Goes up the stairs, goes down the stairs, handles vegetables, fruits and sausages, checks the price, spreads the tablecloth, arranges the straw baskets, fills the table. This is how the daily routine of Agatha Picollo, coordinator of Armazém do Campo de Porto Alegre, begins. Agatha’s mission is quite clear: to guarantee access to healthy food for everyone. As? Through their struggle for recognition of the social value of land.
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Anyone who goes to the Armazém, located at Rua José do Patrocínio, nº 888, in the Cidade Baixa neighborhood, is welcomed with a table full of fresh fruits and vegetables placed right at the entrance. The space, consisting of two floors, displays shelves filled with a variety of foods. Honey, bread, milk, cereals, rice, beans, juices and smoked meats are some of the products that can be found there.
“These products that are on the shelves have a lot of history behind them. There is a lot of good, quality food that arrives on our plates. We need Agrarian Reform. It is important for us to think about what the family that produced this food went through”, he preluded Agatha.
As a child, Agatha loved watching her grandmother sprout the delicious foods that were served to her at meals. While Agatha’s grandmother planted vegetables to nourish the family, she also sowed in her granddaughter the perception that growing healthy food is synonymous with caring for others.
Growing up in Santana do Livramento, on the Western Border of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, Agatha realized that not everyone had access to food, especially healthy food. And the inequality in the distribution of land in his country was such that part of the population could be called the “landless”. Agatha then decided that she must act to transform this reality.
At the age of 18, he entered Rural Development and Agroindustrial Management at the State University of Rio Grande do Sul (Uergs) with the purpose of finding a way to contribute to the strengthening of family farming. But it can be said that it was love, in its most diverse forms, that made the seeds of struggle for the land germinate in Agatha.
As an undergraduate, he met his college friend Jonas Picollo, the son of rural producers from the Cerro dos Munhoz settlement, located in the interior of Santana do Livramento and belonging to the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST). The reciprocal feeling of changing the world through food brought Agatha and Jonas together: the two fell in love, started dating and became companions in life and struggle.
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Alongside Jonas, Agatha began to see up close the daily lives of settled rural workers. At the settlement, Agatha witnessed the anguish and hope of those who had no food to put on the table. There, she talked to women, children, elderly people and, touched, got involved with the stories she heard.
In her course completion work, Agatha dedicated herself to documenting the experiences of landless women. From these meetings, she expanded her participation in the MST and her name began to represent the feminist agenda among settled peasant women.
In 2022, Agatha was invited to join the coordination of Armazém do Campo de Porto Alegre, a point of sale for organic products from MST settlements and family farming. Without hesitation, she accepted.
With Jonas and little Davi, the result of the couple’s relationship, Agatha left the border region towards the Capital. Since then, now 29 years old, she has traveled a 27 km journey every day from Nova Santa Rita, the city where she currently lives, to Porto Alegre to make the distribution of healthy food at a fair price more effective.
At Armazém – which is also a restaurant – there is a kitchen dedicated to preparing lunches, which are served on site from Monday to Friday, at noon. At this time, the flavors fill the shelves and fill the plates of those who will enjoy the menu of the day. Under the coordination of Agatha, the Warehouse is made up entirely of women.
“In addition to me, there are three in the kitchen, two at the cash register and one in service. It is the only Armazém do Campo that is 100% female”, comments Agatha with the haughtiness of someone who recognizes their own legacy.
On the walls of the Armazém, small paintings with photographs and historical mottos hang the memory of the MST’s almost 40 years of existence. Memories that break away from the frames and blend into Agatha’s trajectory.
Her son, Davi, aged 6, affectionately nicknamed “Sem Terrinha”, follows his mother’s journey during the school holidays.
“He’s already learning what the MST means,” he says, turning his gaze to Davi, who was painting a drawing on the table next to him.
“And what does the MST mean to you?” I ask.
“It’s solidarity, it’s healthy eating, it’s equality…”, he interrupts, with his voice shaking and his eyes watering.
“It’s just that I get emotional when I talk, because only those who live this struggle know…”, explains Agatha, trying not to cry.
“Are you crying, mom?”, asks Davi, dropping the colored pencil on the table.
“Yeah… Mom is…”, she replies.
After that, Agatha laughs at herself and continues:
“But that’s it, MST is about taking care of the land, it’s… “, defines the mother.
“It’s free land”, adds the son.
It is also through mothering that Agatha establishes the understanding that as long as there are people going hungry, it will be necessary to break down fences to plant crops. As a woman, mother, worker and activist, Agatha continues her fight for a fairer and more supportive Brazil in which access to healthy food will be sovereign. Her revolution starts at the table.
Source: BdF Rio Grande do Sul
Editing: Katia Marko