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.

food forest trellising

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:

I have been at Taino Farms for a little over two months now.  I have a lot of inspiration from different sources. The colors that reflect over this beautiful island are amazing who knew green had so many tones.  The fresh food that we pull from the soil, and the warmth of the people in the community is unlike anything I have experienced before. I’ve never had so many people open their homes to us, share food, stories, and laughter. The kids are all unique and special to say the least .They are the heart of everything I love here and Taino farms is magical for embracing them. People like Mavis Kulbacki and Stefan Prescott who have donated school supplies and Josh Gratton who was inspired by the movement here and is now teaching English to teenagers in Cabarete.  Thank you to all those who have showed your compassion. Last but certainly not least the FOOD!!! Here is a trip down memory lane with some of my favorite food encounters @ Taino Farms…

cacao and rambutan

cacao and rambutan

dominican food

a classic dominican feast

starfruit, avocado, and coconut

a good loot. avocado to make guacamole, coconut for sauteing with onions, and starfruit for dessert 🙂 yum

fresh sandwich

sometimes a sandwich is just what you need. bread is fresh from janets, the cheese is made locally, and the lettuce is – you guessed it – from the garden!

dominican food

fresh cacao pod and black pepper corns from the garden

dominican food

fresh prawns

nothing like fresh prawns



yuca with fresh tomato sauce!

I’m a rooky when it comes to composting. I was brought up in a rural area in western Canada and I always understood that orange peels and paper towels went in the compost bin, but other than that basic knowledge, I never really understood what happened in that mountain of old food out back by the swing.

In recent years, I’ve started my own compost piles and plugged my nose in earnest as I did the bi-monthly compost container empty. A smelly compost bin? Sounds normal. But now that I’ve had the pleasure of studying under Tara, the resident soil food web expert and farm manager at Taino Farms, I understand that smelly compost means that the pile is turning ‘anaerobic’. I’m not going to over complicate my description of compost tea, because I’m not the expert. What I will do is present Tara’s expert description in the video below, and supplement the post with questions and answers that I’ve gotten from friends and family about the logistics of actually making this happen in your own back yard.

Q: What type of compost do you use in compost tea?

A: Healthy, cooked, aerobic compost. This means that it’s not just manure from cows or other animals that have been fed hormones or steroids. It is compost from a hot compost pile, which is broken down organic material that has been heated and turned according to regulations (5 times in 10-15 days).

Q: What is an anaerobic compost?

Anaerobic means that there’s non enough oxygen in the compost pile, so the beneficial air loving microbes are starting to die off. This most commonly happens if the material is cut up too fine, or there is too much high nitrogen material (food scraps, manure, and legumes) and not enough carbon material (brown and dry).

Q: So what is humic acid, and what is the difference between humic acid and compost tea?

A: basically when you pour water through compost passively, without agitating the water or compost mixture, humic acid is created. When you agitate the compost mixture and the water – that makes compost tea. Basically, the humic acid is the ‘food’ for microbes to feed on. While compost tea is the extracted microbes feeding on the humic acid and repopulating. When you agitate the bag you are pulling the microbes out of the compost, when not agitating you are pulling the humic acid out of the compost.

Not too sure how that magic works, but I believe it has something to do with a thing called science. All you need to remember, is to pour a little water passively through your compost mixture to make humic acid and to then add that to your bucket of water. Once you’ve done that, you can agitate your bags of compost into the bucket of water to make the compost tea. The humic acid is simply a preper.

Q: Can I make compost tea if I don’t have a bubbler?

A1: You can make your own bubbler out of a fish tank pump. Stay tuned on an instructional post on this topic in the future.

A2: If you don’t want to make your own bubbler, you can just massage/ agitate 3 – 6 bags of compost into your water, and immediately spray it on your garden. No need to wait. The biology of the compost tea wont be quite as primo when using this method, but it is still the most efficient way of spreading good microbes all over your garden beds.

That’s all for now, if you have any questions, please ask them below, or shoot us an email! We’ll get you connected with Tara for some awesome advice! Stay tuned for a blog from our expert titled “My Garden Bed is Better Than Yours”.


Las Estrellas de Los Brazos, meaning the stars of los brazos in English is a community education project that got started a couple of months ago here at Taino Farms. We’ve been operating at a true grass roots level, working with what we have and striving to improve literacy in the community and dishing out some basic English education at the same time. We have found that by integrating ourselves into the daily lives of the neighborhood kids and giving back through a variety of projects spanning from environmental education to basic ABC lessons we have become an integral part of community life here in Los Brazos.

Community Education in teh Dominican Republic

Community education in the Dominican Republic

My little Stars are doing so well and the class has grown so much that I now have two levels – one for the beginners and the second one for the kids who are advancing and who are ready to be challenged a little more. We have also enlisted the help of a great assistant by the name of Madelin. She is the sister of one of the farm workers and she is currently studying English at school. She practices with me sometimes and also helps me teach the level one students the basics. Thanks Madelin we really appreciate all your help!
So here is the structure of our little community education project:
Level 1 – The younger kids and who are still learning abc’s, numbers, colors days of the week etc,
Level 2 – The slightly more advanced students. I am introducing them to basic reading, writing sentences, and using farm vocabulary words used from an observational walk to the river. They will eventually be expected to write a short story – a bit ambitious, but I know they can do it.  I will post a sample story next time!
Our educational facility is the space that we also use for other farm projects like making honey, starfruit wine, and cheese, it also doubles up as a tool storage and work area for the farm.

carrying a picnic table at Taino Farms

new table!

We don’t mind getting cozy and sharing the space, but we are always in need of a few supplies to keep our education project going. Coming up, we are looking for some lovely donors to help contribute the following:

  • Paint and painting materials
  • Arts and crafts materials (paper, scissors , art colors, beads)
  • Technology: (printer/copier, computers, projector, microscope …anything!)

I would like to turn this space into an environment that is stimulating to promote learning and advancement! To help out, contact us through the contact form below:
I would like to thank extreme hotel for donating an old picnic table which is awesome! With a little work it will be like new! Thanks Monica 🙂

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    I decided to clean out a spot to teach my class it’s basically a tool shed, but has good shade and lots of space.  I will post before and after pics in my next post, but here’s a little inspiration eye candy for you:

    inspiration for our multi-function space

    inspiration for our multi-function space

    I love working on projects like this makes me feel like I’m in one of those makeover shows but only better – because it’s real life! I’m very passionate about community development and the kids are super excited to be part of the transformation process. In the area that is going to be transformed into our production kitchen and teaching area, there were lots of random empty beer bottles and other recyclables. l can’t just take them to the nearest recycling center, so I had to get creative. In the future, we have big ideas and big plans for a community recycling program. I took a look online and there are so many creative ways and projects to get involved with but  they take a little time and sometimes there is not enough time.  So I asked Victor the lead farmer here what I can do with them and he introduced me to a man who is sick with Aids and sells the bottles to cover transportation costs to get his meds. He is hard working and has a great sense of humor. I get so inspired to see people who persevere. It’s also one of the permaculture ethics I’ve learned here at the farm with Douglas Crouch my permaculture teacher. Care for the earth, care for the people, limit consumption, and share surplus. In return he gave me some yuca which is a local root crop. It has potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron and Vitamin B. Hmmm I wonder how I’m going to prepare it!? The possibilities are endless! Yummmm!