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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.