One of the greatest challenges of living in the valley is getting enough food for the interns and directors each week. The difficulty of this task is amplified because our food is preserved only in coolers and will last only for a limited amount of time. Therefore, obtaining food in a sustainable and efficient manner is a definite priority of the intern program. In the past week, Max and I have started planting some crops in the valley that will benefit future interns. We are fortunate to live in a climate that has a year-round growing season that will support the cultivation of pretty much anything.
We modeled the construction of our garden after John Arthur Douglas of a Lazy Man’s Farm. John Arthur Douglas promotes the use of permaculture which is essentially creating an agricultural system that is self sustaining and reduces the amount of energy wasted. With this ideology, he created the design of the Magic Circle that is now growing in our valley. Each will have a tall tropical fruit tree, a shade plant and a legume to fix nitrogen in the soil. The center will be where any and all compost can be thrown leaving the surrounding soil rich in nutrients. Once created, the Magic Circle should continue to grow and sustain itself without any additional work on our part. Our valley circle has banana trees and pigeon peas with the intention of soon adding sweet potatoes and yucca.
Other plants are being cultivated including yellow squash, tomatoes, zucchini and lettuce. We also set up an area along the fence line for passion fruit to grow because it grows particularly well on fences.
This coming week we plan to consult with surrounding campisinos about how they find success in their personal agriculture. I have noticed many gardens that are flourishing with mango, plantain and banana trees as well as many other fruits and vegetables. Just last week, Ramon stopped by our base camp and offered some incredible wisdom about how he goes about obtaining his highest plant yield. He relies heavily on lunar cycles when planting his crops. He said he saw his highest yield of beans in the past year because he planted them on a full moon.
Most importantly, we are trying to develop an agricultural system that is most efficient and does NOT incorporate the use of any sort of chemicals. For the benefit of future interns and valley dwellers, I am going to compile all research into a book that can be used as a source to reference as agriculture evolves in the valley. We must feed our minds and nourish our souls!