The Centro Agricola de Vargem Grande and the role of science for the end of enslaved work
In Brazil at the end of the 19th century, the end of the exploitation of enslaved work and the competition of coffee produced by English and French colonies generated a great debate about the coffee crisis. The farmers, gathered in several Agricultural Societies, discussed the causes and possible solutions to the crisis, publishing Agricultural Journals to disseminate their work. Among these Societies, the Centro Agricola de Vargem Grande deserves attention for attributing the causes of the crisis to the relationship between enslaved work and extensive agriculture, and for seeing the benefits of science as the solution to the crisis. This research will show how the authors of the Centro Agricola de Vargem Grande used the Almanach Agricola Fluminense para o Anno de 1898 to position themself in the debate on the crisis.
In The Almanach, the Centro Agricola argued that enslaved work allowed extensive agriculture to continue, as farmers could only move to another place rather than invest in property conservation. This led to the characteristic delay of Brazilian agriculture when compared to the English and French models, which used modern production techniques and, consequently, were able to produce a better quality coffee, increasing international competition. As a way of trying to solve the delay and the coffee crisis, the Centro Agricola de Vargem Grande offered the installation of weather stations to facilitate the acclimatization of species, and the use of agronomic maps and laboratories to minimize waste with fertilizers. It is important to point out, however, that the defense of science was not simply to present a solution to the delay of extensive agriculture, but also to try to minimize the new costs of wages. Thus, the Almanach published by the Centro Agricola de Vargem Grande allows us to understand how science was used to rationalize the exploration of both nature and work.