By Jillian Beaty and Joshua Geigle
Coming from the northern part of the United States, where snow dominates the landscape most of November through March, our friends declared how sweet it is to travel to Brazil during our cold February. True, you’ll hear no complaints from us about the perfect 80-something degree weather! Warm weather aside, Brazil is still a sweet experience.
Our Brazil experience is part of the international module for the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Partners in Agricultural Leadership Program or PAL. PAL is a two-year program designed to advance leadership skills in young farmers and ranchers.
Since arriving, we’ve learned that sugar cane is an important crop in Brazilian agriculture. Here they produce 25 percent of the world’s supply and export 50 percent of their crop. Brazilians aren’t shy about consuming this top commodity, as sweet is the overwhelming taste of many of the desserts, beverages and breads we’ve tried. However, granulated sugar is only one of the uses for sugar cane. Ethanol is also an important product, and here in Brazil they produce 20 percent of the world’s ethanol.
We discovered the sugar cane production process through our sponsor, Monsanto. Monsanto Brazil focuses on improving the quality of sugar cane in the production of both fiber and sugar, while decreasing loss of productivity through common pests. Their motto: “Produzir. Conversar. Melhorar Vidas.” translates to “Produce more. Conserve more. Improve lives.” Helping small farm holders improve productivity while conserving their environment drives each employee.
But not everything in Brazilian agriculture is sugar and spice. One of Monsanto’s research farms has been plagued by the activist group Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra, or MST. In just five days, 800 members of MST destroyed irrigation systems, crops and research facilities. Ongoing efforts to battle this 30-year-old group continue with some small progress. Although groups like MST sour a farmer’s perspective, Monsanto embraced the sweet success of having good safety measures in place to prevent major losses.
Whether in Brazil or the U.S., agriculture is a good place to be. Like our counterparts in South America, we produce more, we conserve more and we improve the lives of not only our fellow farmers, but also our fellow consumers. We manage adversity to improve our farming practices and our relationships with consumers. Regardless of your current location in the world or the sugar content of your food choices, agriculture is a sweet spot to work!
Jillian Beaty and Joshua Geigle are members of PAL Class 7. Jillian is a high school agriculture education teacher in Milton, Wis. and is the director of public relations for her family’s agritourism business, Honey Haven Farms. Joshua is a rancher who raises beef cattle, wheat, millet, safflower, alfalfa and corn in Creighton, S.D. They are blogging about their experiences in Brazil with the PAL class.