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.

Continuing our introduction to permaculture, this week we discussed permaculture ethics and design principles.

The three permaculture ethics are:

  1. Earth care
  2. People care
  3. Fair share

The twelve permaculture design principles are:

  1. Observe and interact
  2. Catch and store energy
  3. Obtain a yield
  4. Apply self regulation and accept feedback
  5. Use and value renewable resources and services
  6. Produce no waste
  7. Design from patterns to details
  8. Integrate rather than segregate
  9. Use small and slow solutions
  10.  Use and value diversity
  11. Use edges and value the marginal
  12. Creatively use and respond to change

Full descriptions of the permaculture ethics and design principles can be found here.

We also went over David Holgren’s permaculture flower, which outlines specific fields, design systems and solutions that aim to create a sustainable culture. A downloadable version can be found here in both English and Spanish.

Charlie explaining the seven areas of the permaculture flower.

The group discussed in English and Spanish ways we are helping to create a sustainable culture.

There are seven areas to consider:

1. Land and Nature Stewardship (such as organic agriculture, keyline water harvesting and integrated aquaculture)

2. Building (Passive solar design, eco-housing, natural construction materials)

3. Tools and Technology (reuse and creative recycling, efficient and low pollution wood stoves, energy storage)

4. Education and Culture (Home schooling, transition culture, Waldorf education)

5. Health and Spiritual Well-being (home birth & breast feeding, holistic medicine, yoga)

6. Finances and Economics (WWOOFing, Farmers Markets, Community Supported Agriculture)

7. Land Tenure and Community Governance (cooperatives, ecovillages, consensus decision making)

While many of us consciously cultivate these areas of our lives, the permaculture flower helps us to focus on making our way of being more practical and sustainable.

Taino farm volunteers Karin and Honza taking notes on the permaculture flower.

Taino farm volunteers Karin and Honza taking notes on the permaculture flower and coloring their own.

We also watched a video in which Geoff Lawton gives an overview of all of the Zones found in a permaculture design. You can find information about Zone 1 in my last blog post.

-Zone 2 is the area where you will find main crops as well as small animals that need regular attention (such as poultry or rabbits). It can contain food forests that are frequently visited.

-Zone 3 is typically used for self-fed animals (such as cattle) as well as other farm forestry.

-Zone 4 often is where wood fuel comes from and where mushrooms are cultivated.

-Zone 5 is wilderness. Though it may be used for foraging and hunting, it is mainly left untouched and is used for contrast and inspiration.

Fresh green beans, eggs, kale, tomatoes and avocado for lunch at the farm.

We packed a lot into the lesson and still had time to enjoy a fantastic farm fresh organic lunch together!

 

 

 

 

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 🙂

    Your Name (required)

    Your Email (required)

    Subject

    Your Message

    Two months ago, I lived in Miami and felt like I was ready to make a change. I’ve had that feeling before… seven years ago when lived in New York and moved to Miami; but this time I was ready for a different type of adventure – a more conscious one.

    I had been taking care of my mom on and off for the last three years when she was diagnosed with a degenerative neurological disorder. My mom to me was like Superwoman: innovative, athletic, businesswoman, beautiful, charming, caring – I could go on and on. Going from that to someone who can’t take care of herself was shocking to say the least. If I could sum up what I think about the medical system in the U.S., the word would be Disgusting. I decided I was gonna Do Something.

    healthy healing

    healthy healing

    I knew my mom owned some land in D.R. And decided I was gonna learn how to grow my own food and take my health and the health of my family in my own hands through holistic medicine and agriculture. That’s how I found the 8 day Intro to Permaculture Course in Los Brazos at Taino Farms.

     

    Tree Identification with the kids

    Tree Identification with the kids

    One of the best decisions I’ve made in a while. While I was learning, I started teaching a handful of neighborhood kids how to speak English. I now have over twenty kids who are like sponges for knowledge. While learning English they also learn about permaculture principles, art , math gardening etc … I’ve never seen kids so eager to learn. They come in early and wanna stay late. I’m amazed and inspired by them everyday. We have very limited resources but manage as best we can. Some of my friends have donated a couple of old notebooks and pencils. You would be surprised how valuable things are when you are low on resources. Maybe you can help! Email me at estefani.vidal@gmail.com to see what simple things can make a huge difference.