Lo que pasa en la granja?

Así, un día estábamos todos pensando… sería algo hermoso crear esta interesante finca en la cual los niños y las niñas pudieran ser libres para jugar y aprender acerca del valor de ayudar a crecer sus propios alimentos; un lugar donde la niñez pueda cultivar el amor por la naturaleza, el estar al aire libre, para los animales, por la comida fresca, por las flores fragantes y mucho más. ¡Decidimos que tenemos que trabajar!

Ha tomado alrededor de dos años el actualizar este primer pensamiento, ¡y aquí estamos! Luquillo Farm Sanctuary ha nacido del profundo deseo de crear un espacio para niños y niñas de todas las edades, que vengan a asistir en desarrollar un centro de vida sostenible, donde se cultivan alimentos orgánicos y las conversaciones sobre Permacultura, Biodiversidad, Compostaje y Construcción Ecológica ¡son la orden del día!

Skai Juice y Lauribel López, directora y co-directora, respectivamente, son las dos agricultoras a cargo de esta importante operación. Ambas han estado trabajando diligentemente en este plan desde que se conocieron en la Marcha contra Monsanto, celebrada en octubre de 2013, mientras Skai vendía comida vegetariana y repartía volantes para las personas interesadas en venir y colaborar con este proyecto de vida. Se juntaron y culminaron los esfuerzos para la obtención, de parte de la Autoridad de Tierras, de la hacienda de 80 cuerdas, en la comunidad de Villa Angelina en Luquillo.  La Autoridad de Tierras es una división del Departamento de Agricultura, que tiene aproximadamente 10,000 hectáreas de tierra disponibles para cualquier persona interesada en la agricultura.  El proceso no es fácil, pero vale la pena si estás trabajando en cultivar comida y necesitas la tierra para hacerlo.

Luquillo Farm Sanctuary es el proyecto principal de la organización sin fines de lucro, Muévete Puerto Rico, Inc. Este se esmera en ofrecer una variedad de programas, principalmente para la niñez de toda la isla, en las áreas de producción de alimentos orgánicos, vida sustentable, comer sanamente y similares.

Los programas que estamos llevando a cabo actualmente son:

Campo Borikén, un campamento GRATIS, todos los sábados, de 9:00am a 12:00pm, en el que los niños y las niñas participan en actividades agrícolas. Sólo se solicita que los padres traigan meriendas para comer durante los recesos y plántulas, semillas, herramientas o cualquier otro artículo que se pueda utilizar en la finca y que se considerará como una donación a la misma.  Nos encantaría establecer el programa como uno basado en la comunidad y depender en gran medida de las donaciones y la cooperación tanto de los padres, madres y los(as) miembros de la comunidad. Este proyecto se está expandiendo hacia un campamento de verano en el que nos quedaremos todos y todas a dormir en la granja, el primero de esta clase en Puerto Rico.

 

Mi Escuela Natural, es un programa coordinado durante el año escolar, que invita a los(as) alumnos(as) a visitarnos y aprender acerca de agricultura orgánica y sobre los beneficios de comer
alimentos cultivados de forma natural. Nuestro diseño trae la juventud local a la finca a través de excursiones escolares para que les enseñemos temáticas como: Introducción a la granja, el desarrollo de la tierra virgen a una finca orgánica, próspera y sostenible, diseño de permacultura,  comienzo de la semilla y siembra, producción de composta, y preparación de comidas nutritivas. Nuestro enfoque es que los(as) niños(as) se logren expresar a sí mismos(as) a través del trabajo, el juego, y que experimenten la vida más cerca de la naturaleza.

Otros proyectos que la finca está edificando son:

“Energy Exchange Program” (Programa de Intercambio de Energía) – Las personas de alrededor del mundo pueden venir y trabajar en la finca por un periodo de hasta seis meses. Se les otorga un espacio para acampar en nuestro campamento rústico fuera de la red “off-the-grid”, (sin electricidad ni agua corriente) y tres comidas vegetarianas por día.

“Youth Journey Puerto Rico Program” (Programa Ruta de la Juventud a Puerto Rico) – Un nuevo plan que se ha creado para desarrollar una colaboración con maestros y maestras alrededor de Estados Unidos. Se les ofrece a estudiantes del mismo país, una oportunidad de aprendizaje de servicio en el cual vienen a la finca por una semana y participan en una aventura de excursión eco-educativa. Este programa le paga un estipendio al (la) maestro(a) o coordinador(a).

Si estás interesado(a) en ser parte de este programa o cualquier otro aspecto relacionado con la finca, por favor contacta Luquillo Farm Sanctuary en su página web: www.puertoricofarm.com  o por correo electrónico letsdothispr@gmail.com.  La granja necesita tu ayuda y participación de diferentes formas; no solamente con labor física pero, ayuda administrativa y las conexiones a los contactos y recursos adecuados.  ¡No seas un(a) extraño(a) y mantente en contacto con nosotros en Luquillo Farm Sanctuary! ¡Esto es por la niñez puertorriqueña y el futuro que nos aguarda!

