Brazil is a country of continental proportions. For this reason, it is very usual for families to travel long distances in search of better life opportunities. This was the case of the Schmidt family, which has a history of persistence, pioneering spirit, and courage to turn a new region into a reference in food production.
There have been many challenges until they reached the current Schmidt Agricola, a group devoted to the production of soybean, corn, beans, cotton, bananas, and cocoa. Together, the farms create 700 jobs in Bahia state, northeast Brazil.
Four brothers run the group. David, 35, is one of them. He tells the family history touchingly: “My parents are from the southern region of Brazil. They started working in planting and harvesting on a friend’s farm and even bought a small property. The problem is that the farm ended up submerged due to the construction of a hydroelectric power plant.”
With these unexpected circumstances, the family had to look for a place to continue producing food. “In 1979, my father heard from a friend who was working on the construction of a new highway about some land in western Bahia. That was when he, with all his courage, came here to learn about the region. He liked it, went back to the South, got the whole family, and came again.”
The family patriarch died in 2009, leading the family to personal and business trauma. “Our farm practically went up for auction. But we managed to get back on our feet, thanks to God and our family’s union. Each brother became a specialist in one area, and this helped the group to grow from 10 collaborators to the current 700. We always had faith that it would work out. We were here to make it work,” says David.
The family sought support from the National Service of Rural Learning (SENAR) to face the needs and challenges that arose on that occasion. This training program develops several initiatives to support farmers in the Brazilian countryside.
“We needed training, adapting to environmental and labor legislation, improved management, and searching for technology and knowledge. We found that SENAR would have a greater reach in labor training, it had the potential to change the social reality in the countryside, to make a difference in the lives of people living far from the big cities,” he says.
Nowadays, David believes that SENAR plays a significant role in bringing together productive regions and young people from rural communities. “It helps young people to settle in the countryside so that they don’t have to—if they don’t want to—leave their families and move to study in other regions.”
David and other farmers from the region in Bahia launched a rural school that has already aided more than a thousand young people aged 18 to 23. In the Young Apprentice program, developed in partnership with SENAR, the participants are sent to rural companies, where they spend four hours a day learning how to work in the field, from Monday to Friday, until they are ready for the labor market. The Schmidt Group hires many of these apprentices.
One of these apprentices is Tauan Queiroz, who took the Agricultural Supervisor course. “This course is a dream come true. I want to put the knowledge I got from it into practice on my parents’ guava, banana, and beans crops,” he says.
David is thrilled to see the impact of these initiatives in the region: “Many people have the will but cannot afford it. God gave us the means to help, and by contributing to society, in the future, these people will help me, help the community, or as collaborators, partners, or other professionals. There is no way we can separate our business from society.”
Today, Schmidt Agrícola contributes to regional development, helps young people to remain in the countryside, is recognized for its high productivity rates, focus on sustainability, the implementation of high technology in agribusiness, and having several certifications to meet the requirements of international markets.
David Schmidt’s story is part of the series in SENAR’s campaign “Agro, from Small to Big, from the Field to You.” Watch it:
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