Fazenda Pedra Preta

Introducing Eduardo Ferriera de Sousa, fifth generation coffee producer and owner of Agroforestry farm, Pedra Preta. Eduardo is leading the way in his innovative approach to regenerative farming, and is an inspiration for coffee producers in Brazil and worldwide. We are incredibly proud to welcome coffee from Fazenda Pedra Preta into our House range, and we hope this is the start of a long and rewarding relationship.

Hey Eduardo, can you tell us more about yourself and the history of Fazenda Pedra Preta?

My name is Eduardo Ferriera de Sousa, I’m a fifth generation coffee producer. My family has been growing coffee in the same region of Brazil for over a century. The history of Fazenda Pedra Preta is very close to the history of my family. My grandfather was from a very humble beginning, he lived in a small ranch in the mountains. As the eldest son, he was in charge of taking his siblings to school, the only school in the region in the 1930s. The only way to the school was by crossing the coffee farms in the mountains. He was a very visionary man - he would sit on the top of mountains and dream of one day owning his own farm and planting coffee.

After 50 years of working in the coffee industry, he bought Pedra Preta farm. His only son turned 18 in the same year, it was the first farm that they worked on together. Today, my uncle is the one in charge of the family legacy, and I am running Fazenda Pedra Preta. This story is an inspiration for me to keep the legacy alive. The way that I see it, for me to put my stamp on it, is to protect the good things from this very long legacy, by bringing all of the new technology and modern concepts to coffee cultivation. We still have the challenge of providing food for a population that is growing fast, but in a completely different context. With extreme conditions and climate phenomena. My mission is to build resilience by combining these family values of tradition and good practice, with new technologies.

My Grandpa passed away in 2012, whilst I was at university. When I graduated in 2016, my father was running the farm and it was the year of a terrible drought. So I started my coffee journey in the midst of extreme conditions. Coffee prices and yield were not great that year - we were in a tough situation. I wanted to help the business by implementing new processes and modern practices. I realised that I couldn’t help the business if I couldn’t find a new way of farming that addressed climate change. But to be honest, no-one was paying attention to climate change, it was understood as an exception. I tried to talk to my family, the coops and everyone in the coffee industry that I had access to and it seemed that no-one was paying attention to climate change. This was the challenge I had to overcome to keep the legacy of Fazenda Pedra Preta alive.

I studied a masters degree in coffee economics and science in Italy, and learnt about agroforestry and regenerative farming on the course. Most of the people studying on the course were in the same situation as I was, and came from traditional coffee families worldwide: Guatemala, Costa Rica, Honduras, Ethiopia and Yemen. What I realised was that everyone was facing the same challenges of climate change, but with different outcomes. I finished the course with a clear vision; to combine these techniques and knowledge with the traditional Brazilian legacy of cultivating coffee. It has been my mission since then and is what I have been doing for the last five years at Fazenda Pedra Preta.

What is agroforestry and why is it important to farm in this way?

Agroforestry is combining different plants in the same area as a means to build resilience and tackle climate change. Nature already has the tools to overcome extreme conditions. Plants can be very harmonious, and create positive interactions between themselves. This is how forestry can survive without any fertiliser or input. Agroforestry is learning from these interactions in nature, and to recreate these systems for growing cash crops.

When we can’t change the climate, we need to find a way to deal with it and build resilience. A Regenerative Production System is a system that produces crops in partnership with nature. It is made up of four main pillars:
- Restoration of landscapes
- Agroforestry systems
- Regenerative practices - The promotion of biodiversity and nutrient replenishment in the soil.
- Community - How can we create a community where everybody understands the challenges we need to overcome as a team.

What are the main challenges faced by the Brazilian coffee industry?

To change people's minds, create resilience systems and abundance from these resilient systems. To change the perspectives and understanding that we need to change. Collaboration is key, with people like Yallah and others in the coffee industry in Brazil.

We need to change the recipe that we use to grow things to create resilient systems. In order to do this, the industry needs to change. For example, I need the right fertilisers, the right equipment...the right coffee consumers and roasters that want to be a part of this movement and cause. We need to find a way to communicate our actions to change people's minds. It's a big challenge.

Do you feel confident that the coffee industry will be able to adapt quickly enough to the challenges faced by climate change?

Not at all to be honest. We need to be ambitious, and take steps to change the way we deal with nature as coffee producers.

'How do we provide food for a growing population?' This was the problem that my grandparents and my uncle had to deal with. This approach was reliant on the perfect climate and environment. Traditional monoculture coffee farming removes nutrients from the environment without replenishing them.

We need to change how we deal with nature in agriculture. Agriculture plays a role in climate change, and the removal of nutrients in the soil and water. We need to change the industry and find new methods of growing coffee based on regenerative farming methods. To produce coffee without removing nutrients from the soil and promote biodiversity. It’s a simple statement - but not simple to perform. It’s hard to find this balance of producing a high yield, as the population is growing, and we don’t have the weather that we used to have.

As a coffee farmer, I cannot address climate change individually, this is a problem we need to address as a society. By changing the way that I farm, I hope that I can be an example of Agroforestry for other coffee producers.