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.

IMG_20140920_203444

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.

IMG_20140920_170450

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.

 

 

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!

 

Permaculture designer Charlie Durrant teaching the class about edible plants.

Permaculture designer Charlie Durrant teaching the class about edible plants.

Last week a group of first graders from the International School of Sosua paid a visit to Taino Farm! It was a wonderful chance to share our knowledge with some of the local community and provide the kids with an interactive learning opportunity.

An engaged student ready to ask a question about the nursery.

An engaged student ready to ask a question about the nursery.

ISS teacher, Mr. B set up the field trip because he wanted the kids to learn about the importance of taking care of the earth. He discovered our website and has been incorporating things from our blog posts into the class curriculum. Charlie Durrant, our permaculture designer, took the kids along with some of their parents and teachers on a tour of the farm. He explained some of the principles of permaculture and discussed with the group the importance of eating local organic foods. He also taught them how to identify key species of plants in the Dominican Republic such as moringa and banana trees. The kids had a chance to ask questions, do a seed-planting race, learn about the sun oven, and explore the farm!

One of the first graders from ISS learning how to plant seeds.

One of the first graders from ISS learning how to plant seeds.

It was an extraordinary learning opportunity for them because they had a chance to learn by interacting with all of their senses. At Taino Farm, we recognize that different people prefer different learning styles. We try to make our tour not only “hands on” but also auditorily and visually stimulating. The kids not only had the opportunity to interact with humans, plants and animals. They learned from our permaculture designer, volunteers, farmers, each other and taught us what they know!

The students had the opportunity to learn about our chickens and hold one of our cute little chicks!

The students had the opportunity to learn about our chickens and hold one of our cute little chicks!

They were an extraordinary group of kids, inquisitive and insightful. A big thanks to their truly amazing teacher Mr. B! We are very excited to attend their science fair on March 18th at the International School of Sosua where some of what they have learned from the farm will be featured in their projects.

Showing gratefulness to Monica Rush after a full day of touring and a eating a farm fresh healthy lunch!

Showing gratefulness to Monica Rush after a full day of touring and a eating a farm fresh healthy lunch!

Post and photos by Lynsey Wyatt.

 At the eXtreme Hotel and Taino Farm, our focus is on living a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. We all love eating delicious food but many of us don’t realize many of the tasty treats you find at a grocery store are detrimental to both your health and your environment. On the other hand, we know after the hundredth time that plain kale and olive oil salad can get pretty tiresome. So, we decided to put our wonderful produce from Taino Farm to use and create the Taino Farm and eXtreme Hotel’s Organic Cookbook. The collaborative project is designed to benefit not only the eXtreme staff, Taino farm workers and hotel guests, it can also be tweaked slightly (depending on what is local and available) to make healthy, amazing food wherever you are in the world. We chose recipes with three things in mind:

1. Are the ingredients grown locally and sustainably? Read about the importance of growing and buying local and organic food in my previous article.

2. Is it affordable and easy to make?

3. Are the ingredients nutritious and delicious?

I’ll be posting the recipes individually on the Taino Farm blog and the whole thing will be available at the end. Look out for a “GL” throughout the recipes to signify which ingredients are grown locally!

Eggplant and Sweet Potato Salad

A colorful and delicious salad for the Taino Farm and eXtreme Hotel's Organic Cookbook!

A colorful and delicious salad for the Taino Farm and eXtreme Hotel’s Organic Cookbook!

This salad is a nice break from traditional green salads.  All the vegetables in it can be grown locally in the north of the Dominican Republic, and are often in abundant supply.  Eggplants and sweet potatoes are great ground cover plants and thus are staples at our developing farm. It can be made in advance, and stores in the fridge quite well.  Just be sure to add the avocados and tomatoes right before serving.

Eggplants, sweet potatoes and tomatoes from Taino Farm as well as locally sourced garlic and cucumbers.

Eggplants, sweet potatoes and tomatoes from Taino Farm as well as locally sourced garlic and cucumbers.

Ingredients:

2 eggplants, purple or yellow GL (Or replace with squash or portabella mushrooms)

2 sweet potatoes GL

1-2 large avocados GL (Out of season or don’t grow locally? Try pureed and cooked asparagus or broccoli!)

4-6 tomatoes, yellow or red GL

1 whole cucumber, skinned and chopped GL

salt/pepper to taste

¼ onion finely chopped GL

2 cloves raw garlic, grated GL

a sprig or two of fresh tarragon GL

¼ olive oil (or coconut oil)

1.)  Slice eggplants into bite sized chunks, toss with about 1/8 cup olive oil. Place on a baking sheet and cook in the oven at about 375 for approximately half an hour, or until done.  Let cool.

2.)  Slice sweet potatoes into bite sized chunks and toss in 1/8 cup olive oil.  Bake at 375 until done, set aside to cool.

3.)  Slice tomatoes, cucumber & avocado into a large bowl.  Add the cooked vegetables, and the remaining ingredients.

Variations:  This salad can be made with any root vegetable (yucca, potato etc…) and with or without eggplant.  It is an example of a filling vegetarian side dish, utilizing local vegetables, that is both healthy and delicious.  The tarragon can be replaced with cilantro, or basil.  Also delicious with fresh lime juice served on top.

A giant bowl of locally sourced eggplant and sweet potato salad!

A giant bowl of locally sourced eggplant and sweet potato salad!

Note: Original recipes by Kelsey Rush. Post and photography by Lynsey Wyatt.