Many people just don't answer emails! I've tried to contact "the urban orchard project" in London, but got no answer. I've asked if I could visit, if they could help me out, but over a month went by and no reply...
The same with the Portuguese institutions I need to work with.
On December 15th I had a first meeting at the city hall with Lisbon's councillor for green structure and energy and with the chairman of Lumiar's parish council. They were not that open to the project. Well, the councillor said he loved the project, he even agreed with me that it had to be a "natural" orchard, not a super-productive one, also that the cultivars needed be for the most part heirlooms, and not "supermarket" varieties. But then, in what respects a project designed by a community or by myself... "Well you know, you can present a project, but then our technicians will have to reject it for this or that reason".
So we've reached a compromise, the city's landscape architects will make a proposal, that we will have to discuss and aprove. How could I agree to that? Why didn't I refuse and argue for a presentation of our own project? Maybe I was naive... I thought it best to work with rather than against. We'll see if that was a good compromise... Also because they wanted the project to be delivered in a one month time, and that, unfortunately, I could not guarantee. (Of course, I was naive there too, because I could have "bought time". Anyway, they haven't produce their project in one month time either, it was my lack of experience with working with the municipality that made me too honest to give my word to something I could not do).
Nevertheless, we've agreed to have a new meeting in a month, which would be around the end of January, already at the spot for the Orchard. However, two months went by and there was no meeting, and no answer to my emails, neither from the councillor or from chairman of the parish council. What does one do with that? Invade their mailboxes until they answer?
Then, finally, I received a call by the parish council for a meeting with the chairman! Hooray!
The meeting took place on March 4th, and it went very well. The chairman was very open and helpful. He went beyond what I hoped to achieve, giving ideas and suggestions. He will bring me in contact public schools from the area, both primary and kindergarten, as I had asked to, but also a private school, a local university and a senior university as well. I've also learned that there is a (pre-digital-age) "Friends of Quinta das Conchas e dos Lilases association", which was nearly gone but recently reappeard, so it will be great to approach them and invite them on board! The chairman promised to contact me again soon, to have a new meeting with those schools boards.
In the meanwhile, the research goes on! I've followed a Food Forest course, at Quinta dos 7 nomes, Colares, with Doug Crouch (TreeYo Permaculture) and Karsten Hinrichs, learning the permaculture way of implementing an Orchard, which goes well beyond a bunch of fruit trees but is a holistic process of mimicking a forest with different layers, fruit trees, shrubs, vines, roots and vegetables, all growing in mutual benefit — which I think is a good image of what we want to do socially, as a community: foster each other's growth, learn together, collaborate instead of compete—. Hopefully we will be able to bring that into our Orchard.
In this cursus I've got not only knowledge and experience with planting, but I've also met many interesting people, who want to be part of the project! Yay, we are building a community!