The first day that Brígida had to milk the twelve cows her husband had bought to start up their smallholding, it took her three hours and by the end she was exhausted. "That night I hardly slept. Not because I wasn’t tired, but because I was thinking about what I had gotten myself into", she recalls, remembering that first day of work.
25 years have passed since that day and since then, together with her husband, she has been producing and selling fresh cow’s milk. Its distinctive taste, the fact that it is natural and the lack of industrial processing, plus its competitive DOP 25 per liter price tag, attract the consumers.
Having left school before finishing primary education and with no stockbreeding experience, Brígida faced the harsh reality of having to keep the business going. But she kept at it and asked for a DOP 95,000 loan from Banco Adopem to make her dream come true. Today she and her husband have 90 cows and she can milk half of those in just a couple of hours.
New business initiatives have a high failure rate and statistically affect more women because they have to combine their enterprises with family life. But there are also a good number of them who face the future with determination and optimism. They are stock breeders, farmers… entrepreneurs who think that their future –and that of the people nearest to them– is on the land.
This woman seems made from another mold. With a near permanent smile she talks about her difficulties, the efforts and uncertainties she has to face on a daily basis. Her smile gets bigger when she talks about the reasons which led her to aim for a different life: improved standard of living, the money the business brings in, the feeling of being the mistress of her own destiny. She brings to her surroundings an attention to detail and a capacity for work which, stereotypes apart, can make the difference.
She admits that she could not handle the herd without the occasional help of her husband, who every so often lends a hand in those stockbreeding tasks requiring the greatest physical strength. "I don't want to fool anyone: in the long term, to do this you have to have a man by your side. If he weren’t here, I would have to hire someone. Or else open a milk business and sublet all this, because I couldn’t do it alone", she acknowledges.
She explains in detail how they organize the work. They milk the cows by hand and while the beast eats in the pens where some meal has been left for them, she and her husband hobble their hooves to protect themselves from possible kicks.
Brígida won second prize in the 2015 Citigroup Awards for Women entrepreneurs, Farming category.