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.

 

At Taino Organic Farms, we strive not only to be self-sufficient but also to interact and provide service within our community. Karin Gartnerova has been living and working at Taino Farm for the past six months as well as teaching English in the community of Los Brazos where the farm is located.

English students with Karin, our volunteer community english teacher

Karin lives and works at Taino Farms and has been volunteering teaching English in the local community of Los Brazos.

Before she arrived, she had heard about another woman who had been teaching English in the community and living at the farm. Though the previous volunteer had already left Taino Farm when Karin arrived, her students had not forgotten about the lessons. One day, they showed up at the Taino Farms gate asking about English lessons and Karin decided to volunteer her time and take over teaching English in the community. I’ve had the opportunity to attend some lessons with Karin and have seen first hand what an extraordinary learning opportunity it is for them. The children range in age and ability, however it is beneficial to all as they have the opportunity to learn from Karin and use their knowledge to help one another.

Karin Gartnerova with one of her english students at a lesson in Los Brazos.

Volunteer teacher Karin Gartnerova with one of her english students at a lesson in Los Brazos.

The lessons are somewhat informal, they are open to whoever wants to come and range in size and age. Everyone gathers outside one of the students grandmothers house and people know by word of mouth that Karin is teaching English in the community. ESL classes (also known as English as a second language) provides local students with an opportunity to gain a tool that will benefit their futures.

One of Karin's bright students, Darling, ready to ask a question about English.

One of Karin’s bright students, Darling, ready to ask a question about English.

 

Despite the informality, Karin is an extraordinary teacher and provides the kids with a chance to learn by interacting with all of their senses. Karin’s lessons are “hands on” as well as visually stimulating; she uses games, flashcards, speaking and listening comprehension to give the kids an introduction to English. She also assigns small homework assignments that most of the kids complete and return back to her the following lesson. It is a productive outlet for their free time and a wonderful introduction to the language.

Interactive games are a great aid in teaching english in the local community.

Interactive games are a great aid in teaching english in the local community.

Make a contribution to support us teaching English in the local community.

Los Brazos volunteer English teacher, Karin Gartnerova is requesting donations for our local English students! Most school supplies including pencils, notebooks, workbooks, children’s books, flashcards, dictionaries etc, can be put to use. Anything you feel like bringing and will fit your suitcase makes a difference and is greatly appreciated!

 

Karin Gartnerova during a lesson with her local English students.

Karin Gartnerova during a lesson with her local English students.

Photos and post by Lynsey Wyatt.

 

Biodiversity in Tropical Permaculture

Biodiversity in Tropical Permaculture

Biodiversity is an extraordinarily important aspect of tropical permaculture and creating a sustainable organic farm. This week at Taino, Charlie (our permaculture designer) and Victor (our maestro farmer) took us on a meander through Los Brazos to collect native seeds.

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Victor’s daughter, Nicole and her friend collecting seeds.

 

Increasing biodiversity by planting a variety of native flowers and legumes is beneficial in many ways, not only do they attract native wildlife like birds and lizards, they also help to create a resilient ecosystem. For example, there are thirty varieties of the Moringa tree, if we were to have only one kind, a disease could come along and wipe out one of our most important crops. Biodiversity also helps to provide us with a more reliable/sustainable yield of organic food because different species and varieties of plants produce at different times. We may have an avocado tree that produces fruit from September to October and another variety that goes from October to November. In doing this we both maximize our yield and maintain a healthy ecosystem.

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A cup full of guandule and other native seeds

Flowers and plants like Sunhemp are beneficial because they are short lived, aerate the soil and fix nitrogen for the other plants (and they feed our bees!). Part of Charlie’s permaculture lesson this week was on companion planting. In the tropics, there is no shortage of pests so strategies like companion planting help us to deter them without having to use harmful chemicals. Whether it means planting a tall plant next to one that likes shade or a plant with a strong odor like basil next to one that is susceptible to pests like tomatoes, we want to plant crops together that will be mutually beneficial.

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Caption: These blue flowers are beautiful and edible!

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Charlie showing us how to identify nitrogen fixing roots.

We are blessed to be in an area where plants and people thrive and benefit from each other’s existence. Many of the seeds we collected were from Victor’s Mother’s house and at the end of the day we were invited to share a cup of coffee and meet the whole family. Four generations are living in their lovely home, including a two year old boy and his 104 year old great grandmother! We were all touched by their kindness and I left feeling so grateful to be planting seeds that were given and will be planted with love.

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Charlie with Victor and his family

Chali Project at Taino Farm – Sustainable Agriculture
To commemorate Canada day, Chali (chaliproject.comaccompanied Taino Farm’s Charlie Durrant for an afternoon of compost turning and permaculture exploration.
Canadian Chali Volunteer, Beth Storey, with a Masters in Agriculture Science, describes the journey as an eye-opening experience. We were able to view the integration of environment and agriculture whilst learning about the importance of permaculture in the Dominican Republic and temperate climates.
The Chali Project works “with girls and women who seek an alternative path to the prevalent sex trade in the Dominican Republic. Through an alternative means to make a living, entrepreneurial artisania can provide integrity and a creative pathway to financial independence. The Chali Project was birthed out of the need to follow artisans through training, help them receive supplies, and deliver market driven products to a reliable buyer.”
Chali Project at Taino Farm

Chali Project at Taino Farm

Chali Project at Taino Farm

Chali Project at Taino Farm

 
During our exploration, our tastebuds were introduced to Cranberry Hibiscus trees, sour lemon-drop like fruit, yellow tomatoes, moringa, and tropical spinach. It was definitely a full-FILLING trip.
Fun Fact: the simple act of shoving moringa branches in the ground creates more moringa trees.
It’s great to see how agriculture can be done in a sustainable manner in the tropics. By giving back to our communities through environmental education, skills based learning, knowledge share, and empowerment of women, we can make a huge change amongst the families in small communities like Los Brazos.
It was great to charlamos (spanish for ‘we chat’) with Charlie and Chali. When two great projects come together, awesome things can happen. We hope to hear more from the Chali girls in the future!
Chali Project at Taino Farm

Chali Project at Taino Farm