Small Farms in Brazil: Differences, Diversification, and Techniques

Caryn (in middle) with ISU study group

At the beginning of this summer, I was given an opportunity to participate in a travel course through my major, global resource systems, at Iowa State University. The object of the course was to learn and familiarize ourselves with the agriculture, food, and natural resources of Brazil. A group of 14 students in the global resource systems major and two professors participated in this trip. 

One connection I made was that just as there were differences of interest and diversification within our group that helped us learn from each other, we also saw a lot of diversification in the agriculture, food, and natural resources of Brazil. The country is intriguing all around but especially in regards to its culture and abundance of natural resources. 
The people of Brazil are very sociable, warm, and welcoming. That was one of the reasons this trip became one of the most positive travel experiences I have had yet. At every company, research center, and farm we visited, we were met with excited Brazilians ready to share information about their work. They were also quick to share delicious amenities such as coffee and wonderful sweets, and they were incredibly honest and straightforward about life in Brazil–a rapidly developing country–and the challenges it faces. 
Coffee-harvesting techniques
I was especially impressed with the rapid advancements Brazil has made in agriculture and how farming there differs from the techniques used in the United States. One major difference is the practice of diversifying their farms with more than, for example, just two crops like corn and soybeans. An operation there may focus mainly on coffee and wheat production, but they might also have other crops such as fruit or sugarcane and maybe some animals to fall back on in case the prices for one crop are bad one year. The reason for this is that even though the economy is growing fast, there is still a lack of stability–hence more fluctuation in crop prices and exchange rates that affect global trade among countries. 
Throughout the several farm and university visits, we met many students

Caryn Dawson in Brazil

studying agriculture and saw their passion about sharing their techniques and what they are learning with us. For example, the students and staff at UNIFIL university explained biological pest control for sugarcane production. The new technology consisted of drones and biodegradable balls with small holes in them, enclosing a certain worm that specifically preyed on the pest that was affecting the sugarcane but did not have any affect or interest in the sugarcane. They would send out these drones with a certain amount of the biological control and drop them at specific spots in the sugarcane field. I was amazed. 

One of the main reasons I travel and visit new places is to see what I can learn and experience to bring to the table and share with future projects or jobs. How can I and the people I am working with improve a process or technique with more efficiency and sustainability from what we have learned abroad? Diverse cultures have so much knowledge to offer, and cross cultural experiences are one of the best ways to improve personal thinking and to generate ideas and goals for companies and organizations that are working toward making a positive impact on agriculture and feeding the world. 
by Caryn Dawson (ISU student and CAST student administrative assistant)

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