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Chef Matt Lands at Taino Farm

Taino Farms, located in the picturesque town of Los Brazos within the Espaillat Province of the Dominican Republic, is a chef’s inspirational zen garden.  Matter of fact, it could be any food enthusiast’s inspirational playground.

My name is Matthew Arnold and I am chef, foodie and culinary enthusiast.  There is not a type of food that I am not interested in or don’t want to learn to cook.  Since I arrived at the farm 2 weeks ago, I have been brimming with new and creative spins to my vastly growing repertoire of recipes. My apologies for not getting this blog up and running sooner but the overwhelming amount creativity, tranquility, and inspiration that exudes from this farm and the townspeople located here has kept me otherwise occupied. But here we go (better late than never).

Locals here grow and raise such a variety of fruit, vegetables, and livestock that the combinations of dishes seems to be endless. At Taino Farm alone we are currently producing 35+ different fruits, vegetables, herbs, greens, and livestock.  We are producing things such as, but not limited to, eggplant, cucumber, thai basil, oregano, sage, habaneros, kale, mustard green, chicken, turkey, tilapia; the list goes on and on. (for full list of available in season items email tainofarm@gmail.com)

My hope for this blog is to inspire you to play and have fun with your cooking, to take the things from here and begin to tweak them to your own liking, take variations of what I have done and show me really what different cooks can collaborate on and bring together. Being inspired to make things that you never thought to attempt before. SHOW ME WHAT YOU DO!! I want to see anything you cook involving organic, locally grown, and whole foods.  What you do inspires me and with any luck what I do will inspire you.

One of my first few days I found myself laying back and trying to collect my thoughts and organize all the things I had seen here at Taino Farm into a dish that would that would represent me to my fellow coworkers and the staff here. I felt that my first big dish needed to really show them a side of my cooking that drew from both my personal tastes as well as incorporate all this farm has to offer. You know, sometimes you just need to step back and take a look at what’s around you, the larger picture, to find your own direction (thanks dad for that one). This is exactly what I did.

The dish will be explain in the following blog. For the actually recipe with full details please send an email to tainofarm@gmail.com and ask me 🙂

A picture perfect plate of farm fresh greens, eggs, tomatoes and avocado.
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Nutrivore Eats

Taino Farm is a beautiful place to work and live. Sustainability is essential for success here because resources are precious and the margin for error is very small. Wasting time, money, water, etc. impacts the Taino Farm community in a big way. Sustainability in agriculture is quite a popular topic on the blogosphere these days but it never hit home for me until I came to the north coast of the Dominican Republic. In California, every type of food is available right at my finger tips. The concept of sustainability and protecting our resources (namely water!) is often discussed, but for me, there was no real weight behind the issue until I stepped outside of my all too familiar surroundings.

Processed with Moldiv

The concept of sustainability and my quest for nutrient dense food go hand in hand at the farm.  The food that grows the best on a permaculture farm is both nutrient dense, because it is happy in the soil, and has the lowest impact on the environment because the plants are using their resources efficiently.  This makes good nutrition choices much simpler. Instead of trying to hold onto this idea of good nutrition that was so vastly different at home, I remembered the main principals of what I tried to implement in California:

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The food options for a Nutrivore are numerous but aren’t a picture perfect fit for the standard Paleo diet. I know that I need to avoid gluten, sugar, dairy and poor quality fats above all else. I have a tendency to get bogged down in the tiny details of my ever changing diet.  But on the farm, it is quite easy to find what will bring the most vibrant health into my life. The freshest produce that has the most developed flavors are the basis of a Nutrivore diet.

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Hibiscus

So I decided to approach the “What should I eat” question in the simplest way possible. What are the prettiest veggies in our garden? We have eggplant, cucumber, green beans, peppers, pumpkin, and TONS of delicious greens – spicy, sweet and mild. Arugula, kale, mustard greens and cranberry hibiscus are the farm favorites! Also on the list for special treats and simple sugars to revitalize thirsty, sweaty farmers quickly are coconuts, plantains, cacao, and delicious tropical fruits like Abiyu and Mangos.

 

Arugula

Arugula

In California, my paleo diet consisted of high protein and low carb.  So far in the Dominican Republic, clean protein sources have been hard to come by. Luckily on the farm we have delicious pastured eggs and Tilapia from our aquaponics system. As part of the internship program, I spend half my time on Kite Beach, Cabarete at the Extreme Hotel where I eat at restaurants 1-2 meals per day. I have found that most lean animal proteins aren’t high quality and are most certainly covered in industrial seed oils and sauces that do not promote good health in my body. This does not go with the Nutrivore theme! Therefore…gasp…I have started eating beans and legumes to supplement my diet. Perhaps I am picking the lesser of two evils. I am pairing legumes with tons of anti-inflammatory foods and my body has been able to find some balance. Nutrition choices can be confusing especially when you have dietary restrictions. But, as Liz Wolfe says ” Get back to basics. Let intuition be your guide”.


What is nutrient dense, fresh, and grows right in front of my face?

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A slightly hidden pumpkin

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Coconuts!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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mmmmm Cacao

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My Garden Beds Are Better Than Yours

These past two weeks have really flown by at Taino Farm. With a constant stream of workers coming into the farm, the “tranquillo” vibe that normally flows with my workdays has been changed to “mas rapido por favor!” Viktor, Neo, and Juan finally finished the majority of the raised beds in the garden and with the walls up it was time to amend the soil.

When I first arrived I made the mistake of simply looking under my microscope, seeing good protozoa and fungal numbers and throwing one layer of mulch on the top of the soil. This lead to the constant need for the addition of organic material to the first smaller garden we created. This time I asked for some advice. Viktor did an amazing job of aiding me in that process, as well as improving my wheelbarrowing skills.

garden bed in the tropics

Creating the perfect soil in our tropical beds was a multi-step process

So this is how we did it:

  1. We started off with one wheelbarrow full of sand per raised bed (2ft by 16ft).
  2. Tilled that in with a mattock to decrease the amount of compaction that occurs in clay soil and also help with water retention.
  3. Then added the next layer, three full wheelbarrows of horse manure and sawdust that had been composted down.
  4. On top of that, we added a five-gallon bucket of goat manure, and half that bucket of bat guano per bed.
  5. Once all of that was added we tilled with the mattock one more time.
  6. Then we threw in a wheelbarrow full of coconut husk and did one final tilling.

All in all, It was a lot of work! But thankfully we had a constant stream of amazing volunteers. Special thanks to Charlie Durrant, Ollie, Stef and her team of youngsters from Estrellas de Los Brazos, the team from Extreme Hotel, and many more!

Dominican kid helping to improve soil

Thanks to our team of enthusiastic volunteers! especially the kids at Estrellas de Los Brazos

Mondays and Tuesdays seem to be the days that most of the intensive work gets done, while the rest of the week is dedicated to working in the food forest. The food forest is amazing as well! ATN (say it out loud and you pronounce his name phonetically) is our new intern, here on the farm. He has been traveling around the property weaving nests out of branches to create raised garden beds in the food forest around the fruit trees.

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Food Forest Trellising with bird nest technique

Other than that, I wish I could say there isn’t much, but there is ALWAYS a lot of work to be done. So now I gotta get back out there! Please feel free to come down to Taino Farms in Los Brazos and volunteer any day you would like! We always need a helping hand and we’re only 30 min away from Cabarete on the North Coast of the Dominican Republic. Interested in long term apprenticeship programs for accreditation in permaculture, aquaponics, and organic farming? Stay tuned for more information on upcoming educational programs at Taino.

Check out the video that charlie made for the raised bed construction day: