Chapter 3

Brazil: The Soil Superpower

A man in a hurry will be miserable in Brazil.

—Peter Fleming, Brazilian Adventure

The best place to start exploring this agricultural wonder is the western part of Brazil, in an interior state called Mato Grosso do Sul. Its capital, Campo Grande, is a good-sized city with a population close to a million people.

I arrived at a small airport with a band of readers along for the journey, walked off the plane onto the tarmac, and met with 95-degree heat. It was also very dry and dusty. Seasonally, it was the end of what passes for winter in these parts.

I packed a handful of books on Brazil to help give my some perspective. One of the oldies is Roy Nash's The Conquest of Brazil, first published in 1926. On Campo Grande, Nash writes “Mud to the knees during the rains from October to February, and dust for the rest of the year.” Some things never change.

Nash is an interesting character, a former Army captain during World War I, he traveled widely in Brazil in the 1920s. He is good at putting together the pieces of Brazil's vast geography and history. We'll hear more from him in a bit.

The city has a slightly worn-down, yet energetic feel. People bustle about, and motorcycles are everywhere. There were the boxy, concrete buildings splashed with bright colors, a buttered-popcorn-yellow apartment building here, a melon-green body shop there. Our bus bounced along patchy roads to the hotel.

Campo Grande is nicknamed “the Brown City” (Cidade Morena) ...

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