Permaculture has begun at Taino Farm in the Dominican Republic, so im going to make this first post super quick. I want to document as much of the Permaculture Intro course as possible, but I don’t want to spend my scarce free time on my computer. I am sitting in the apartment at Taino Farms, enjoying the company of seven great people who I just met yesterday, and the blissful feeling that comes after a good meal following a long day of learning and working in the field.


Today we woke up a little slower than we had planned – but – no pasa nada, we came together for a nice breakfast and then settled into a slideshow introduction to permaculture. We discussed many great things including how permacutlure pertains to:


Appropriate Technology: How to harness the sun’s energy – which way is best for your site? Do you use solar power, wood power – you can cook with a rocket stove, or a solar oven. The choice is yours!


Commerce: Finding the most efficient ways of doing things by “cascading nutrients” which is also known as “stacking functions”. A good example of this is seen at a brewery that uses its waste to grow mushrooms, that in turn feeds pigs, whose waste is put back as a fuel into running the brewery. This is a part of ZERI – Zero Emissions Waste Initiative.


Cottage Industries: By harvesting and making products from your permaculture venture you can gain economic support – even security.


Medicine: For example, holistic medicine can be as easy as growing the beautiful large flower known as Jerusalem Artichoke. The bulb is harvested and is high in a particular type of sugar that when broken down produces high levels of calcium which helps to regulate cells and is therefore great for diabetics J


But onto the real fun that we had today… we got to build a hot compost pile! It’s a lot less messy than it sounds and a lot more specific than I had imagined. I always think of composting as chucking kitchen waste (sometimes directly out my kitchen window) into a bin that stinks a lot, and then I cover my tomato plants with. But this time, we approached it with a bit of a recipe, and built the pile in the shape of a cube so as to minimize the surface area and increase the heat production. So here’s how it works:

building a hot compost

Hot composting is a team effort! many hands make light work.

1. Mark off a 1m square area

2. Procure sources of Nitrogen that will take up 40{f2973bc577a195c35cdcad3730db5f6ced97ed67eb120151c538413472fe3d08}. This is typically called the “green” component and can be made up of manure, green plants, kitchen waste.

3. Procure sources of Carbon that will take up 50{f2973bc577a195c35cdcad3730db5f6ced97ed67eb120151c538413472fe3d08}. This is called the “brown”. This could be dried leaves, old cana stalks, rice husks, cardboard, paper waste. It’s recommended that you soak the Carbon content first, but you can also douse it right on site.

how to build a hot compost pile

soaking the brown carbons and chopping the green nitrogens

4. Procure sources of High Nitrogen that will take up 10{f2973bc577a195c35cdcad3730db5f6ced97ed67eb120151c538413472fe3d08} . This can be chicken, horse or goat waste, or nitrogen rich legume plants like pigeon pea.

5. Now your going to layer them systematically, starting with the brown, water soaked carbon, which is swiftly followed by a sprinkle of the High Nitrogen, and then layering your green Nitrogen on top.

Note: If you are using big leafy green plants or vines, make sure to chop them up, so when it comes time to turn the pile – it wont be impossibly difficult.

hot composting

Hot compost party is getting pretty hot!

6. Pile the layers in a nice cube until it’s 1 m high. Side note: we sprinkled in some worm castings to add all those yummy microbes – it’s kinda like the pinch of bacteria to make a batch of yogurt. The catalyst that will really get the hot compost going.


hot compost pile

done! hot compost pile finished

In the next week we will turn the hot compost pile when it gets to 70 degrees C or 160 degrees F. Crazy eh!

course schedule

Course Schedule December 13th – 20th, 2012

Our team has been busy putting together a busy 8 days for the permaculture students that will be joining us on the 13th for 8 days of hands on learning in the Introduction to Permaculture 2012 Course. The schedule shows 8 full days from 8 in the morning until 6 in the evening. Plus group dinners and educational movie nights. On Saturday the 15th and Tuesday the 18th we will be opening the course up to the public to join us fro 2 community learning sessions. On Saturday we will be learning about banana circles, and on Tuesday, we will be learning about chinampas. Please come up and join us! Drop in sessions are $40 and include Dinner on Saturday and Lunch on Tuesday. On Sunday we will have the afternoon off to float the river, enjoy some Yoga, and grill on the riverside patio. At the end of the course, we plan to welcome the light by celebrating the winter solstice with a pig roast in a pit, music, and celebration.

With its unique feel of diversity in so many respect, Taino Farm is poised to be a great spot for our upcoming Permaculture course and its overall mission of sustainable food production.  I, Doug Crouch of TreeYo Permaculture, will be facilitating the first of a series of Permaculture events with Taino Farm and Extreme Hotel in about ten days.  We are busy finalizing details of the course with an exciting time of preparation and advancement of the site happening currently.

Cacao Fruit

Cacao pod growing at Taino Farm

It’s nice to be back in the tropics as this is where my Permaculture field career started.  After taking my Eight-week Permaculture and Ecovillage Design Course at Lost Valley Educational Center in Dexter, Oregon, USA, I embarked on a Nine month farm job at Finca Ipe near Dominical in Costa Rica.  There I was charged with the aquaculture side of the project and flourished in that role after doing extensive research that leveraged my degree in Fish and Wildlife Management.  There I learned the ropes of agriculture in general and applying the ecological design system known as Permaculture.  Permaculture is a common sense philosophy that can be summed up as comprehending and copying how nature works and applying that to as many different aspects of development as possible.  From my website the following definition presents a more complex and theoretical explanation:


“Permaculture is the harmonious integration of all life kingdoms into agriculturally productive ecosystems and socially just environments producing sound economic outcomes through systems management. It is a regenerative design intention reflecting patterns in nature that seeks to build interconnections allowing for energy efficiency and abundance of yield.”

