Mariposa Organic Farm
The idea of being of able to produce at least some of what we
consume ourselves (and maybe even enough to sell a little tot he best restaurant in Nicaragua, the Ola Verde run by my friend Carla – not veggie
but organic and with plenty of yummy veggie dishes on the menu). I write this though against a backdrop of worrying levels of drought in northern
Nicaragua, leading to severe crop failures (about 60% of the maize crop has failed and up to 90% of other, less hardy crops) and food shortages
to the extent that there are serious problems with hunger and possibly starvation especially amongst children.
We discovered the land through checking out land which is for sale (for a student who wants to move here). It is actually a large piece of
land (for sale at around $100,000), a third of it already cleared for crops, another third planted with citrus trees – the mandarins are
especially delicious – and they bring in an income of about $8000 per year. The rest is wooded hillside, with a footpath to a great
viewpoint. We are renting for one year just a couple of manzanas (about the same size as the Mariposa land) and are going to plant
really whatever seeds we can get ahold of! This will included seeds that we save from our kitchen veggies and fruit – such as melon,
watermelon and various squashes & pumpkins. But several of our students have also donated seeds to us so we can venture into
different varieties of tomato, eggplant, okra, brocoli, onions, etc etc. “Not more veggies” commented one student who is a particularly
avid meat eater (we must be doing something right though as he is now on his third visit to the Mariposa !). And of course the healthy
food here is what most people love!
The head of the team of four now employed to work the land is Franklin, some of you will know him from going on horserides. As with
many people here he has many talents and one of them turns out to be organic farming. He was on his way to getting a university degree
in sustainable agriculture when his wife got pregnant with twins and so he had to give it up. A real shame as he had already completed
4 years out of 5. So I have done a deal with him whereby the Mariposa will pay to get him through the last year which he can do studying
on Saturdays. Meanwhile he is working the land and looking after the horses and being a school caretaker. And being a great Dad to his
adorable twins. Whew!
Franklin started work last Monday. By Tuesday the larger weeds had been cut with machete, on Wednesday he brought in the team of oxen
and ploughed the land. Today, Friday, they are raking and starting to bank up the soil ready for planting the seeds. The guys start work at first
light, around 5.30am and by 11.00am they are already back home. Man, they work fast it is incredible. And of course it is all done by hand,
no fancy tools or tractors. It is hard work but at least it is employment and we are paying well.
Can´t wait for the first veggies!! Though we are already eating salad leaves, beet(root)s from the restricted amount of planting we have found space
from within the Mariposa grounds – and we are now almost self sufficient in eggs!!
february 11, 2010|
Progress on the Finca
After the oxen plow turned the soil, Franklin along with three farmworkers prepared the seed beds from the bone-dry land; (date of picture: February 4th).|
Given that there has not been measurable rain since November, the farmworkers must water the seedbeds in preparation for planting; (date of picture: February 6th).
For the next few days, the farmworkers planted the seeds for lettuce, carrots, onions, okra, tomato, and various types of summer and winter squash and again soaked the seed beds.
There is no well at the finca, so water must be delivered to a large concrete holding tank at the edge of the field, from which the farmworkers fill their watering cans.
Brittney is the first volunteer worker to come to the Mariposa specifically to learn Spanish and work on the land. Here she and Franklin are planting okra seeds…
please send any a good recipes for using okra… including Louisiana gumbo.
Meanwhile, back at the Mariposa gardens, Santos and some students planted cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and heirloom tomato seeds
in bags filled with potting soil. The potting soil was made from three parts soil from the garden, one part compost from oxen manure digested
by earthworms in our “wormery”, and a few hand-fulls of rice hulls to lighten the mixture and hold water.
With the warm days and mild nights, the seeds sprouted in just four to five days!!! In a few more weeks, most of the seedlings will
be transplanted to the finca. We will be experimenting with whether the cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower will thrive as the warmer
daytime temperatures come in April. As part of this “experiment”, some of transplants will go into the Mariposa gardens, which are
shaded and somewhat cooler.
Back to the finca… the following pictures where taken on February 11th:
In just six days the squash sprouted…
In just four days the pole beans sprouted…
And, in just eight days the tomato seeds that were planted directly into the beds at the finca sprouted…
april 23, 2010|
Here's the harvest we are now getting from the farm!