Historical Cork Harvest Film
We recently stumbled across a film shot in the 1950's in a "montado" forest in Portugal showing the annual cork oak harvest, and it is incredible! The most striking thing about the footage is how little has changed in the traditional cork industry in last 70 years.
All jokes aside, safety and work standards have obviously moved into the 21st century since then, but the harvesting techniques and tools remain remarkably unchanged. We can't help but wonder whether some of the craftsmen shown in the film carefully separating the dead bark from the living tree might have grandsons or granddaughters working in the cork industry today. After all, the highly skilled work remains one of the best paid agricultural jobs in the world, and the trade is often passed down from older generations.
The film starts by showing the craftsmen climbing the cork oak trees marked for harvest and using their specialized "machada" cork axes to cut into the oak just enough to separate the dead bark from the living tree.
As is still the tradition today, the oak tree will be left untouched for the next 9 years before being harvested again, ensuring the "montado" forest is sustained for the unique animal species it protects as well as the economic lifeline it provides to many workers in the region. Anyone who visits Portugal, and we highly encourage you to do so, will likely be surprised to find that the locally made specialized "machada" axes seen in the film are still used as the preferred method to hand harvest the miracle material. Portugal remains the largest cork producing country in the world and protects over one million hectares of montado forest as a result. This environmental stewardship helps to reduce carbon dioxide from the earth's atmosphere at a rate of tens of millions of tons every year. Environmental scientists have concluded that if it were not for the cork industries inherent interest in protecting the montados, many species would likely have gone extinct, including the rare and beautiful Iberian Lynx. All of this is part of the reason we are such strong proponents of cork as an Eco-friendly sustainable material choice in fashion and other industries.
After harvest, the cork bark is stacked and carted away with a tractor for processing. The best cuts of cork are then punched to make corks for the finest wines from around the world.
Not to allow waste, left over cork is then pressed with steam and shaped into blocks which can be cut to make the many products we rely on today, including our very own cork fabric.
Check out some of our vegan sustainable cork products:
Our single carry travel solution hand crafted in Los Angeles from our sustainably sourced, plant-based, eco-friendly, import Iberian cork fabric. There is no better way to go exploring than with a sustainable-style statement fit to carry your passport, MUJI journal (optional), Parker pen (optional), ID, cash, and cards.