Tag Archives: International Agriculture

American PALs Cultivate Brazilian Culture

By Brandon Whitt

An extremely early morning awaited the PAL class as we gathered in the hotel lobby to make the trek from São Paulo to the beautiful city of Rio de Janeiro, and the group was anxious to visit another part of the country and take in the rich and diverse culture that awaited us.

Travel always seems much easier to me when done with a group, and this proved true on our journey this particular morning, as we quickly learned our English-speaking skills would be of no help in navigating the completely Portuguese-speaking local airport. Relying heavily on our native Brazilian tour guide, Ray, we made it through check-in, security and of course airport breakfast in a timely manner to arrive at our gate. On the short flight to Rio, I could already see that this city was going to offer some amazing sights for our group.

The view of Rio de Janeiro from Sugar Loaf Mountain

The view of Rio de Janeiro from Sugar Loaf Mountain

Upon arriving in Rio, we loaded a bus to begin our sightseeing journey in and through the city. As was the case throughout most of Brazil, the class divide became very apparent very quickly. Brazil has a very small middle class compared to America; you are either rich or quite poor. In the inner city of Rio, we saw many neighborhoods full of block structures that were used as government housing. We also saw a good deal of construction of infrastructure to prepare for the World Cup later this year and the summer Olympics in 2016. Leaving the downtown area and making our way closer to the coast, we quickly saw the housing improve and businesses that catered to a higher-end lifestyle, as well as the stadium for Carnival. The stadium itself holds more than 70,000 people who have a bird’s-eye view of the dance and float competition that takes place over the four day weekend leading up to Ash Wednesday.

American PALs Cultivate Brazilian Culture - Local Cuisine

Sampling the local cuisine

During our bus journey, we took in the breathtaking view of the harbor and beach down the coast of Rio de Janeiro from the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain. Most likely, if you were to Google the city of Rio, this view is the first image you would see. Seeing this landscape view of the city with my own eyes was absolutely amazing. I have traveled to and seen many beautiful places in the world, but this had to be one of the very best! While indulging in the local cuisine for lunch, we learned about “rooftop roast,” which is a beef roast that has actually been sun-dried up on the rooftop. The outer edge had a crispiness to it like nothing I had ever tasted, only to find the center was as juicy and tender as if it had been slow cooked in a crock pot.

American PALs Cultivate Brazilian Culture - Cristo Redentor StatueAfter lunch we made our way to see the Cristo Redentor, also known as “the big Jesus statue on the hill.” We waited with hundreds of people to board the train that would take us to the top of the hill before climbing a long flight of steps to actually reach the top. Known for keeping watch over the city below, I couldn’t help but ponder just how valuable this monument was to the people who visited it, as hundreds of them posed to have their pictures taken with the statue in the background. I was quickly reminded of just how important Christ is in my own life. I enjoyed having the chance to visit the chapel inside the statue, pausing for a moment to praise God for all of the blessings in my own life and for the opportunity to see a broader vision of how important my job is to not only American families, but also to families all over the world.

The week was a great adventure, and we were constantly reminded of the struggles and turmoil we face within agriculture – how to dispel the doubts, fight the pests, raise the yields to meet an ever increasing demand – and, at the end of the day, how to balance it all and meet the needs of my own family.

Our week in Brazil as 10 PALs encouraged to build a better tomorrow through agriculture was certainly an eye opening experience. Each and every day was valuable in its own way, but having the opportunity to step away and see the rich diversity and culture that Brazil has to offer helped to personally bring the message home of why I choose to farm for a living. Although we live in a world where we seem to face undying scrutiny from activists, relentless weather from Mother Nature and an unsure economy at times, I was reminded that what I do matters, and I will never stop trying to make this world a better place to live.

I have to extend my deepest gratitude to each and every person who helped to make this trip possible. The fine folks of American Farm Bureau, Monsanto and Farm Credit, in my book, went all out to ensure that PAL Class 7 gained a valuable vision of global agriculture and the significant role that each participant plays.


Brandon Whitt is a member of PAL Class 7 blogging about his experiences in Brazil with the PAL class. Brandon is an eighth generation row crop, hay and hog farmer from Tennessee.

Brazilian Agriculture PRIDE

Brazilian Agriculture PRIDE - Case IH

Ricardo, one of the Case IH dealership owners

By Stacey Forshee and Elizabeth Kohtz

Over the last few days, we have been traveling around Sao Paulo state in Brazil as 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 to enhance leadership and advocacy skills of young farmers and ranchers.

When reflecting on tours and the people we meet, one word really stands out to describe our interactions with Brazilians involved in agribusiness and farming: PRIDE. Pride in their innovation, pride in the equipment they use, pride in the commodities they produce and pride in the companies they work for.

Brazilian Agriculture PRIDE - Case IH Award

Case IH dealership award belt

P – Producing Farm Equipment

At the Case IH Plant in Piracicaba, Brazil, we saw the assembly of sugarcane harvesters. This facility is the only Case IH plant in the world that produces sugarcane harvesters, and they export them worldwide. We also visited a family-owned Case IH dealership. Pride for their business was evident as the owners explained how they serviced 56 towns in the area and showed us the belt they won for best service of the 120 Case IH dealerships throughout Brazil.

R – Research and Technology

Brazilian Agriculture PRIDE - PAL Class in front of Sugar Cane Truck

PAL Class in front of a sugarcane transport truck

At every stop on our journey we learn about cutting edge technology in sugarcane varieties, planting and harvesting equipment, processing at the mill, and new ways to extract ethanol. Employees are proud of the companies they work for and excited for the future of the sugarcane industry. One sugarcane plant breeder sharing his research with us referred to his plants as his “boys” and said he hoped to work with the company long enough to see their “grandchildren.”

Brazilian Agriculture PRIDE - Sugar Cane Harvester

A sugarcane harvester

I – Innovation

Until relatively recently, sugarcane has been harvested by hand. Brazilian sugarcane is now 75 percent mechanized, and the harvesters have gone from being able to cut one row of cane at a time to three rows. Everyone we talk to is excited to share that Brazil is number one in the world for sugarcane production.

D – Development

Case IH proudly holds training classes for machinery drivers and mechanics. Most of these workers receive at least 45 hours of training yearly. As a developing country, programs like these help Brazilians become skilled laborers and improve their quality of life. Brazil’s booming agriculture industry has helped 50 percent of its population move into the middle class.

Brazilian Agriculture PRIDE - Sugar Cane in Transport Truck

Sugarcane in the transport truck

E – Energy

USJ Sugar Mill crushes 2.5 million tons of sugarcane into sugar and ethanol annually. During this process they are able to use cane to produce the energy required for the entire mill and refinery. The company also puts energy into improving the quality of life for people in the community. USJ provides a school, hospital, soccer fields, pools and exercise facilities for community use.

Pride needs no translation. Our South American journey has reminded us as farmers and ranchers how important it is to share our own pride of agriculture with others.  Passionate personal agriculture stories can have a major impact on everyone!


Stacey Forshee and Elizabeth Kohtz are members of PAL Class 7. They are blogging about their experiences in Brazil with the PAL class. Stacey and her husband David farm in north central Kansas. Elizabeth is a dairy veterinarian in southern Idaho.

How Sweet It Is

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.

PAL Class 7

PAL Class 7

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.How Sweet It Is - Produzir. Conservar. Melhorar Vidas

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.

A sugar cane field in Brazil

A sugar cane field in Brazil

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.