Smart Farmer: Sarita Junqueira Rodas

Farming customers around the world share knowledge on Rabobank’s Global Farmers platform. This week Brazilian Farmer Sarita Junqueira Rodas explains how knowledge-sharing has enabled her to build upon her father’s legacy. Now she coaches others.

For Sarita Junqueira Rodas working in agriculture means feeling privileged to be a part of the chain that feeds the world. Sarita Junqueira Rodas is a mother of three children and an agribusiness entrepreneur in Brazil. In addition to being a farmer, she is also a coach and was the first woman advisor at Brazil’s Citriculture Defence Fund (Fundecitrus).

The Junqueira Rodas Group, a family enterprise led by Sarita, was created in 1968, in Monte Azul Paulista, São Paulo. Besides being well-established in the citrus industry, the group also produces sugar cane and farms cattle. They also introduced the only genuinely Brazilian Zebu breed of cattle - called Tabapuã - under the Água Milagrosa brand.

The farm now has approximately 550 full-time employees, plus 1,000 harvest workers. One of the biggest challenges for Sarita in managing the legacy is leading and motivating these people. She has been running the family business since her father passed away in 2008 and the succession process was unexpected. Succeeding her father in managing her family’s agricultural business, was the biggest challenge she had ever faced, but being part of Rabobank Brazil’s AgroLeaders programme has helped her to take the lead.

“Being part of AgroLeaders is a privilege”

- Sarita Junqueira Rodas, Global Farmer

AgroLeaders programme

The AgroLeaders programme was set up 10 years ago by Rabobank Brazil to promote the exchange of knowledge, networking and the sharing of experiences amongst clients, in line with the bank’s Banking For Food strategy. "Being part of AgroLeaders is a privilege. I have learned a lot in our meetings during over the years. The knowledge shared by the team makes all the difference in managing the business. We have implemented the governance processes and procedures taught in the program to better manage the daily challenges in agribusiness. Changing the culture from "running a farm" to running an agricultural business was our biggest task in the almost ten years I have led my family business," explains Sarita.

Innovation and sustainability for the business

"Carrying on my father's legacy makes us proud. He taught us to be committed to agriculture and faithful to nature. We strive to improve productivity with the latest technology in everything we do, without harming the environment," says the young entrepreneur.

Sarita says that among the many techniques that are used in orange production, irrigation is an interesting challenge. "All of our orange orchards are irrigated, imposing a very big challenge with respect to water management and fertigation (the injection of fertilizers, soil amendments, and other water-soluble products into an irrigation system). We understand that the word 'sustainability' in all of its broad aspects, its countless applications, is the key - the crucial point - to excellence, pleasure, income and satisfaction."

"Being in agribusiness is the utmost way to take care of people, it means feeding them. Agriculture is for people who are extremely committed to techniques and knowledge. With it being a high-risk activity, specializing in what you do is paramount. It is impossible to know everything, so you need to ask the best professionals," Sarita adds.

Sarita, on the right, with her mother, Maria Tereza.

The challenge of succession and consulting for those who need it

With the death of her father, Sarita had to take on major responsibilities: "Succeeding a great leader was the greatest challenge I ever faced in my life. Suddenly we were left without the founder and manager of the company and to face this task we had meetings between the family and professionals to continue the beautiful work that my father had done."

All these challenges taught Sarita a lot and today she teaches succession coaching classes, in addition to her activities as an agricultural manager, passing on some of her experience to other farmers.

"Out of gratitude for all the challenges we have overcome in these ten years of succession, I decided to set up PROSSIGA - a family governance company - so that other families do not have to go through the same difficulties that we had to. In our training we share best practices so that family businesses, whether agricultural or not, can be better structured and can continue to run independent of individual people. Family businesses can then continue for generations. "We welcome people to our farm, and to answer questions about management and governance in family companies. We are very grateful for everything we have learned, even through the hard times, and sharing this motivates us to continue managing our legacy, showing that it is possible to turn things around," concludes Sarita.

Sarita Junqueira Rodas is also a member of is an exclusive worldwide community where Rabobank farmers and experts connect and share knowledge. It’s Rabobank’s initiative to help farmers to be successful rural entrepreneurs in a vastly changing world and to contribute to the global food challenge.