Last Sunday of the month and that means it’s time to tell you a little bit more about rural life in Brazil. I can’t believe it is almost the end of November and that summer is really here. Days are getting warmer and it seems as though there is no time in the day to do anything else then to tend to the ever growing vegetables and weeds. We are already harvesting lots of vegetables and our fridge and freezer are full to bursting. We have zucchini, spinach, collard, broccoli, lettuce, radishes, cucumbers, and tons and tons of blackberries that I am starting to turn into yummy jam! More vegetables are coming and soon I will hopefully be able to harvest lots of tomatoes.
Being a certified organic farm is wonderful, my husband and I really feel that every time we put something in the ground we are working to build up the soil; we are making it better. A constant topic of conversation in our house and in our work is ‘what do we need to do to make our soil better’. We are always adding things to our soil to make it better and to guarantee that our vegetables will continue to grow healthily and we are maintaining the earth where we work and live. But, we are a little island in the region where we live. We live in a region that is comprised of farmers and people who work the land. But, we are one of the only organic farms.
Two of the primary sources of work in the region where we live is logging and potato planting and harvesting.
All around our farm you see signs of forestation. From my office window I look out onto areas of land planted by eucalyptus and pines. Trees grow fast here, within six years eucalyptus can be harvested and ten years for pines. I always find it sad to see these forested areas as the natural forest of the region where I live is so beautiful. There is so much plant and animal diversity in the natural forests and with the planting of eucalyptus and pine trees these forests are being destroyed.
One of the native trees to Brazil that I like the most and that suffers due to the forestation is the Araucaria. This is a strange looking pine tree. With a very long trunk and a cluster of branches with large pine needles on the end it is a tree that is so unique to Brazil. The araucaria is not a fast growing pine tree and takes years and years and years to grow. Because of the planting and harvesting of trees in this region a lot of araucaria trees are damaged, primarily during the harvesting because the felling of the pines or eucalyptus causes the araucaria to fall. Unfortunately to replace these trees will take many many decades!
Logging is a big industry here. Driving into town on our dirt road always means at least one encounter with a huge truck carrying an ungodly amount of wood.
The other primary source of work is potatoes. It seems as though this is slowly changing and broccoli crops seem to be creeping into a lot of the fields, but still, there is lots of land that is planted with conventional potato crops. Because the region is so mountainous no potato field is beautifully flat. This year, about 10 minutes from my farm, is a potato field on a vertical hill. No kidding, the field just seems to drop down vertically. It is fully planted with potatoes and while they were preparing the field I would see the tractor making the treacherous trip down the hill tilling the soil. It seems as though there is a challenge between the potato farmers here ‘who can grow on the steepest fields’. This year it is that guy who is winning, it is by far the steepest field I have seen!
Conventional potatoes are a crop that seem to constantly need spraying with chemical and it is usually this that makes me extremely nervous, worried, and sad. You see here when chemicals are sprayed onto the fields it is not done with the necessary protection that is needed when handling such toxic chemicals. The last month seems to have been potato spraying season and every time I passed a field where people were spraying potatoes I would notice that the only protection they were using was a simple dust mask. A DUST MASK.
Besides destroying the soil with all of the chemicals that are being sprayed onto the potatoes the people who apply these chemicals face serious health risks. I always shudder to think about the people applying those chemicals and hope that one day things will change.