Silvia Barretto and Marcos Croce are the owners of Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza – a progressive, organic farm located in Brazil, 4 hours north of Sao Paulo. The farm has been owned by Silvia’s family since the early 1900′s, and when she inherited it from her father, she decided to do things a little differently. Together with the workers they have converted the farm from a mono-cropped, chemically-fertilized coffee plantation to an environmentally diverse, organic farm. They still grow coffee (award-winning beans), but growing alongside are the native Atlantic rainforest trees, and the banana and mango trees, the blueberries, the salad greens…and the list goes on.
For them, this has never been about efficiency, just ask Marcos. The farm is now yielding about 20% of what it produced in coffee before the conversion to organic. And although they can hang a higher price tag on their beans due to the rich soil, clean water, and shady canopy – all of which maximizes quality – the farm still isn’t as lucrative as it was in the pesticide days. But for Silvia and Marcos this doesn’t necessarily detract from their vision of success at all, in fact it’s almost irrelevant. Their goal is to be a “socially, environmentally, and economically Sustainable Farm – a model that sows the seeds of Sustainability to the Individual, to the Family.” And Silvia is quick to point out that sustainability cannot focus only on the earth itself. That is why she has seen to it that the people who work her farm have been made partners.
The quality of life for the people on the farm has transformed, they are no longer exposed to harsh agricultural chemicals and monotonous single-crop work. Now they grow food for themselves, the women embroider napkins, tablecloths, and other goods, which Silvia sells at her farm and at shops in Sao Paulo, and most importantly, they can have a new sense of pride in their work; the kind of pride that one only achieves when he has gained a sense of ownership in their accomplishments.
This farm is their living contribution to a new sustainable world. It is their attempt to restore and heal the land that fell into their hands. They have created an example of a sustainable community, and they want to share the knowledge they have gained with the world. You can visit their website, where you can learn how to visit their farm, at www.fafbrazil.com. Or if you want to try a cup of their coffee in Chicago, you can go to any cafe that serves Metropolis coffee and ask for the Brazil roast.