Bill Mollison Quote

Bill Mollison Quote

From this experience in Costa Rica, as well as my other travels in Central America, and my work in India and SE Asia, I have quite a lot of inspiration to further develop Taino Darm in a holistic fashion.  For example, turning the existing straight channels of runoff water into a “chinampa” like system will be a fun upgrade.  It will be lots of digging in the heavy clay, but the two acres that lends itself quite nicely will be a great example of the Permaculture principle “edge”.  To read more about this edge principle, check out the educational branch of the TreeYo Permaculture site.  Chinampas classically come from the lakes of central Mexico where the indigenous people were once building floating rafts for growing in an aquaponics system.  The permaculture reference of chinampas often has to do with utilizing the high water table of sites that were at one time channeled off farms but we like to let it flow in a sinuous shape to utilize the three dimensions.  Essentially it creates a reconstructed wetlands, matching land and water harmoniously in this slower flow.  Subsequently, this creation will allow us to incorporate aquaculture in and amongst tree crops.  Aquaculture is extremely productive and we will use these systems to cycle biomass of aquatic plants to build soil and mulch the fruit trees.

Chinampa aquaculture

Chinampa Aquiculture


Another main project that I envision heavy participation on is furthering the food forest.  This might be the most exciting facet of the farm now as it is already a  well-developed selection of fruit trees.  The ones that popped out the most to me were the coconut palms, the cacoa trees, the mangosteen, the avocado’s, the rhambutans, and the mangos of course.  Banana and papaya add another layer while the vining habit of the local passionflower was the first piece of tropical fruit I ate at the farm.  The farm manager, Viktor who is a local Dominican, was quite welcoming with that gift and is very in tune with the ideas of Permaculture already.  I look forward to working with him and the others from the staff of Extreme Hotel on this project.  Thus my job here is to facilitate the course but also to facilitate the design process.  Designing the guilds and the other layers of the food forest into the existing plantations of fruit trees will be one of the main objectives of the farm mission.

Overall it is an exciting time at the farm as the next phase of implementation will be in full swing in just a few days.  Finishing touches are being put on the repairs of the existing farm house so we can have our team up there full time.  Being on site will greatly increase our ability to do the day-in-day-out management work alongside Viktor and others up in the gentle rolling hills of Los Brazos, Dominican Republic.  We have several seed orders coming our way including some classic perennial vegetables that I have come across in my travels that include the following:

  • Katuk – for its highly nutritious leaves which are often eaten raw and have nice nutty flavor.
  • Cranberry Hibiscus – for its leaves that give color and tang to salads.
  • Winged Bean – for its amazing multi-functional yield including young shoots for steamed greens and pea pods for stir-frying
  • Kang Kong – for its leaves that are the best steamed green in my opinion and highly nutritious.
winged bean

The Nitrogen Fixer – Winged Bean

Getting more vegetable production with the above plants and many more that we are sourcing is a big priority.  The farm has all the classic weaknesses of lowland Humid Tropical farming sites with its poor soils, high heat, and high humidity.  The bugs and plant diseases thrive and tropical vegetables (like the ones mentioned above as well as seeds adapted to tropical places like Florida) are important to meet the farms goals of food production needs.  Increasing soil quality through thermophillic (hot) composting, sheet mulching, chop and drop with nitrogen fixers, and vermi-composting will all be a big priority of reversing these trends.  To forward the soil quality, we will have a steaming pile of organic matter that will be the future of the farms fertility.  In the course we will make a several cubic meter pile of hot compost as there is lots of biomass on-site for this accelerated decomposition process.

Hot Composting

Hot Composting


So we are looking forward to the many changes that will be coming our way over the coming six weeks of my participation with the farm.  The nursery will be packed, the ground will be altered, the biodiversity of the site will continue on its exponential path, and fun will be had along the way.  Most importantly we will be working collaboratively on leaving behind the all-important Permaculture Design.

Planning in Permaculture - diagrams

Planning in Permaculture


Author – Permaculture Allstar – Doug Crouch

Tropical Farm manager
We need to grow food to provide for ourselves, our affiliated restaurant, and potentially for the expat community where we live on the north coast of the Dominican Republic.  Our base for this is a small organic permacuture farm that is 30 min away from our eco hotel in the surf town of Cabarete.
The potentials from there are limitless. Our opportunities including everything from consulting, hosting courses, volun-tourism, agro-tourism, and simply making a proper difference in the community where we all choose to live.
We have accommodations on the farm as well as weekends you can visit  the hotel when you like. We have a lot of exposure to a lot of people who love what we are doing.
The work is hard, and you need to be self motivated and resourceful. We have a lot of support to offer you through our various connections on the island, but this is something that we need a leader for who is able to work with a team and manage people. Come and take charge!
Room and board provided for, as well as a small monthly stipend. Opportunities for further income are abundant.
For further information, check out our Taino facebook page.
Come and enjoy living the dream 🙂
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    Welcome to TainoFarms

    Taino farms is a sustainable organic farm on the north coast of the Dominican Republic.

    We produce high quality organic food for those who appreciate the difference.