A beach paradise, a tropical bliss, an oceanfront eco hotel with an open air gym, circus and flying trapeze, tikihut yoga loft, kiteboarding, surfing plus nutritious, organic grown food from our Taino Farm in the mountains … river floats in crystal clear water between rolling green hills … simply endless possibilities of adventures. This place has everything that an active and health conscious person could wish for. Everything. It’s all here and I’m here.

Hey, I’m Sintija and I’m doing The Caribbean Internship where I live and work at The Extreme Hotel half the week and the other half here at Taino Organic Farm.

Our previous interns and guests have written beautiful articles about The Extreme Hotel on Kite Beach, Cabarete and Taino Organic Farm and have given an idea of how amazing these places are. But the thing is, there simply aren’t enough words to describe them. The REALITY is way cooler.

View of Kite Beach from the Extreme Hotel

View of a beautiful, tropical garden and Kite Beach from the Extreme Hotel

See what I’m sayin’…?

But it’s not only about the beautiful views.

To live in harmony with nature, to grow and eat REAL food from a sustainable farm, to combine your work with your passion – it’s pretty much a luxury these days!

Sweet Retreats circus camp practicing at Kaiceitos Circus at the Extreme Hotel

Sweet Retreats circus camp practicing at Kaiceitos Circus at the Extreme Hotel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me taking a breather while working in the garden

Me taking a breather while working in the garden

I arrived here recently and everything is new and fascinating to me, so I’ll be posting weekly blogs with photos of what I see, learn and do.

Follow me on this exciting journey on and around the farm and hotel, discover eco-tourism activities with me, learn from step-by-step DIY photo guides about sustainable farming, find simple nutrition facts about our produce, read about my eye opening realizations that come from interesting conversations with the farm community, look into our everyday farm and beach life and endless adventures!

One of the cabañas in the trees at Taino Organic Farm

One of the cabañas in the trees at Taino Organic Farm

Get inspired, don’t be afraid of change, find your way back to nature and let’s make this off the grid lifestyle mainstream 🙂

When you live on a farm and are able to eat food that you grow or raise yourself, you have a very different connection to what is on your plate. At Taino Farm, we try to base our meals on what is available. Eating this way can be a challenge as it requires some creativity; you think of ways to cook with what you have instead of basing meals on what you feel like and buying the ingredients. However, the reward is huge. When I eat food straight from our garden, not only do I notice the intense difference in taste by eating the freshest food possible, but there is a sense of pride that comes with being a part of the process of growing it – from planting to harvesting. I swear food tastes better just knowing that you were there helping it grow along the way.

Besides growing fruit and vegetables, we have animals including chickens, turkeys, cows, sheep and the fish in our aquaponics system. By raising animals in a sustainable, respectful and very humane way, we hope to provide omnivores with sustainable food options. When we have volunteers, a common want is to have more of a connection to the food they eat and this often includes meat. Our most recent volunteer, Andreas from Sweden, had the ambition to learn how to butcher a chicken. He feels that this is an important skill for all meat eaters to have. I asked him to write about the experience. The following excerpt is written by Andreas. It is not necessarily the opinion of Taino Farm, but we respect and appreciate volunteers having the courage to share their experience by writing for us.


Today I learned how to kill, pluck and prepare a rooster.

I think the killing itself is something we in the west are so distant from that we find the act itself repulsive and sickening, but it’s important to relearn how to prepare your own food and all aspects of it. On a farm you kill what you need to eat. You don’t kill for fun. We also try to use the most humane possible way of doing this – ways that are the least stressful for the animal in comparison to factory farmed meat that most people in the western world eat on a daily basis.

Meat bought at the supermarket is rarely local and the life of that animal has been, to say the least, horrible. The amount of fossil fuels that have gone into transporting, packaging and cooling the meat and the amount of non biodegradable styrofoam packaging and plastic wrapping that comes with it is a wasteful and unsustainable practice. It is a reminder of how society has long ago become detached from nature.

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Juan Carlos and Andreas just before eating the farm fresh meal

We see our chicken fillets in the meat desk of the supermarket and somehow the connection between a living animal and our food in the toxic wrapping we buy is lost.

What happens if the world economy collapses and people don’t know how to kill and prepare their own food? Will we go vegetarian by default?

We are in the hands of big multinational corporations that control not only our food supply but print money out of “thin air” and keep us docile by poisoning everything we touch, wear, brush our teeth with, and use to wash our clothes and bodies. You name it – everything you think of contains poison that does not need to be there! And soon enough clean drinking water will not even be a human right anymore.

