AFNs in Pelotas, Brasil

This week I am visiting the city of Pelotas, some 250 kilometers from Porto Alegre. As one of the three in the whole of Brasil, the Universidade Federal de Pelotas has a specialised Bachelor degree in anthropology. Today I will give a guest lecture within the course on food culture of Professor Renate Menasche on the link between Alternative Food Networks and food culture. Last week in the course for the PGDR in Porto Alegre, many students believed there are no AFNs in Brasil and that consumers are not willing to make an effort to engage with farmers. However, on our fieldtrip of yesterday we saw two very interesting examples of innovative farmers around Pelotas who produce differently ánd who market their produce differently.

Enio Nilo Schiavon took the time to lead us around his farm where he combines agro-forestry and agro-ecology practices in producing organic peaches, grapes, clementines, banana, sweet corn, broccoli, carrots, beets, fish and flowers and home-made juices. His production is organic but not organically certified, something which for smaller farmers is very normal; organic certification is too expensive. However, there are various ways to market organic produce without the official farm certification. For example by being part of a cooperative which has the certification and through this, the farm is also recognised as such. Or by building a trust relationship directly with consumers by way of selling on a farmers’ market. The latter is what Enio Nilo does, two times a week in two cities in this region. The farmers’ market are an initiative of the farmers themselves and are organised through their association ARPA-SUL. They are with 27  farmers, each offering other complementary products. Interestingly, they not only sell to the middle-class urban consumer, but also to many other small farmers in the region who are themselves tobacco growers.