Gervaso da Silva Oliveira’s daily routine begins before sunrise as he heads to the stall for the first milking at 4:30 am. This milk is the basis of the cheese production that has provided a dignified life for Gervaso, his wife Maria Antônia, and their children. The story of Gervaso and Maria Antônia, cheese producers at Queijaria Sítio das Oliveiras in the rural area of Alexânia, Goiás state, highlights the transformative impact of the National Rural Learning Service (SENAR). Through setbacks, learning, and unwavering determination they have turned their struggles into a tale of achievement and hope.
Eight years ago, Gervaso and Maria Antônia left the city behind for a peaceful life. They arrived at their modest property with a mix of uncertainty and high expectations. Maria Antônia recalls, “I knew right away that this was the little place God had prepared for me.” However, starting from scratch included some issues and hardships, which kept the couple awake at night.
Gervaso initially turned to cattle farming and milk production, but the returns were meager, causing great concern. Maria Antônia’s suggestion to venture into cheese production brought a glimmer of hope. Yet, their early attempts at making cheese were far from successful. Undeterred, they sought assistance and learned about the National Rural Learning Service (SENAR). “The courses for milk and cheese already existed. So we attended them to improve ourselves,” says Maria Antônia. At this point, they met Allan Passos, a SENAR Field Technician who played an essential role in this process and gave the push needed to turn the key into cheese production.
Allan recognized the potential for improvement in the property’s cheese production during his visits, even amidst the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. With his guidance and Gervaso and Maria Antônia’s unwavering commitment and dedication, they formed the perfect partnership for success.
The impact of SENAR’s assistance quickly became apparant. Gervaso, with Allan’s initial diagnosis, invested in a cooler and a milk heating tank, which resulted in noticeable improvements in their cheese production. Their daily average output grew from 25 to 70 kilos—a remarkable increase that reflects their hard work. Periodically, Allan visits the family property to monitor the work of the ATeG. And this relationship, initially restricted to the professional field, became a friendship. “I feel like family. We talk a lot, and now we have a relationship of trust,” says the field technician.” It is a source of pride to be part of the producer’s growth because the field technician’s role is to make a difference in the lives of families.”
A greater future
Due to their successful cheese production, Gervaso and Maria Antônia increased their income and realized their long-held dreams. They could renovate their humble house, which now provides improved living conditions for their children. With access to the internet at home, their children — Ana Clara, Gabriel, and Arthur — can excel academically. The family also enjoys more quality time together, a luxury they previously lacked. Their children appreciate their parents’ entrepreneurial spirit and the positive changes they have witnessed.
Gervaso and Maria Antônia’s inspiring journey highlights how SENAR’s knowledge and support have changed their lives. Maria Antônia reflects, “Today, I can’t imagine our lives without SENAR. I have no idea what it would be like.” Buoyed by their success, they are already contemplating their next venture and are eager to face future challenges with the backing of SENAR. Gervaso concludes: “With the support of SENAR, it is much easier to dream.”