The major activity at the Herdade do Pinheiro is the forestry exploitation divided into 4 distinct groups:
The production of cork is dispersed all over the Estate, creating a typical landscape (montado) of 3600ha. It is worth stating that there is a remarkably large area of about 1000ha of only cork oaks (planted and naturally regenerated) with a density well above average. The montados are relatively young (40 to 80 years old) and are in full production.
The cork trees are harvested every nine years. The virgin (first cork) is usually gathered after 25 to 30 years. When you plant a cork tree you do so for your children or your grandchildren!
Due to the number of trees at the Herdade do Pinheiro the cork harvest can take place every year amounting to an annual average of 500 tons or 33’000 arrobas. In professional terms, the cork extracting is calculated in “arrobas/@ “ each one weighing 15 kg.
The extraction takes place in the summer when it is hot and the cork oak is in full activity. The bark (cork) is removed in strips that are hand-cut by professional workers with small axes. This is a delicate operation requiring knowledge close to that of an artisan and the strength of a man. The women pick up the strips which are light (this is cork!) and gather them together. Then they paint the year of the extraction on the trees. As the cork is extracted every nine years, only one digit is necessary.
For each extraction we use around 50 to 90 seasonal workers for two months.
The production of pine nuts is also an activity with a certain relevance. However, contrary to what happened in the past, nowadays the production is decreasing perhaps due to the effects of climate change and constant attacks of different insects or other plagues. The stone pines can be found all over the Estate although there are planted areas of higher density. All the stone pines are in Biological Production.
The harvest is done in the winter months. The pine cones are collected directly off the tree whilst they are still shut. To collect the pine cones the workers use a long-handled prod (4m) or they climb the trees up to 20 meters on specific one-sided ladders that are hung on the branches. It is a dangerous job. The transformation of the pine cones into pine nuts is done by a local company.
The maritime pines are very important for the large number of bird species that fly to the Herdade do Pinheiro especially the wood pigeons. The forests have suffered losses due to the pine Capricorn (a little bug that kills the pine trees) and many years of drought. You can find maritime pines speckled across the Estate, the highest density forest being near the banks of the Sado estuary, in a protected area of 700ha by legislative decree dating back to 1974 called the wood pigeon dormitory. The harvesting of resin which was done in the old days is no longer done today.
In the beginning of 20th century, wine grapes were grown at the Herdade do Pinheiro but unfortunately there were heavy losses due to the phyloxera. These areas and others amounting to 600ha are now used to grow eucalyptus trees. The eucalyptus tree has a particularity, it grows back once it has been felled. Therefore, the trunks are cut every 10 to 11 years over a period of 30 years, then the stump is removed. This is done in partnership with the paper making company Navigator.
All of the forests are certified FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and PEFC (Program of Endorsement of Forest Certification), demanding a higher level of economic, social and environmental responsibility.