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!

 

 

 

 

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

It’s strange how a place can hold such strong meanings and possess a kind of personality for those that inhabit it or visit it. Or how a place that you’ve known for a mere fraction of your life can become seeped in nostalgia before you even realize that it had grown strings that are attached to your heart. What is it that makes these places stand out? What makes a place so special and so real in our minds? How does a place become one that cultivates love, nurturing, sharing, and growth? I read an interesting article recently about human beings’ search for meaning in life, and how those who possess a healthy curiosity for meaning live fuller lives than those who seek just happiness. So don’t listen to Kid Kudi when he goes on about that Persuit of Happiness shit. We all know it’s shallow.

Taino-Farms-6

When people come to the farm, it’s for a purpose greater than an afternoon thrill, or a night on the town. They generally want to find some intention in their work, their learning, and their experience on earth. There is a strong connection that you can feel in the air there and I got to spend my last visit enjoying the Finca for what it really is. Taking a note of my First Impressions for the fourth or fifth time, I was able to reconnect with the land and find new truth for the project and myself.

With so many people passing through in the last six months, it felt necessary to use this permaculture technique of simply observing my impressions free from judgment or immediate solution.

It’s undeniable; Finca Taina is a grounded place, one that dictates its wishes stronger even than those that are working it. Rain will be fickle and refuse to come, or the river will rise so high that it engulfs our riverside patio and denies access to tired farmers. This place can be challenging, unpredictable, and cranky, just like a kid that’s going through puberty.

taino farms

Over the last six months there have been a lot of people pouring their energy into the land. We have seen the establishment of an amazing food forest on the west side of the property. It is currently swallowing up our kitchen waste and pumping out lettuce greens, cerezas (a type of cherrie), hot peppers, and moringa and is promising to feed us yucca, black beans, and mangos in the near future. Across the roadway on the east side in the lower part of the property where water used to pool and stagnate in the rainy season, we’ve dug trenches and built raised garden beds and the beginnings of a utility structure that will be the host of much more great work to come. When I really chilled out and looked closely I saw dozens of little bees foraging all over the flowering cherrie bushes. Happy bees = lots of honey.

Cerezas

Cerezas growing in the food forest

It’s hard to express all the improvements at the farm, but lets just say that for each meal that I’ve eaten in the last month, probably 30{f2973bc577a195c35cdcad3730db5f6ced97ed67eb120151c538413472fe3d08} of the food has come from the Finca. In the three days that I was on the farm, probably 80{f2973bc577a195c35cdcad3730db5f6ced97ed67eb120151c538413472fe3d08} came from the land. Our quick trips to the colmado next store, are now only to stock up on onions, garlic, beer, and cheese. Not bad.

Taino Salad

A healthy salad made with fresh green peppers, tomatoes, onion, papaya, radishes, and cilantro. Serve with a vinaigrette dressing and enjoy with a cold glass of beer.

What really resonated with me was the immeasurable amount of energy and love that have gone into this piece of land. This is what gives it a strong sense of place and what makes the food grow. In just one afternoon, we harvested red leaf lettuce, fresh cilantro, green beans, green peppers, habenero peppers, and eggplant.

Taino Farms Annual Garden

 

The farmer’s footstep is the best fertilizer they say and I know it’s true. No matter what day I go there, I’m always greeted by the smiling faces and the steady pace of Victor, Juan, and Nao, our local team of full time farmers. These guys are awesome.

taino-farms

Thanks to all the hands that have put themselves into  energy a positive path for Finca Taina. The project has grown amazingly and is starting to find itself as it matures. It’s clearly a product of the quest for a stronger meaning in life. Those that visit the farm and have given a part of themselves to it will never loose that experience. It is sown in the earth and will continue to nurture life that is full of love, health, and intention.

 

 

 

 

 

“Sometimes you hear a voice through
the door calling you, as fish out of
water hear the waves, or a hunting
falcon hears the drum’s come back.
This turning toward what you deeply
love saves you.”
— Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī