Permaculture Developments at Taino Farm

With its unique feel of diversity in so many respect, Taino Farm is poised to be a great spot for our upcoming Permaculture course and its overall mission of sustainable food production.  I, Doug Crouch of TreeYo Permaculture, will be facilitating the first of a series of Permaculture events with Taino Farm and Extreme Hotel in about ten days.  We are busy finalizing details of the course with an exciting time of preparation and advancement of the site happening currently.

Cacao Fruit
Cacao pod growing at Taino Farm

It’s nice to be back in the tropics as this is where my Permaculture field career started.  After taking my Eight-week Permaculture and Ecovillage Design Course at Lost Valley Educational Center in Dexter, Oregon, USA, I embarked on a Nine month farm job at Finca Ipe near Dominical in Costa Rica.  There I was charged with the aquaculture side of the project and flourished in that role after doing extensive research that leveraged my degree in Fish and Wildlife Management.  There I learned the ropes of agriculture in general and applying the ecological design system known as Permaculture.  Permaculture is a common sense philosophy that can be summed up as comprehending and copying how nature works and applying that to as many different aspects of development as possible.  From my website the following definition presents a more complex and theoretical explanation:

 

“Permaculture is the harmonious integration of all life kingdoms into agriculturally productive ecosystems and socially just environments producing sound economic outcomes through systems management. It is a regenerative design intention reflecting patterns in nature that seeks to build interconnections allowing for energy efficiency and abundance of yield.”

Bill Mollison Quote
Bill Mollison Quote

From this experience in Costa Rica, as well as my other travels in Central America, and my work in India and SE Asia, I have quite a lot of inspiration to further develop Taino Darm in a holistic fashion.  For example, turning the existing straight channels of runoff water into a “chinampa” like system will be a fun upgrade.  It will be lots of digging in the heavy clay, but the two acres that lends itself quite nicely will be a great example of the Permaculture principle “edge”.  To read more about this edge principle, check out the educational branch of the TreeYo Permaculture site.  Chinampas classically come from the lakes of central Mexico where the indigenous people were once building floating rafts for growing in an aquaponics system.  The permaculture reference of chinampas often has to do with utilizing the high water table of sites that were at one time channeled off farms but we like to let it flow in a sinuous shape to utilize the three dimensions.  Essentially it creates a reconstructed wetlands, matching land and water harmoniously in this slower flow.  Subsequently, this creation will allow us to incorporate aquaculture in and amongst tree crops.  Aquaculture is extremely productive and we will use these systems to cycle biomass of aquatic plants to build soil and mulch the fruit trees.

Chinampa aquaculture
Chinampa Aquiculture

 

Another main project that I envision heavy participation on is furthering the food forest.  This might be the most exciting facet of the farm now as it is already a  well-developed selection of fruit trees.  The ones that popped out the most to me were the coconut palms, the cacoa trees, the mangosteen, the avocado’s, the rhambutans, and the mangos of course.  Banana and papaya add another layer while the vining habit of the local passionflower was the first piece of tropical fruit I ate at the farm.  The farm manager, Viktor who is a local Dominican, was quite welcoming with that gift and is very in tune with the ideas of Permaculture already.  I look forward to working with him and the others from the staff of Extreme Hotel on this project.  Thus my job here is to facilitate the course but also to facilitate the design process.  Designing the guilds and the other layers of the food forest into the existing plantations of fruit trees will be one of the main objectives of the farm mission.

Overall it is an exciting time at the farm as the next phase of implementation will be in full swing in just a few days.  Finishing touches are being put on the repairs of the existing farm house so we can have our team up there full time.  Being on site will greatly increase our ability to do the day-in-day-out management work alongside Viktor and others up in the gentle rolling hills of Los Brazos, Dominican Republic.  We have several seed orders coming our way including some classic perennial vegetables that I have come across in my travels that include the following:

  • Katuk – for its highly nutritious leaves which are often eaten raw and have nice nutty flavor.
  • Cranberry Hibiscus – for its leaves that give color and tang to salads.
  • Winged Bean – for its amazing multi-functional yield including young shoots for steamed greens and pea pods for stir-frying
  • Kang Kong – for its leaves that are the best steamed green in my opinion and highly nutritious.
winged bean
The Nitrogen Fixer – Winged Bean

Getting more vegetable production with the above plants and many more that we are sourcing is a big priority.  The farm has all the classic weaknesses of lowland Humid Tropical farming sites with its poor soils, high heat, and high humidity.  The bugs and plant diseases thrive and tropical vegetables (like the ones mentioned above as well as seeds adapted to tropical places like Florida) are important to meet the farms goals of food production needs.  Increasing soil quality through thermophillic (hot) composting, sheet mulching, chop and drop with nitrogen fixers, and vermi-composting will all be a big priority of reversing these trends.  To forward the soil quality, we will have a steaming pile of organic matter that will be the future of the farms fertility.  In the course we will make a several cubic meter pile of hot compost as there is lots of biomass on-site for this accelerated decomposition process.

Hot Composting
Hot Composting

 

So we are looking forward to the many changes that will be coming our way over the coming six weeks of my participation with the farm.  The nursery will be packed, the ground will be altered, the biodiversity of the site will continue on its exponential path, and fun will be had along the way.  Most importantly we will be working collaboratively on leaving behind the all-important Permaculture Design.

Planning in Permaculture - diagrams
Planning in Permaculture

 

Author – Permaculture Allstar – Doug Crouch