Bottom line, if we can’t kill and prepare our own food that we know has had a good life on our own or a neighbour’s farm, that is organic, sustainable, and part of the life we had always lived before the coming of industrialism and the discovery of oil, then we should stop eating meat at all.”

by Andreas Nordgren

A cool Dominican breeze sweeps across Rio Yassica. River grass twists and bends with the slow moving currents as the sun bursts through the streaked cotton clouds. The power of the land is all around you. This amazing scene was during my reprieve from work. After a strong morning of hoeing weeds, building a pumpkin and melon plot with three layers of different organic material and bringing sticks and large pieces of wood to the wood chipper, the hottest part of the day is yours to take advantage of in any of the intriguing and stunning areas included in the farm’s property or nearby in Los Brazos and the Cabarete region.

Taking a break from farming to swim and then practice juggling beside the Rio Yassica

Taino Farm, only a 30 minute jaunt from Cabarete, is a mini paradise behind a red gate. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but as soon as you step onto the property and take a walk around, you feel what’s occurring – a transformation of the existing soil, turning the fertile, life-giving nutrients in the ground into a sustainable, organic farm. Food forests including moringa and mango trees, exotic fruits galore, aquaponics systems, chickens, sheep, turkeys, and more, are all nurtured under the sunny Dominican sky. Good vibes with some Romeo Santos blaring from the local colmado only add to the feel that you are here on this beautiful, unique island for a reason.

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Transplanting delicious curry leaf trees with Genevieve

So, how did I find myself here at this very moment in time? My friend Genevieve and I had been traveling through Republica Dominicana for about 3 weeks, recently stopping in Cabarete for a couple days to check out what this well known beach area had to offer. At some point earlier in the trip, due to our mutual interest and past experience with farming, we did a Google search for ‘organic farms in the Dominican’. Taino Farm was the first result. As some of you may realize, the Taino were the original peoples who inhabited the island of Quisqueya and Ayiti (their name for Hispaniola) before the Spanish “discovered” the new world. They cared for the Earth, respected her and nurtured all that which inhabited this beautiful gift we have been given. The fact that this farm had named itself Taino had intrigued me.

We emailed and had very rapid correspondence, for farm standards, from the current manager, inviting us to stay and work for as many days as we felt. Great! So, after two days in Cabarete we jumped onto the gua-gua (mini bus) from Cabarete to the Sabaneta intersection (25 pesos per person) and then settled onto a moto-concho (motorbike) to Finca Taino for 50 pesos each. Not a bad time and fee, about 30 minutes and $1.75 to get here from Cabarete.

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Enjoying a meal made up of eggs and greens from the farm along with lots of much needed agua after working in the heat!

It is up to all of us to contribute to maintaining a loving planet for future generations. From my experience, working on farms can be some of the most important and rewarding work you can engage in regarding this task.

Whether it is meeting like-minded people who inspire you, learning of old and new sustainability practices or just laughing and spreading smiles, it is of the utmost importance to gather and create. However, like all rewarding things, it does not come easy. It requires self-determination, realization of intention, communication with your farm family and, of course, a lot of sweat. If you are interested in learning more about yourself, the culture here in Republica Dominicana, as well as our planet’s beauty and grace, Taino Farm would be a great place to start.

Peace ‘n Love ~ Ryan.

 

Tranquilo honey bees at Taino Organic Farm.

Tranquilo honey bees at Taino Organic Farm.

Everyone has heard the term “busy as a bee” but did you know it takes bees roughly 10 million foraging trips to make the equivalent of one jar of honey? (International Bee Research Association).  Honey bees play a vital role both in our tropical ecosystem and in the world as a whole. They also produce what we consider at Taino Organic Farm to be a form of liquid gold: fresh, raw honey.

Slides of raw honey comb collected from our ten hives at Taino Organic Farm.

Slides of raw honey comb collected from our ten hives at Taino Organic Farm.

At Taino Organic Farm, we harvest honey from our bees three times a year. I was lucky enough to be present for our January harvest.

How is honey harvested? When dusk fell on Tuesday, Taino Organic Farm’s apiarists Victor and Nao went out in full gear to retrieve slides from our ten hives. When harvesting honey, there are two main tools used to avoid upsetting the bees. The first is smoke, which is used to lull them into a more dormant state. The second is clothing. It is best to wear white colored clothing, as wearing colors close to their natural predators (such as a bear) triggers a defensive response.

After the honey slides have been retrieved from the hives, they are carefully opened using a knife and placed into an extractor. The extractor is hand cranked and spins the raw honey from the comb. It is then poured from the extractor through a cloth filter and into storage container. Voila! We have honey and the remaining honey and comb goes back to our happy sleepy bees.

 

Victor preparing the honey comb to harvest raw honey.

Victor preparing the honey comb to harvest raw honey.

