Today we began our trek to Juiz de Fora bright and early, but only after doing what we have learned to do best–eating. Our hotel in Petropolis had a plethora of breads, pastries, fruits, cheeses, and ham for us to indulge on. The drive to Juiz de Fora was about two hours long and was absolutely beautiful. We were able to see a large number of Nellore cattle grazing atop and alongside the lush mountains. Alfredo informed us that most of the farms we were seeing were hobby farms owned by the big city’s doctor and lawyer types. He said that most of the places raised cattle and race horses, claiming that the altitude better conditioned the horses to have high stamina when racing.
When we finally reached our first destination of the day, Embrapa Dairy Research Center, we were welcomed with coffee, milk, juice and cheese bread. After introducing ourselves to the group that welcomed us, including a mix of researchers, program developers and administrators of the center, our new friend, Sergio, gave us an overview of the center and what projects they are focusing on worldwide. One thing that stuck out was when he said that Embrapa was placing big emphasis on education and communication to explain what it is that they do to the general public. This answered our pre-departure questions of what effort was being made in regard to agricultural advocacy in Brazil. They are even preparing a new educational exhibit for youth to show the process of dairy production from start to finish.
Embrapa supports over 70,000 jobs and in 2011 had a social profit of 8.88 billion dollars as a result of its research in agriculture ranging from entomology to conservation. While we were at the headquarter location, the company is present throughout Brazil with 47 total research centers. In dairy cattle research specifically, they have 72 researchers, 65 research assistants and 178 support staff employees. We toured the facility and had the chance to see many of these people hard at work. Throughout the introduction, we were informed of the focus on strategic tick control in their research and our first lab visit bared witness to petri dishes full of ticks that were at least half the size of a dime.