Juan Talks Colombia Trip
A picture perfect plate of farm fresh greens, eggs, tomatoes and avocado.

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:
















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.



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.




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?


A slightly hidden pumpkin










mmmmm Cacao


We knew just where to find them! These creative students made a beautiful Taino Farm sign.

We knew just where to find them! These creative students made a beautiful Taino Farm sign.

Last week I wrote a post on the International School of Sosua’s Visit to Taino Farm. This week, Mr. B’s first grade class from the International School of Sosua invited Taino Farm to come see their science fair project on Taino Farm! Karin, Charlie and I headed to Sosua to see what they have been working on.

We found these outside of the classroom!

We found these outside of the classroom!


Mr B’s class’s science fair project on Taino Farm had three elements: aquaponics, permaculture and the Sun Oven. As we went around, they explained to us what each one was and the importance of them. It was amazing to see the students learning together as well as teaching each other. Children from other classes and grades also took turns coming in and learning about the science fair project on Taino Farm from Mr B’s class. They had the opportunity to ask questions and see photos from their field trip to the farm.


A student from grade one presenting his project on permaculture to us!

A student from grade one presenting his project on permaculture to us!


The students presenting their Sun Oven project told us about how it works and had posters of recipes like our banana cacao cookies you can make in the Sun Oven. For their aquaponics project they explained to us how to grow plants without using soil. They told us about the fish that produce nutrients for the plants from their waste and explained you can eat both the plants and the fish once they grow big enough! Lastly, for their permaculture project the students told us about why it’s important to take care of the earth and everything that lives here. They told us about planting seeds at the farm, learning about different fruits & plants and eating healthy farm food!

The kids made great posters for each aspect of their science projects!

The kids made great posters for each aspect of their science projects!

Overall, it was a wonderful chance to see how Taino Farm impacts our local community and we were thrilled by the information they took away from visiting us. Their science fair project on Taino Farm was educational and fun for everyone. It’s wonderful to know that our project is helping the next generation understand how fun and important living a sustainable lifestyle is. A big thanks to Mr. B for his amazing work with the students and to grade 1 for sharing their project with us!

Students presenting their project to one of the workers at the farm, Karin!

Students presenting their project to one of the workers at the farm, Karin!


Organic Homemade Pesto from our Aquaponics Soilless Garden

fresh basil

fresh basil in our aquaponics system


Basil pesto is one of those great tricks to have in your fridge at all times. Throw it on some quinoa, over a salad, or spread it on rice crackers with slices of turkey and cheese for a quick high protein snack. It packs so much flavor, it’s a great way to turn any bland meal into something amazing!

Right now we have heaps of basil growing in our aquaponics system. Stu showed me how to harvest it so that each basil plant will continue to produce optimal amounts of tasty little leaves. You cut the basil right above a two branch growth. You can cut two sections at a time. See photos below:

how to trim basil

trim basil above two sprouting branches

trimming basil from our aquaponics system

take 1 to 2 sections of growth

Once I harvested the basil I decided I would grab some mint to throw in a little extra flavor depth and keep it fresh. From there I took a look at what I had in my cupboard. I’m not a traditional recipe user, so I like to keep things simple by going off a basic “sauce” formula and applying what I know about traditional basil pesto.

Here is my basic sauce formula that I use for transforming any abundance of herbs into a something nice to have in the fridge that will last longer than the fresh leaves.

  • Raw garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Vinegar
  • Raw white onion
  • Herbs of choice
  • A touch of soya sauce
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Salt
  • A little spice

Traditional pesto ingredients:

  • Pine nuts
  • Basil
  • Sharp cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic

With these things in mind, I raided my cupboards and found the following ingredients:

  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Sea salt
  • Hot sauce
  • Soya sauce
  • Walnuts
  • And of course Basil and mint
fresh basil at taino farms

LOTS of fresh basil 

fresh mint from taino farms

just a bit of fresh mint to add a little freshness

I threw it all into a blender and bam! Beautiful, healthy, green food!

organic pesto

Organic homemade pesto tastes better, is better for you, and is less expensive than store bought varieties

This recipe is slightly more economical and better for you than the traditional pesto that you buy in a grocery store. For starters the basil and mint are grown in a soilless aquaponics bed with absolutely 100{f2973bc577a195c35cdcad3730db5f6ced97ed67eb120151c538413472fe3d08} organic nutrients in the water. There is no cheese or large amounts of oil and salt. By adding vinegar, soya sauce and nutritional yeast, the flavors are accentuated and balanced. Instead of pine nuts which contain 85{f2973bc577a195c35cdcad3730db5f6ced97ed67eb120151c538413472fe3d08} fat, and 7{f2973bc577a195c35cdcad3730db5f6ced97ed67eb120151c538413472fe3d08} protein, I opted for walnuts which are slightly higher in protein at 8{f2973bc577a195c35cdcad3730db5f6ced97ed67eb120151c538413472fe3d08} and are not as pricey.

I hope you enjoy your new basil pesto ‘recipe’ and hopefully you will be inspired to get creative with other influxes of garden herbs.