In 2015, Luiz and Vera Lucia de Lima decided to raise Jersey cattle at Estância Rio Branco in Nova Castilho, São Paulo state. Right in the beginning, they were advised by a consultant that they needed to add value to the milk they produced. Vera says that they decided to take on the challenge and start producing artisan cheeses. The learning came after many failed attempts, which she remembers today humorously.
“Not being afraid to make mistakes and understanding that everything adds to the learning process was crucial in the path of the farmer. “I started from scratch and ruined many recipes that I had to throw away. I even thought of going back to São José do Rio Preto, my hometown, but then the SENAR classes shaped my technique and showed me the way,” recalls Vera.
Today, Vera’s Josephina Emporium sells about 30 units of cheese per day, and she says that sometimes she is unable to meet the demand for their flagship product, Padrão cheese. The emporium also sells jams, jellies, cottage cheese, and soon, products from other small farmers in the region. In less than a month, the emporium has welcomed about 30 visitors per day on weekends.
Vera, a former biochemical pharmacist, became an entrepreneur in agribusiness and explains her success is due to the courses she took, along with her husband, at the National Service for Rural Learning (SENAR-SP). They took part in several courses offered by SENAR and the Rural Union of General Salgado, in Cheese Processing, Entrepreneurship, and Tourism.
“The programs emphasized to Luiz and Vera the importance of teamwork. They left excited about the possibility of joining forces with other local producers,” says Alessandro Aparecido de Oliveira, SENAR coordinator at the Rural Union of General Salgado, a neighboring town to Nova Castilho.
“This support was essential for us. And I even made a point of hosting the instructors, so I had more time to ask questions,” jokes the former biochemist pharmacist, who was an entrepreneur in the women’s clothing and pharmaceutical products segment but, as she says, found herself in agribusiness.
Creating added value to products
The idea of taking advantage of the property’s tourist potential was also defined based on the SENAR classes, in the courses of Rural Tourism and Educational Tourism, as well as in the New Look program, which encourages participants to join forces to maximize results.
Thus, at Empório Josephina, in addition to the cheeses, sweets, jams, and requeijões [cream cheeses] produced by Vera, visitors will soon find several types of cake, bread, fruit, and other delicacies from small farmers in the region. “The couple already had the potential to open the Empório, but with those other products, they are adding value to the business and will certainly attract more customers,” believes Alessandro.
“I expand my offerings, and my neighbors will be able to place their products directly in contact with customers, on consignment,” describes Vera. Inaugurated less than a month ago, the shop welcomes about 30 people per day on weekends, “who come to buy the food products but also stay for a coffee, a piece of cake, a sweet, and a good chat. Everyone likes it,” says the hostess. In the short time of operation, according to her, one could notice the enterprise’s encouraging potential.
For those who are thinking of putting a project into practice, Vera is enthusiastic: “Dare to do it. Try, and if you make a mistake, try again until you get it right. I didn’t know how to start, and today I say that I found myself in agribusiness and I am proud of my products,” says the owner. On the relevant role of training in this path, she says: “It was SENAR that opened up my horizons. I would not have gotten where I am without that valuable help.”