A Day in the Life at Taino Farm

By Kallin Lang

When most people picture the Dominican Republic, they think of laying out under an umbrella on the beach with a half-read book woven between their fingers, perhaps a cold mojito within arms reach. Yet here I was at 6 am in the dark, suitcase in hand waiting for my ride alongside the main highway with no mojitos in sight. Quickly approaching were the headlights of a box truck, a guiding light piercing the early morning obscurity. I loaded my suitcase alongside some vegetable containers, and I was off to Taino Farm.

Our 20-minute truck ride peppered with properties lined with palm trees, cows lazily grazing open green expanses, and Dominicans walking alongside the road to work, didn’t feel long enough. As we pulled in and unloaded my bag, I was greeted by the farm cat who I quickly learned goes by a myriad of names depending on who you ask. After a few quick pets, I awkwardly shuffled my suitcase down the gravel road; the poor wheels were clearly not equipped to handle life outside the airport. While the cabins are being renovated, I was directed to a door at the back of our fish hatchery. Up the stairs and around the corner, I found a half office/half bedroom that I would now call home. I unpacked my suitcase, finding space for my clothes on the desk chair and bookcases, and rearranged some seeds in the mini-fridge to make room for my water bottle. I was told to be ready at 8. I glanced at my phone: 7:55. Not wanting to be late for my first day, I quickly hopped downstairs. One of the benefits of living right above the fish hatchery is an easy 30-second commute to work in the morning. I was now ready to “officially” start my day.

The farm is separated into different areas, each with its own steward, all united by the common goal to produce sustainable goods for the island. Some of the areas include packaging and distribution, outdoor growing beds, vermiculture, chicken husbandry, a fruit forest, tourism, and my first step on the list: the aquaponics system. I would move through each specialty week by week, learning the ins and outs of every one until I had an understanding of the whole farm and how each unique piece fit into the operation as a whole.

I glanced again at my phone: 8:35. I should have known this was more of a ~8 am than an 8:00 am, island time was something I would have to learn alongside my farm studies. Juan strolled up and guided me towards the aquaponics system, where we would work together for the next few weeks. Our first task was to trim the mint. In some places, mint is considered a weed due to its quick growing roots and hardy nature, so leaving it to do its thing in the aquaponics system would mean roots growing through the floating beds and clogging the tubing. Meticulously we went bed by bed removing the plants, bringing them back to our makeshift work station, trimming away the excess, and returning them to the start, now sporting brand new haircuts. As we worked, Juan, his assistant, and I chatted leisurely about the upcoming political elections, the ongoing coronavirus situation, and their plans for the week. As the hours passed and I perfected my technique, my movements formed a choreographed dance, and my mind moved to a meditative state, pruning away excess thoughts as I did excess roots. At 4 pm, we called it a day, leaving our plastic chairs laid out in a makeshift circle ready to continue again tomorrow. 

After a shower to wash away the dirt under my nails and the slivers of mint sprinkling my arms and legs, I walked next door to the colmodo, or corner store, to grab some supplies for dinner. The old lady manning the store happily shouted “vecina!” as I walked through the door. Momentarily I was confused how she knew I was her neighbor, but when you are the only gringa in a small town, it is not hard to stand out. I grabbed my groceries and waved goodbye with a promise to come back tomorrow. I finished dinner alongside the kitchen window, staring at the peacefully empty farm that was once buzzing with people just a few hours before.

As I lay in bed, I expected to feel that same sense of serenity and calm. I imagined falling asleep with a view of a starry night sky and the mumblings of the nocturnal animal kingdom waking up to start their days. However, as we all know, reality is often quite different than our predictions. From down the street, I could hear the echos of a party getting started. The chirps of crickets and frogs that I envisioned were now replaced by the croons of Prince Royce and Romeo Santos. I popped in some headphones and settled for a Spotify playlist entitled “The sounds of Nature.” It would have to do.

In the morning, the beats of bachata had subsided, and I awoke to the crows of roosters and tropical birds that flitted back and forth between our fruit trees. Now that’s more like it! As I moved through my week, I learned about seeding, growing, trimming, propagating, and problem-solving. Getting my hands dirty, both metaphorically and physically, instead of using them to turn the page of a textbook was a much richer experience than any I had gotten in a college classroom. If this is something you would like to experience this yourself, check out our internship program.

digging and planting

Internship

Taino Farm Farm Tour and river float

Farm Tour

Taino Farm Permaculture Inspired

Permaculture

taino organic farm aquaponic

Aquaponics

Taino Organic Farm Vermiculture

Vermiculture