Though the process seems simple, it takes bees the equivalent of traveling three times around the world to produce one jar of honey (International Bee Research Association). Most of the honey we buy in supermarkets is actually dyed fructose syrup, in fact US melissopalynologist Vaughn Bryant found that 75{f2973bc577a195c35cdcad3730db5f6ced97ed67eb120151c538413472fe3d08} of honey on US supermarket shelves contained no pollen at all having been through an ultra-filtration technique perfected by Chinese producers. (Bryant). The other 25{f2973bc577a195c35cdcad3730db5f6ced97ed67eb120151c538413472fe3d08} is made primarily by commercial honey producers that feed their bees artificial sweeteners and process their honey with heat, taking away many of the incredible benefits such as it’s anti viral, fungal, bacterial and carcinogenic properties. You can find a full list of the benefits and differences of raw honey and pasteurized honey here. Though it is cheaper this way, honey is also vitally important to bee’s immune systems and helps them defend themselves from pesticides. There is a major shortage of raw honey in the world due to colony collapse disorder, which is caused largely by commercial farming and pesticide use. This is a major problem as honey is essential to bees and bees are essential to human life. Albert Einstein one said “If the bee disappears from the surface of the Earth, man would have no more than four years left to live”. Which brings us back to the importance of organic farming and tropical permaculture! Genetically modified crops, pesticides and diseases (that spread rapidly due to bees with weakened immune systems) are killing off our bees and if we do not look out for them through sustainable farming, we will soon be without our best pollinators and a very valuable resource: raw honey.

Raw honey comb is delicious and has many health benefits.

Raw honey comb is delicious and has many health benefits.

Raw honey has endless benefits, it is great for dietary and external use for humans as well as an amazing resource to perpetuate all of the environmental benefits bees provide. Taino Organic Farm has a limited amount of raw honey available for sale, if you would like to buy a bottle you can contact the farm through our Facebook page, buy from us directly on a farm tour or through eXtreme hotel or Lynsey Wyatt at 849-343-6041. Prices range from $300-$500rd.

At Taino Organic Farm, the biggest portion of our learning is through doing, which just so happens to coincide perfectly with permaculture principle number one: observe and interact. Instead of our usual classroom style permaculture lesson on Tuesday, the whole team decided to put permaculture principle number one into practice by going on a field trip into the mountains. All of the volunteers as well as our permaculture designer and teacher Charlie Durrant and our farm manager and guide Victor hopped on moto conchos towards Sabaneta.

Taino Organic Farm volunteers Karin and Honza on a moto conch riding over a bridge into the mountains.

Taino Organic Farm volunteers Karin and Honza on a moto conch into the mountains.

After the bridge, we cut left and went up a dirt road (or maybe I should say rock road, it was a bumpy ride) and after about ten minutes, got to a path we could walk.We thanked our moto drivers and began our meander through the forest jungle. As we walked, we observed and interacted with our surroundings, stopping often along the way to discuss different plants/wildlife and their purposes. We picked a couple of guanabana (also known as sour sop) fruits to eat and replant.

 

Taino Organic Farm volunteer Peyton Stanley holding a guanabana fruit.

Taino Organic Farm volunteer Peyton Stanley holding a guanabana fruit.

 

Eventually we reached the top of a mountain that overlooks the whole island. To the left in the distance we could see the ocean and below us the Yassica River that we swim in everyday, as well as the dirt road we live on. It was a truly incredible view and allowed us all to step back and realize how incredible it is that we live in a place where we are able to cultivate such diversity.

Piñon trees flowering pink dot the mountainside alongside other lush, diverse foliage and the Yassica river behind.

Flowering piñon trees dot the mountainside alongside other lush, diverse foliage and the Yassica river behind.

On our way back to the farm, we stopped and chopped some branches off a large piñon tree to plant back at the farm and diversify our area. Unlike many other trees, piñon branches (as well as moringa) can be planted directly into the ground to become a new tree. They are the most commonly used fence post in the Dominican Republic because you can “chop and drop” them once they grow large enough and feed them to the cattle. Fence posts into food in just a few months!

Taino Organic Farm volunteers as well as permaculture designer Charlie Durrant and farmers Victor and Juan Carlos atop a mountain overlooking Los Brazos, Dominican Republic

Taino Organic Farm volunteers as well as permaculture designer Charlie Durrant and farmers Victor and Juan Carlos atop a mountain overlooking Los Brazos, Dominican Republic

 

The longer I am here, the more I appreciate not only the world around me, but also all of the pieces that allow it to function. We see the permaculture principles in action all around us. The community at Taino farm experienced permaculture principle number one by observing our environment and interacting with each other to learn about what I consider the most important subject of all: the interaction of life in nature.