Tropical Organic Farming Experience
Imagine a blue sky, brilliant sunshine, the soft, repetitive sound of waves meeting the shoreline, a cool clean breeze, some reggae music playing in the distance, a shout from happy boys playing, birds in the trees, the smell of tropical fruit – ah, paradise! Right?
But then, you take a good look and notice that the grass is kind of yellow and actually crispy in places. And when you look at the banana trees, they look pretty droopy. Normally, wouldn’t there be big bunches of bananas hanging? But you don’t even see one small bunch on any of these trees. Hmmm.
Let’s move on to the vegetable garden. That’ll be fun! It’s so nice to walk the paths between the beds covered with hoops of shade cloth. And when you pick up the cloth to check out the healthy plants of Swiss chard, cilantro, parsley, arugula and other greens and herbs, you can’t help but smile. Yes, leading the long hoses through the winding paths around the beds of carrot, tomato, eggplant, and more to water the plants isn’t always easy. But when you can pause and pick mulberries from the trees scattered around the garden, and pop some cherry tomatoes in your mouth, it’s all worth it. And knowing that the patches of watermelon and cantaloupe, with so many developing baby melons, so need that water and depend on you is a really good motivator. Watering plants with abundant, fresh, clean water from our spring feels wonderful.
But when you reach the garden and look around, you feel shocked. All the varieties of basil have gone to seed. The shade cloth has been rolled up and put away, leaving hoops that stick up like the ribs of a skeleton in the sands of a desert. There’s no fresh green here. Everything is yellow and brown. If this is a garden, you feel sorry for the people who are relying on any harvest.
Everything is either dead or dying.
Okay (Clap hands briskly to get everyone’s attention)! Let’s figure out our action plan because this situation needs to change. Yes, we’re in a drought that has lasted at least two years. The spring that we rely on is failing, so abundant water is a thing of the past. Let’s not be depressed about this. Let’s just be realistic about our new normal. It’ll force us to be creative about how we use water.
How about we capture every drop of rainwater that falls onto the rooftop of every building and use it to irrigate the garden? We already have a grey water system that captures water from the washing machine. And since we use a natural, home made soap for laundry, we are happy to use that water in the garden.
Let’s ask the Rural Agricultural Development Agency irrigation extension agent to come and give us some tips as we set up an irrigation system. Every precious drop of water should go directly to the roots of the plants that need it.
While we’re at it, we can go online and look up what other farmers are doing in dry climates. That double digging looks hard, but maybe worth a try. Every new idea is a step in the right direction.
Let’s experiment with our hoop and shade cloth beds. Let’s make the hoops high enough that it can cover two beds with an upright person walking between them. Our current hoops force us to crouch or kneel, which is oppressive.
Our clay soil has been baked into pottery in the kiln of the summer heat. Let’s collect all available plant material and aggressively make compost in these neglected compost frames scattered around the property. Let’s collect material to shred in our chipper and mulch the plants. Can someone look online and learn what you can about using bamboo leaves as much and in compost?
Our nursery needs a mother. Actually, it needs a Mom. A Mommy. A Mommy who will make beautiful potting soil, pot it up, plant seeds, lovingly care for them, coo to the seedlings, sing lullabies, and when they are of age, proudly set them out to live healthy and productive lives in the garden beds.
Who is on this team? This Garden Team of Champions? This is an experience, not an internship, because we are not teaching you a skill. We will just be on the Garden Team with you, working to grow food organically in the new normal of a dry climate with no rain. We need to grow some food because we are vegans who eat tons of vegetables, and we are tired of eating other farmer’s produce that is sprayed with poison.
If you are interested, please apply here. The cost of room and board is $900 per month, with a one month minimum stay. The fee covers three meals a day, and shared (with other interns) accomodations in one of our cabins. You are responsible for your airplane ticket and for transportation from and back to the airport. We will provide a packing list with everything you’ll need for your experience here. And if you have any questions, please just email Agape (me!) at firstname.lastname@example.org.