Dear Family and Friends,
Happy Easter from Brazil!
I write to you from Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza, an organic farm located 3 hours from Sao Paulo that specializes in shade-grown coffee, dried fruit, delicious honey and, of course, cheese. The farm is also home to several guest houses for tourists and business retreats which, in my case, is wonderful as it means some of the staff here speak perfect English. I do not speak Portuguese yet.
I arrived at Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza (FAF) just over two weeks ago and have thus far balanced my days between cheese-making and other farm activities. I have toured the fruit drying facilities, observed sugarcane harvesting, and learned a thing or two about specialty coffee production. I have also lent a hand in the kitchen and, in return, acquired a recipe for “pao de queijo,” Brazil’s famous cheese bread.
Per usual, I have continued to spend my “free” time running, reading, and writing. My favorite spot on the farm is the library where I often sit with a cup of good coffee and either research Brazilian agriculture (a necessity to deepen my knowledge of the dairy industry here due to my language barrier) or read books about agriculture and food history. FAF owners, Marcos Croce and Silvia Barretto, lived in the U.S. for over twenty years before pursuing their farming dreams and so I benefit from their large collection of English books. Right now, I am reading Hope’s Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet.
Other highlights from the past two weeks include visits to Bela Vista Dairy (one of Brazil’s largest cheese and dairy producers with over 5,000 cows), Moccoca Dairy (a regional dairy cooperative) and Terra Limpida (an organic cheese-making farm run by Italian immigrants). Silvia hopes to improve her own dairy by observing other successful operations and I am grateful for her help with the organization of farm visits and translation. Next week, we will drive into the heart of Brazilian cheesemaking (Minas Gerais) to interview producers, learn about their farms and gain insight as to how national legislation might change to ensure their survival. Currently, thousands of small cheese-makers cannot (or perhaps will not?) comply with Brazilian dairy laws for the right to legally sell their cheese.
p.s. I have updated my photo gallery, if you would like to see more photos.