By Lays Furtado
From the MST web site
Between the months of July and August of this year, the MST celebrates the five-year anniversary of the Armazéns do Campo (Country Stores) chain, which opened its first store in the city of São Paulo. And today it has 34 points of sale spread across 13 Brazilian states, with services via physical stores, deliveries and orders for products from People’s Agrarian Reform.
Over these first years, the network has been consolidating itself as the largest network of Agrarian Reform products in Brazil. It has become a reference for those looking for real food and organic products at a fair price, both in São Paulo and in other states of the country. In addition to becoming a meeting point between countryside and city, where the idea that eating is also a political and cultural act is nurtured.
On the website, launched this commemorative month, it is possible to order agro-ecological baskets, and find the closest point of sale for those who want to support the MST’s struggle, consuming healthy food, free from exploitation and poison. The expectation is that in the next two to three years another 30 Armazéns do Campo will open their doors in several cities in the country, in the interior and in the capitals.
Following this month’s special schedule for the Armazéns do Campo network, next Friday (13th), at 7pm, there will be a special anniversary livestream on the networks with artists, supporters and friends of the MST. In addition, special articles on agroecological and organic products that stand out in stores, produced in associations, cooperatives and agribusinesses of peasant family agriculture will be promoted on the MST’s networks and website.
Armazéns do Campo Network is the result of the National Agrarian Reform Fair
Ademar Ludwig, 44, is currently one of the coordinators of Armazéns do Campo. He also has a degree in History from the Federal University of Paraíba (UFPB) and is a specialist in Agroecology from the University of São Paulo/ Florestan Fernandes National School (USP/ENFF), and comments on the idea of the Armazéns as a space that goes far beyond a store. “I think it is important to emphasize that Armazém do Campo is the result of the first major National Agrarian Reform Fairs, especially the one that took place at Água Branca Park, in 2015,” recalls Ademar in the five years of the network’s foundation.
“Since the fair, which brought products from all over the country, was such a success, many comrades here in the city who wanted access to this fruit of the struggle, asked: Okay, you are leaving so how are we going to buy this later?”, quotes the coordinator of the network, telling how the trajectory got started. The first space was at the headquarters in São Paulo, where the identity of the store was having an impact. And today it is expanding to capitals and interiors, in dozens of cities across Brazil, with the fruits of People’s Agrarian Reform and peasant family farming.
Now models and guidelines are being planned as a reference for the next stores that will open. “In addition, the course we have developed over the last year is an online course that is about to be completed with a group that started in March with more than 30 people who will run the new stores”, comments Ademar. In addition to the physical store in São Paulo, there are units that follow the same model in the capitals of Rio Grande do Sul, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, Pernambuco, Maranhão, and in other various sales units, under orders and MST product fairs.
“It is possible in a period of between 15 and 20 years to open a thousand stores in the country”, says Ademar, stating that with the initiative of a model of Armazéns do Campo, plans were also made to grow the network. “Because as the MST is a mass movement, then all our activities also have to be massive, including stores”, in addition to being a logistical solution, explains the coordinator.
For Ademar, the network’s differential, in addition to the importance of marketing healthy products, is that it has a whole history of struggle involved. Because of these and other factors, the Armazéns network has become a space where the sale of food seeks to be equalized at fair prices for both those who consume and those who produce, to the benefit of the working class in the countryside and cities.
“We want a space where people feel among their own, among equals and feel welcomed”, says Ademar. In this way, the warehouses, wherever they are, constitute above all a space for People’s Agrarian Reform, for the partners of peasant family farming, indigenous, quilombolas, riverside dwellers, peasant women, rural workers. “In addition to being the space where the product and promotion of agroecological production will always be prioritized”, adds the coordinator.
A network of flavors, affection, and solidarity
Gênova De Carli, 63, is retired and has been making weekly purchases at Armazém do Campo since it opened in 2019. “It is a wonderful space of cultural value and, above all, a model for struggle and resistance. Unlike other markets, you can find a wide variety of products without poison, agroecological or organic products, coming from agrarian reform. And this supports the work of agrarian reform, of small family farmers”, says one of the most loyal customers of Armazém do Campo in Recife.
In addition to cultivating real food, during the pandemic the MST turned solidarity into one of the hallmarks of the Armazéns, and on fertile soil, establishing ties with the city’s working class, in the companionship of the struggles and especially in the fight against hunger. So far, the MST has donated more than 1 million lunchboxes and 5 thousand tons of food, through solidarity campaigns throughout the country.
“The Armazém did a beautiful job, donating and distributing food to the homeless population and several families in Recife’s neighborhoods. For all of these reasons I want to join in; I make a point of shopping weekly at Armazém do Campo and recommend it to everyone who wants to consume healthy products and support this wonderful work of the MST and Armazéns. Congratulations to the MST and Armazéns do Campo, a lot of success today and always!” celebrates Genoa, who is more than a consumer of the chain, she is also a friend of MST.
