheep could enter more easily.

The cattle, who sometimes would also participate in the transhumance, took care of the second step in the creation of good pasture land on the "Dehesa".

Even today you can observe that the quality of the pasture is better wherever you can find extensive cattle breeding.

The Ibérico pig behaves during the months of fall and winter as a kind of "acorn-hoover": it is the animal that best ennobles the acorns: we appreciate – and pay for – the acorn oil in the so estimated cured ham.

If the "Dehesa" did not produce this exquisite delicatessen, it might have disappeared long ago.

Those animals who are best adapted to the life on the "Dehesa" are, at the same time, the least "profitable" ones for meat production. Their constitution, growing, development and behaviour are adapted to life in free nature and are not guided by the aims of an efficient meat production.

Many farmers on "Dehesas" in Andalusia, Extremadura and Portugal have lost so much income in the last years, that they had to close down their businesses. The landscape management and conservation through livestock breeding – worldwide known as the best way to preserve an eco-agro-system – has therefore diminished in an alarming degree.

Not only that the bush encroachment grows, also the danger of wood fires increases considerably and threatens the existence of Spanish and Portuguese forests. Fundación Monte Mediterráneo is also active in preserving the "Dehesas" in areas like investigation, training and education and creation of awareness.

Instalación de tienda-cortijo online de productos ecológicos
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