There’s ‘Cash Crops’ and then there is ‘Care Crops’.
W hen you see Moacyr Copani, Gardener at Chacara Garden, Weleda Brazil tending his gardens of over 40 of medicinal plants it’s easy to spot the difference.
This level of care doesn’t stem from greed… but something much deeper and personal than that. This garden is his life – from the very moment he was born, in the simple brick house on the property.
Moacyr tends to the land with his brother Paulo with as much care as their father – the first gardener who planted these very gardens himself. Even though Moacyr Snr is now in this 80’s, the three men still harvest together, it’s tradition.
How it all began.
As you know, I love ‘meaningful coincidences’. This garden has another great story that will give you goose-bumps for sure.
Weleda Brazil was founded in 1959 by Dr. Gudrun Burkard and her husband Pedro Schmidt. They moved to the now famous wine region on San Roque, São Paulo and laid down their roots with a series of medicinal gardens. Their work was continued by Friedrich Muller who came in the 1970’s to develop Weleda Brazil and introduce the topic of biodiversity. His life vision was to combine all the gardens into one place at Chacara, Weleda – Moacyr Copani Jnr’s home to-be. He knew that bringing all the plants together would make them stronger.
What he didn’t know, what that he would never see the garden come to life. On the very day that the plants were being delivered to the fertile soil of Chacara Garden, Muller suffered from a fatal heart attack. It was as if his job was done and he was passing the garden over to the Copani family to tend to it with their new biodynamic learnings, but in their own way. Which they have been doing ever since.
The difference between ‘Care Crops’ and ‘Cash Crops’
I need to be clear that these are my simplistic terms for biodynamic farming and conventional farming.
Rodolfo Scheier, Weleda Scientific Pharmacist is responsible for the official Biodynamic certification of Chacara, Weleda and he explained that the biodynamic farming industry doesn’t attack conventional farming, they see that in some cases it is necessary for the economy.
‘We cannot say that conventional farming isn’t important – in most case it is. We need to respect the land and let people see the difference for themselves.’ Rodolfo Scheier
“Farmers know how to produce quality products. But when corporate pressure demands they produce certain numbers, by certain time etc, they need to protect their crops, no matter what the consequences are. As consumers, we don’t understand these pressures on conventional farmers. When they are in this cycle, there is no time for tests, for change.”
How can we break this cycle?
“If we partner with farmers – educate them about nature methods of pest and disease control. Support them prior to planting with natural ways then this damaging cycle can be altered.”
Providing the means for change
That’s why Weleda partners with farmers without certification too… to support them to get their certification, sometimes even financially backing them to finance the change. Weleda also supplies the scientific support – the agronomist to put the changes into place and to regularly check on the soil and the plants to make sure everything stays on the right track.
Over my weeks wandering the Weleda world… this is how I’ve began to see the difference between biodynamic and conventional methods:
Considers the property as a whole organism. The minerals, plants, animals, humans = harmony.
Sees the plants as numbers. How many tons, how much produce = how much money.
As we wandered the family gardens of Chacara, Moacyr Copani explained what goes into tending Care Crops.
What does biodynamics mean to you?
“For me, it means new experience. I think it’s so important that we connect with the land, the soil, the animals, the lunar cycles holistically. I think it really works for my plants.”
What do you like most about your job?
“Oh, I like everything. From the beginning to the end. From the planting of the first seeds, the cleaning, the irrigation, everything has its own important part. And I enjoy them all.”
What is the most important thing that helps human beings be healthier.
“Of course, the quality of the plant. If it comes from Biodynamic and organics, without any toxic or chemical products. They don’t just damage the plants, they also can damage us as human beings and our environment. We can help human be healthier by delivering quality, nutritionally rich goods, now and for future generations.”
What does quality mean to you?
“For me, quality is a healthy plant. I could quickly see the change when we started using biodynamic processes on the gardens. The plants were stronger. More beautiful. To make a plant healthy I need my soil to be healthy as well. So, for me when everything is healthy that equals the best quality.”
Do you see a parallel with human beings and plants?
“When you work with something every day, you feel them. Because we are together.
Because they also are like human beings – they need the love and care we need. I need to feed them, I need to talk to them and I know when they are not good as we know when someone close to use is not feeling themselves too.”
What is your vision for the future?
“I would like to welcome more people here. I have a vision to use that little house over there – to transform it to have lectures and events. If we have more visits we can educate more people on how we can use our environment better. I would like to welcome them to see for themselves.”
What do you want to share with the world about your garden?
“I want it to be more well known, to welcome people to visit. I want people to feel what I feel. Like when in August when we have the flower, I wish everyone can see this.”
Why do you put so much effort here?
“Because I love it. Because I really love it. I started my working life as a bricklayer but I found it difficult to wake up in the morning, to do this thing. But when I started to work with Dr. Miller in his garden everything makes sense. I began to love to work. It didn’t feel like work, because I loved what I did. And waking up in the morning was no longer hard.”
I love the quote: ‘A gardener, by their very nature is a person who believes in the future.”
This is a sentiment that clearly lives through Moacyr, I can’t thank him enough for sharing his passion and family gardens with me.
I promised to be your virtual tour guide as I wandered the Weleda World… here’s what I saw today.
- The first thing I noticed as I entered the gates of Chacara, Weleda was how small the gardens were.
This gets me every time. When we think of conventional working gardens we imagine vast amounts of land with flowers are far as the eye can see… but biodynamic gardens need a lot less space. Having multiple plants in the garden helps them grown and the different plants make each other stronger to fighting off disease and pests. Conventional farming needs a lot more land because it cultivates from one plant, creating a monoculture which leaves the plants more receptive to disease and pests.‘If we only cultivate one plant, for example sugar cane the plant gets weaker, susceptible to more diseases. So that’s why conventional farming needs many chemicals, to fight this. The more harmonic the garden the stronger the plants.’ Rodolfo Scheier
- There are many plants in the garden that aren’t used for medicines but are vital for biodiversity.
I was lucky enough to have the honour of planting a JaboticabA tree. Not only do the fruits, (that grow from the stem not the leaves… usually hey!) taste delicious but the plant earns it’s keep by keeping the birds away from the crops. They love this sweet, lychee tasting fruits as much as I do. Biodiversity has it’s many benefits.
- I love seeing the passion behind the products
Something I love seeing, no matter what the country, the culture or the role of the person I am talking with, is the commonality between Weleda staff members. A gentle passion to really make a difference, to help make changes to improve the world we live in. They don’t just say this in words but in actions. You can see it!
How can we make a change from cash crops to care crops?
“We are walking in the direction of a more human agriculture. People will see for themselves that conventional farming is not quite as good as we thought, to question the nutritional quality, the environmental impact – people will see the effect with their own eyes. And that’s when change happens, with farmers as well as the people buying the produce.’ Rodolfo Scheier
It’s in our power to make this shift, with our purchasing choices. If we choose organic or biodynamic we support the local farmers by providing them with a financially sustainable way to make a living without using chemicals, this means we increase organic production, and this then makes the price cheaper for us.
What changes are you making with the things you buy?