“I am very happy with what I have now, I want to improve quality, provide for my family and my kids – to live happily and in peace”.
The quote above was just a part of my conversation with Daniela and Valdir, the farmers behind our newest microlot from Brazil. I asked what their dream was and this was their answer – happiness and peace. In a world so full of striving for bigger and better and the next new thing it was so refreshing to hear a perspective of contentment. As you can tell, it’s not a contentment that lets quality or productivity slip as they still have a yearning to see quality continue to increase and to see greater sustainability in their operations. Other parts of our conversation revealed that these two things are more intertwined than you may initially expect.
Care for the Land
One of the biggest steps towards sustainability Valdir and Daniela have taken was a commitment a number of years ago to be more in tune with the land. It wasn’t a false commitment- it was rooted in a desire to know what was happening with their soil and how they could invest in its health. They currently work closely with an agronomist to take multiple soil samples and find out what is happening at any given time to the soil across the farm. This enables them to add only the absolute necessary inputs (compost, fertilizer, etc.) for ideal health. By taking their soil health seriously they have stepped away from using chemicals to control weeds or pests, focusing instead on organic and naturally occurring compounds that, in many cases, come directly from their farm.
They learned that a key part of understanding what is going on with the land is a deep understanding of what is happening with the water on the land. By using fewer inputs Daniela and Valdir are already lessening the amount of chemical runoff that is going into the streams and waterways that pass through their farm. They’re going beyond this, though, and truly trying to leave the water better than they received it. In partnership with FAF (the importer that we use to get their coffee) they have installed some equipment that treats the water before releasing it back to the natural waterways.
Signs of Health and Sustainability
A by-product of this focus on sustainability is that the quality has naturally increased and their yield has actually grown! This was a surprise when they first began these initiatives as they weren’t sure either was going to happen- they just knew that they needed to continuously regenerate their land. An added bonus they’ve noticed is an increase in the bird and bug-life on their farm. Specifically they’ve seen a lot more joaninhas, or ladybugs, which has become Valdir’s nickname for his farm – Sítio Joaninha.
While the initiatives above represent the major initiatives that Daniela and Valdir have pursued, toward regenerative farming (making as much of the farm to be self-sustaining as possible), they haven’t stopped there. They have also added solar panels to power their home, equipment to capture methane gas from the pigs they keep on the farm in order to heat their home and cook their food, and are looking for other ways to continue lessening their impact on their land. The very land that provides such happiness and peace and, they hope, will provide the same for many generations to come.