Today we met two friends of Emmanuel’s who are incredibly inspiring people, Rance and Lone. In short, they are a couple, Rance from Canada (raised in California though) and Lone from Denmark, with three sons, two studying at university in England and one teaching, who have bought property and started an organic farm in Brazil. Their property, called Fazenda Alfheim, is relatively near to Fazenda Santa Helena distance wise, but the trip takes about 1½ to 2 hours given the condition of the dirt road.
We woke up early this morning and headed to Vargem Grande with Manu in the old truck. After 13 kilometers of bumpy dirty road we met Rance and his three interns, Mark, Sandra and Anella, in front of the Igreja (church). After another 2½ km of dirt road we arrived at the entrance to the Serra do Mar park station where a ranger met us. We went on an easy, but beautiful 6+ km hike through the rainforest. We passed three cachoeiras (waterfalls) and enjoyed the peacefulness of the forest. We also enjoyed getting to hear a little bit about Rance, Mark and the two girls along the way in addition to the abundance of plant/tree information from Manu, which is always so interesting. My favorite tree today was the árvore de canela (cinnamon tree), which isn’t the exact tree that cinnamon as we know it comes from, but after scratching off some of the bark you can smell where the name comes from!
On our way back to Fazenda Alfheim we stopped by Vargem Grande where Rance had a few errands to run and a few people to talk to. The town (population 500) is smaller than Catuçaba and lacks the charm and spirit of our little village, but is intriguing nevertheless. Rance and Lone’s fazenda is about 8 km further in from the main road, past Vargem Grande. We continued on to the Fazenda where Lone was with her artist friend Bia, from São Paulo. Bia was joining us for lunch to show her pottery, which could be wonderful for the new hotel. Before sitting down for lunch, we followed Rance around while he fed the pigs and explained a little about their farm, current happenings and plans for the future. Their main products now are the organic piglets, for which they currently supply to three restaurants in São Paulo – including one of the most highly regarded restaurants in town, D.O.M. We’re looking forward to going to Dois in Vila Madelena to try the pork – we hear from Emmanuel that it is unbelievable! Rance and Lone give so much love to these pigs and piglets and take a lot of pride in their organic nature. The piglets are very, very cute! Check out this video:
On the farm they are regenerating some of the pastureland to enable higher cattle capacity. They recently acquired 4 jersey cows that they are learning to milk. I milked a cow for the first time in my life today! The amazing thing about all the workings of the farm is that Rance and Lone have learned everything by doing. Rance moved to the fazenda in July of 2008 with two of his sons where they essentially camped until they had refurbished the houses well enough to live in. Then Lone moved in October and since then they have worked and learned everyday to get to where they are. And they’ll continue to do that as they have plans to continue the piglet production, expand their cattle capacity (and make cheese!), breed chickens and produce honey. Wow! Keep up with them and their journey on their blog: Fazenda Alfheim.
Lone prepared us a big, delicious lunch. We had homemade bread and vegetables with WONDERFUL hummus (oh, I could’ve eaten all of it – I miss good hummus!), onion tart, palmita (hearts of palm) and linguiça (sausage) cooked on the outdoor stove. We truly enjoyed spending the day with them. What courage it took to move to an isolated farm in the middle of Brazil (and I mean isolated – the 8 km road to the nearest “town”, Vargem Grande is a lot farther than it seems). They went from living the life of business partly in Denmark, São Paulo and England, to being with each other 24 hours a day, under challenging circumstances to get a farm up and running from scratch. It’s incredible. On top of that, they are a joy to be around. Lone is so sweet – the way she talks, her personality and her mannerisms. They both are so welcoming and great educators, which I’m sure will continue to benefit their employees and the community in which they live.
Jeff and I hope to spend more time with them during our stay in Brazil. I think this day will prove to be more than just a lovely day of hiking and enjoying an afternoon with new friends. It will be inspiring for us as we create and narrow down our “what will rooted journey’s be?” list.
On a side note, I wanted to let you all know that Jeff and I survived the Brazilian bus system for the first time this weekend. We left from Rodoviaria Tietê in São Paulo on Friday and travelled in traffic for 2 ½ hours to Taubate, which is a fairly large city about 75 minutes from Fazenda Santa Helena. When we arrived in Taubate we knew we had about 2 minutes to catch the next bus to São Luiz da Paratinga. We sprinted around following the “bilhetes” signs to finally find out that we could pay directly on the bus. So Jeff hopped the fence, jumped down the meter-high concrete wall and knocked on the bus door as it was about to pull away. Luckily we made it, because Manu was waiting for us on the other end in São Luiz to take us to the fazenda. All in all, it was a very pleasant experience and I don’t think we lost too many years of our lives doing it!