Living in the rhythm of nature, the cows on the island of Sao Miguel live the life every cow dreams of. The fresh meadows, natural springs, and endless green pastures make it an ideal location to produce some of the country’s best dairies. The island of Sao Miguel is known as the green island, and with only 5% of the total land used for commercial and residential use, it leaves much space for agriculture purposes.
The region has always been recognized for its high-quality dairy products, cheeses, and the wide variety of cows. There is a saying that there are more cows than people in the Azores, playing a vital role in the economic viability of the region. The price of dairy affects farmers and the regional economy since farmers can’t expand or hire more employees if the price continuously falls.
One of the ways the Azores has been able to hedge the effects of a low price dairy market is by producing an even higher quality milk line. The Terra Nostra brand, founded in the 1950s on the island of Sao Miguel, is the pioneer of this new milk program. The term “Terra Nostra” has always played an essential role in Azorean history, with some of the first books on Azorean culture and lifestyle over four centuries ago referring to this term, “Our Land.” Originating as a cheese company producing a high-quality export from the region, the brand has expanded into various products, which now are a staple in Portuguese homes. The happy cow’s milk program, which began in the last decade on the island of Sao Miguel, follows some of the highest standards while ensuring that the cows that are part of the program are allowed to graze freely 365 days a year.
The cows’ happiness and well-being are of utmost importance to the farmers in the program, and they ensure that the cows have access to the fresh ocean air and surrounding green pastures every day at their leisure. The benefit of this to the product has seemed to resonate well with the local population. The brand has experienced a jolt of growth since launching its high-quality dairy products, and many tourists make a point of stopping off at the local market to pick some up. It is a creamy but light tasting milk that comes in various percentages.
The farm-to-table approach is prevalent in the region, and it not uncommon to visit one of the gentleman farmers’ homes and be asked what type of milk you would like to drink? Whether it was from a Jersey cow, a Guernsey cow, or one of the many other dairy cattle in the region.
While driving in the countryside of almost any of the nine islands in the Azores, it is hard to miss the cattle grazing on the healthy green grass. It is often said that the only traffic jams in the Azores are when the cows are moving from field to field. This is a timeless process where one of the farmers will herd the collection of cows from one area to another as they march in a single line as if they have the route memorized. This is an incredible sight to admire and is one of the many old-world European living experiences in a modern island setting.