It was also during the pandemic that 36-year-old journalist Raphael Veleda, a resident of Brasília, Federal District, began to explore the products of People’s Agrarian Reform, spending more time at home and cooking more. During this period, the fair became a reference environment for his family’s purchases. “The fair emerged as a better option, both in products and in the environment” – says Raphael, stating that he attends and consumes products at the Ponte Norte Fair on Saturdays, where most of the exhibitors are from family farming and linked to the MST. “The products are much tastier than those on the market and we can buy them without going indoors. We moved almost all of the food purchases there”
Eating is a cultural and political act
Julia Iara, 28, is a member of the MST and is part of the Training and Culture team at the Solar Cultural da Terra Maria Firmina dos Reis, where Armazém do Campo in Maranhão has been located for two years. The young woman says that the Solar space was created with a view to increasing the aspects of the cultural program in the city, linked to the struggle for People’s Agrarian Reform. A space in which it was possible to find real food, but also to get training, debate ideas, promote agroecology and collective discussion of food sovereignty and healthy eating. In addition to the right to make art, with access to art, among other political ways of involvement in collective struggles in the countryside and in the city.
“We were welcomed by an intense set of forces, perspectives and possibilities organized by the various movements, organizations, parties and collectives that took on this project with us. So we have from the engagement of popular artists, educators, political leaders of the left, to people who believe in the Armazém do Campo proposal and strengthen our network counting on family and peasant farming”, says Julia.
Since the doors were opened in the capital São Luís, the Armazém do Campo space has been part of a collective construction of occupation, which is already a cultural reference in the city, as it has become a space for meeting, art, celebration, but also of important formative and humanizing practices – such as the space’s engagement with solidarity actions built with the city’s various forces – and the denunciation actions organized in these difficult times of confronting the genocidal government of Bolsonaro.
“Here we organize courses, debates, seminars, meetings, festivals, fairs, workshops, artistic presentations in different languages and the doors are opened for networking with other groups. As is the case of joining with alternative spaces in the city, today the Solar is a project that expands beyond its physical space. It already echoes collectively with other important cultural projects in São Luís, such as the Ancestral Kitchen. So here the soil is fertile for many seeds, for diversity, for the encounter of emancipatory and combative perspectives”, states Julia Iara.
Peasant Family Farming and the fruits of People’s Agrarian Reform
Daniel Audibert, 54, has lived with his family in the municipality of Eldorado do Sul, in Rio Grande do Sul for 28 years. And for more than 15 years, their production from peasant family farming has been destined for the Agrarian Reform store, which later became Armazém do Campo in Porto Alegre, in the capital of Rio Grande do Sul, which opened 2 months ago. In addition to selling to the National School Feeding Program (PNAE), supplying local schools, among other points of sale, the settler farmer of People’s Agrarian Reform, estimates that around 25% of his family’s agricultural production is destined for the Armazém do Campo, through delivery services and at the producer’s fair, which takes place weekly inside the warehouse itself.
The farmer says that the partnership, as the MST and with Armazém do Campo, is in line with the idea that emerged as a principle after they won the land, with the practice of producing healthy and quality food, including organic food. “And more than ever, Armazém do Campo has this objective–to bring quality products and products without pesticides to the consumer’s table. So this partnership more than ever to affirms our objective in organic production and marketing”, states Daniel.
Daniel with his family delivers two weekly shipments of orders to the Armazém, based on orders for a variety of horticultural products, from lettuce, arugula, kale, broccoli, carrots, beetroot, cabbage, cauliflower, among others. And he says that family work is also a way of educating his daughters to value what they have achieved. The eldest 22-year-old daughter already accompanies her father at fairs. The shared dream for the future is that the two daughters can continue on the family property, dedicated to organic production.
“So all the logistics, planting, harvesting and marketing part is done by our family. Everything is discussed together with the family, decisions, investments, planting and sales. In fact, it is discussed in the family and approved in the family, and the commitment belongs to the family as well. This is interesting, because we see so many young people, for example, leaving the countryside and going to the city. And we don’t want that, we want the youth to continue our production process”, says Daniel.
Cooperativism and agroecology
Luana Oliveira, 22 years old, is an MST activist, settled in the Denis Gonçalves settlement, in the municipality of Goianá, in the Zona da Mata Minas Gerais, cooperating with the Cooperative for Agroecological Production and Peasant Culture (CPA). She says that in all, ten families work cooperatively in the territory, among them five who live there. In the settlement’s productive core, the main production lines are milk, animal husbandry, agribusiness and the Agroforestry System (Safe). And with this production destined for the Armazéns do Campo networks, it made it possible for the products from the settlement where she lives to reach a greater number of people, interested in eating well through access to agroecological products, without poison.
Through her way of working in the agribusiness, Luana is one of the young women who works on the processing of all products from the main production lines in the settlement, by animals and by Safe. “Here in the settlement, there are several production groups and the main difficulty that we encounter, in addition to an incentive for production, is marketing. And Armazéns do Campo, as well as other networks that we organize in the State, make it possible for the product we produce to arrive without a middleman and reach the final consumer in a more cooperative and valued way. This, for me, is the main positive effect that the Armazém makes possible for us”, emphasizes Luana.
Among the main benefits mentioned by Luana from the Armazém network is the direct dialogue between the producer and the consumer, without middlemen, which also promotes local development. “The Armazém do Campo network enabled the development of families within the territory. And it made this more direct contact with our consumer possible, which is also a great step forward in the process of raising awareness of the families that are organized to produce. And here we cooperate not only in work, but in work on the land and in the means of production”, says Luana.
One of the varieties of products that gained momentum in local marketing via the Armazéns, the antipasto products stand out and have already gained market share in Minas. “It’s great to be able to say on our label that it is a product of Agrarian Reform, the fruit of the struggle for land, a product without poison. And we can do this because it is a people’s network, it is an Agrarian Reform network that is selling. We know that this reality is not real everywhere”, concludes the young producer from the settlement.
*Edited by Solange Engelmann