September 23rd was marked by the formal start of the Shepherds’ School. Held at the Escola Superior Agrária de Castelo Branco, the Public Session of the Start-up of the Shepherds’ School, was attended by the President of the CCDRC, Ana Abrunhosa, the Mayor of Castelo Branco, Luís Correia, the President of InovCluster – Association of the Agro-Industrial Cluster of the Center, Cláudia Domingues Soares and the Presidents of the Polytechnic Institute of Castelo Branco and the Polytechnic Institute of Viseu, António Fernandes and João Luís Monney de Sá Paiva, respectively.
September 23rd was marked by the formal start of the Shepherds’ School. Held in the Agricultural Superior School of Castelo Branco, the Public Session of the Start-up of the Shepherds’ School, was attended by the President of the CCDRC, Ana Abrunhosa, the Mayor of Castelo Branco, Luís Correia, the President of InovCluster – Association of the Agroindustrial Cluster of the Center, Cláudia Domingues Soares and the Presidents of the Polytechnic Institute of Castelo Branco and the Polytechnic Institute of Viseu, António Fernandes and João Luís Monney de Sá Paiva, respectively.
According to information to which Diário Digital had access, this is an ambitious and pioneering project in Portugal, integrated in the “Program for the Enhancement of Cheese Production in the Center Region”, led by InovCluster, which has a total investment of 2.2 million euros and the participation of 14 partners. For Cláudia Domingues Soares this “is a pioneer project, innovative, that will work as a pilot project for others to follow.
The great challenge involves the articulation between the various players in the Central Region, but we believe that, based on cooperation and responding to a challenge coming from the sector itself, we are contributing to a more sustainable and more competitive territory,” adding that the cheese industry is an enormous asset “because of its genetic heritage; its historical heritage; its industrial heritage; and its natural heritage and landscape. Ana Abrunhosa highlights the importance of networking between institutions, stressing the need to “continue to invest in our traditional activities, to value and dignify those who are in these sectors, incorporating knowledge and technology.
The Shepherds’ School is coordinated by the Polytechnic Institute of Castelo Branco – IPCB – and the Polytechnic Institute of Viseu – IPV – that will teach the theoretical component of the course in the ESACB (School of Agriculture of Castelo Branco) and the ESAV (School of Agriculture of Viseu) facilities. With a duration of 4 months, the Shepherds’ School intends to contribute to the reinforcement and valorization of the shepherding activity and to promote the innovation and knowledge within the line of cheeses with PDO – Protected Designation of Origin – from the Center Region.
Luís Correia considers that “the fact that InovCluster is leading this project, based in Castelo Branco, reveals the assertive bet that the municipality has undertaken, positioning the existing agri-food ecosystem at a supra-municipal level”. With 34 students – 15 in Castelo Branco and 19 in Viseu – the practical teaching component will focus on farms located in the regions covered by the Center Region PDO cheeses. The students may also apply for the “Vale Pastor” and the “Vale Pastor Mais”. In the first case, a prize of 5000 euros will be awarded to students who successfully complete the course and then move on to a shepherding activity within nine months. The “Vale Pastor Mais” aims to stimulate and support shepherds, already installed in the activity, to ensure that the milk they produce follows the criteria defined for the production of cheese with PDO, awarding a prize of 2500 euros. The initiative covers the production of PDO cheeses from Serra da Estrela, Beira Baixa and Rabaçal.
The project “Valorização dos Queijos da Região Centro” is co-financed by the Centro 2020 program, Portugal 2020 and the European Union through FEDER.