Convent’Bio dedicates almost three hectares to producing, preparing, and selling organic products.
Anyone driving into Lagoa on the EN125 (direction Faro-Portimão) has certainly noticed the white building on the right 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 in its entirety by agronomist and local entrepreneur José Pina.
Born and raised in Lagoa, Pina remembers when in the 1970s the convent 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 businesses linked to the sector and this one had to be too,” he says. “Based on the history of the place and the way people lived, I decided to dedicate this project to organic farming,” he adds.
Spanning almost three hectares, the Convent’Bio estate boasts a vegetable garden and a greenhouse where a variety of vegetables are grown: asparagus, lettuces, tomatoes, beetroot, onions, cabbages, celery, carrots, and beans. There is also a herb garden with coriander, mint, parsley, and oregano plantations.
These products are used in the dishes served at Convent’Bio’s own restaurant, which offers vegetarian and vegan options that can be enjoyed both on the terrace or in the dining room, which can be found within the chapel.
On the other side of the room, shelves and wooden racks displaying vegetables from the garden, seasonal fruit, eggs and many other products make up the grocery store. Customers can even take their jars to shop in bulk.
There are also various organic and certified products 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 reds to whites, rosés and Vinho Verde. There is also a section for kitchenware and cosmetics.
Another highlight of the grocery store is the wide variety of flours, super-foods, and even detergents sold in bulk.
According to the owner, the most popular product is the yeast-free bread they bake in their wood-burning oven on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“All the spaces are focused on healthy food, ecological responsibility, and certified, organic food that does not contain genetically modified organisms,” says José Pina.
In terms of environmentally-friendly pratices, 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 chemicals, 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 coming back. We notice that people are becoming more 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 began growing asparagus in their 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. Exporting is an option, but we must first assess the quantity achieved. This is the first year we’re producing asparagus, but maybe it’ll be possible (to export),” he explains.
And, as Convent’Bio values wellbeing above everything, the top floor is also a multi-purpose room, where exhibitions, yoga classes, workshops and talks focused on healthy and organic food are held.
In the future, José Pina’s plans are clear: to increase the product range at the shop, recover some of the convent’s traditions, and thus renovate the chapel, as well as offer families and children the opportunity to “walk in the vegetable garden, have contact with nature and agriculture, and even pick their own vegetables directly from the farm”.
If you want to pay them a visit, 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 their website to be delivered at home, with free delivery for orders over €50. You can also choose vegetables, fruit, mixed or personalised hampers, to be delivered weekly or every two weeks to your home, with a variety of certified, organic, seasonal products.
By Maria Simiris
Photos: PHAZE PHOTOGRAPHY