As part of our experience in Brazil we were keen to get to know life in the countryside, too. Through the WWOOF organisation in Brazil we were able to organize a working stay at an organic farm, or fazenda, for a little more than two weeks.
Euler and Iara — our gracious, intelligent and informed hosts — have lived on Fazenda Luiziania for over thirty years (though the land’s been in Euler’s family for over 200 years!), living off of the land with their family. Twelve years ago they added an organic food distribution service, Dahorta, to their repetoire, in order to produce and sell more. And this all out of the love of organic food.
Before this experience we had had little to do with agriculture and we learned a great deal — nevermind that our time there was also essentially one big Portuguese lesson. Our tasks were widely varied: we repaired the fence, weed-whacked, planted strawberries and lettuce, washed and packaged veggies, applied cover crops to a field. Along the way we learned about various biodynamic principles and sustainable farming practices, quite similar to ideas from permaculture. One in particular, developed by the philosopher and doctor Rudolf Steiner, involves a bull’s horn and quartz. The silicate is placed in the horn and buried underground, collecting the energy of the stars and sun, for half a year. It is then taken out of the ground and diluted and mixed for an hour in a barrel of water. The ‘super water’ is then dispersed amongst the fields of new crops, which apparently and perhaps somewhat unbelievably yields impressive results!
Not only do Euler and Iara use lessons from halfway around the world, but they have also created a self-sustaining cycle on the farm, where both crops and animals depend on and complement one another.