Settlers arrived in Tibagi in Brazil's southern state of Parana hoping to find gold in the nearby Tibagi River. Centuries later Jan Haajses was not looking for gold when he arrived from Europe, he wanted to farm.
Haajses started farming here in 1972 and is now the sole owner of 2,000 acres of farmland that includes corn and soybeans and a hog herd that produces 22,000 market hogs a year.
Haajses' farm was one of two visited by the Farm Futures Brazil Farm Tour on Wednesday. The other was the 12,000 acre Pedra Branca Farm, also near Tibagi.
Focus on sustainability
What make Haajses' farm unique is its focus on sustainability. Nearly everything is recycled or reprocessed. Methane gas is extracted from the hog manure to run the farm's grain dryers and to heat the homes of the about 100 farm workers employed there. He is trying to develop a means to power his tractors and trucks with it.
Mushrooms were raised for a while but have been discontinued. However, the compost that was made for the mushrooms has become a successful side business.
"It looks to me that in Brazil, if you have to have something done, you do it yourself," said Dave Karl, a Minnesota farmer on the tour, of Haajses' farm.
Haajses' hog operation is similar to a modern one in the United States. Hogs are fed grain harvested from the farm's fields, but also pizza he gets from a nearby pizza plant.
The pizza rations started about 20 years when Haajses learned the nearby plant was throwing out pizzas that did not meet production standards. The rejected pizzas are now fed to the hogs, which he says has helped the flavor of the pork.
Biosecurity is strict and visitors are not allowed in the hog barns. PEDV, a dangerous pig disease that has killed thousands of hogs in the United States and around the world, is not present on the farm.
"I am very afraid of that. It is in Colombia," he said of the disease.
Haajses's said his crops are doing well and have received enough rain. However, he says farmers 20 to 30 kilometers away need rain.
Farm practices no-till
The nearby Pedra Branca farm is a no-till operation that primarily grows corn and soybeans, although wheat, oats and edible beans are also grown.
The farm's agronomist, Jorge do Rogio Ferreira, does not speak English, but via translations by our guide, Daniel Rosenthal, explained that the fields grow crops all year. On Wednesday, tour members stood in a recently harvested corn field that was seeded days ago with edible beans.
Because of its climate, Brazil produces a vast number of crops, including cocoa, coffee, corn, soybeans and wheat. In Parana, in southern Brazil, crops receive about 50 inches of rain annually. While the soil is acidic, farmers correct that with applications of lime about every three years.
"They have the land and the long crop year," said Dennis Blumhoefer, of Minnesota. "I think eventually they will take over the United States in exports, because we use too much of our own grain."
During our visit, huge semi-trucks hauled grain from the Branca farm to a nearby grain elevator. To do that, the trucks drove miles on the dirt and gravel road that is only access to the farm. On the way in and out each truck must be loaded onto a small ferry to cross Tibagi River.
Rosenthal explains that the few farmers served by the road oppose improvements, such as pavement and a bridge, because the dirt road and ferry deter intruders.
More Brazil Farm Tour 2015
Day 1: Flight to Rio
Day 2: Ag-rich Parana state awaits
Day 3: Family dairy farm aims for big leagues
Day 4: Two innovative farms find success in Brazil
Day 5: Many crops, few roads