Group Coordinators Wanted!!

stipends

The Luquillo Farm Sanctuary is looking for Group Coordinators to assist us in bringing youth groups down to our 80 acre farm in Luquillo, Puerto Rico.  This opportunity is perfect for teachers, parents, and those who work closely with children ages 12 and up.  The Group Coordinator position is paid a stipend and flown from their respective cities to accompany their group.  Groups must be a minimum of 10 students and a maximum of 25.
Our Eco-Educational Adventure Includes:
·         7 Nights camping on the farm (we also have in-door accommodations for those groups that want more shelter
·         Home Cooked Vegetarian Meals
·         Guided Eco-Tours in El Yunque Rainforest, Las Cabezas Nature Reserve, El Angelito River Trail, and Bio Bay Kayak Tour
·         Workshops including Natural Farming & Gardening, Permaculture, Aquaponics, and Sustainable Living.
·         Camp Fire Gathering at Night with snacks and old wise-tales!
·         Native Local Arts and Culture experiences including Bomba dancing
·         Beach Time

Please contact Joany Carrasco at youthjourneypr@gmail.com with your letter of interest.  Please also check out our website:  http://www.puertoricofarm.com

The Zombies are Coming!

¡Hola a todos y todas!

¡¡Halloween está sobre sobre nosotros (as) esta semana!! ¡Hemos decidido tener un poco de diversión! little fun! Luquillo Farm Sanctuary ha creado su primera actividad para Halloween 2014 titulada ¡Las Noches de los Muertos Vivos! Tendremos una increíble casa embrujada en el mejor escenario natural que hayas visto con un montón de zombis asechando a todos(as) los que se atrevan atravesar los portones. ¡¡Este evento es para todas las edades!! El costo de entrada será sólo $5.00 por persona. ¡Si vienes disfrazado(a), tendrás $1.00 de decuento! Con esta actividad, estaremos recaudando fondos para adquir herramientas y semillas para poder seguir trabajando en nuestra misión de crear la única finca orgánica y agroecológica para niños y niñas de Puerto Rico. También tendremos bebidas y piscolabis a la venta. Para más información, visita nuestra página de internet: www.puertoricofarm.com o con Lauribel López Viera al 939-717-7590.

zombies pr 2

¿Cuándo?:

30, 31 de octubre y 1 de noviembre de 2014 a las 7:30pm

Necesitamos voluntarios (as) para: zombis, brujas(os), espantapájaros, granjeros(as) locos (as), y cualquier idea que se te ocurra. Si estás interesado (a) en disfrazarte, correr persiguiendo a la gente y divertirte una noche o dos, por favor contáctanos.

Direcciones para llegar a la finca The Luquillo Farm Sanctuary:
Desde la Ruta #3:
Tome la salida de Luquillo, Ruta #992 (salida a la derecha después de la farmacia Walgreens, viniendo de San Juan).
Siga hacia Sabana en la ruta #992 (Liberty Cable Vision a la derecha) por .7 millas hasta la intersección con la ruta #991 (A la izquierda hay una carpa que vende comida a la barbacoa, le llaman Los Pinchos).
Dobla a la derecha, continuando en la ruta #992, hacia Mameyes, por .3 millas adicionales (total: 1.0 milla).
Dobla a la derecha en Villa Angelina (Hay una parada de transporte público a la izquierda, frente a la entrada y a la derecha un letrero en cemento que lee “Bienvenidos a Villa Angelina”).
Continúa por el camino dentro de Villa Angelina por un poco más de .1 milla, siguiendo la valla amarilla a la izquierda.
Al final de esta valla, Luquillo Farm Sanctuary te queda a la izquierda, entrando por el portón que tiene una cadena. Hay un cartel de la finca justo en el medio.
Si pasas la iglesia a la derecha, o llegas por las casas de la comunidad, ¡¡te pasaste!!

www.puertoricofarm.com


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Hey Everyone!

Halloween is upon us and we have decided to have a little fun!  The Luquillo Farm Sanctuary is hosting its first Halloween event entitled ” Nights of the Living Dead”, where we will be having a haunted house with lots of Zombies lurking everywhere to scare the crap out of all those who dare enter its gates! This event is for all ages! We are hosting this event at the farm located in Villa Angelina, Luquillo…Oct 30 – Nov 1…gates open at 7:30pm.  The cost to get in is $5 per person…and you get $1 off if you wear your Halloween costume.  Snacks and beverages will also be on sale. This fundraiser is to help assist the farm with its mission of creating the only Organic farm for children on the island of Puerto Rico.  For more information please check out the website at: www.puertoricofarm.com  or call Lauribel Lopez at 939 717 7590.

Directions to the Farm:
From Route 3, take the Luquillo exit (route 992).
Head towards Sabana on route 992 (Liberty Cable on right)for .7 miles to intersection with route 991.(Barbeque pit on left).
Turn right, continuing on route 992, towards Mameyes, for an additional .3 miles (total 1.0 mile).
Turn right into Villa Angelina (Luquillo public transportation stop/kiosk on left, across from entrance).
Continue on road into Villa Angelina for a little over .1 miles, with yellow guard rail on left.
At the end of the yellow guard rail ,the Farm Sanctuary is on the left, through the chain link gate.  There is a Farm Sanctuary sign on the gate.

 If you pass the church (on right), or enter into the neighborhood, you have gone too far!

See you soon!

Peace and Love from the Luquillo Farm Sanctuary

Campo Borikén Comenzara este 6 de septiembre, 2014!!

Campo Borikén Comenzara este 6 de septiembre, 2014!!
Comparte esta informacion a todos tus amigos!

Here it is! The Luquillo Farm Sanctuary....you thought we were joking!

The beautiful entrance to Campo Boriken!

CAMPO BORIKEN STARTS THIS SEPTEMBER 6TH, 2014
Please pass this info along to all your friends!

English Translation Below!

Llamando a todas las familias!

Por este medio, les presentamos Campo Borikén, uno de los programas pioneros de The Luquillo Farm Sanctuary. Durante el año escolar, estaremos ofreciendo un programa educativo gratis sobre agricultura orgánica para niños(as) y jóvenes entre las edades de 6 a 15 años. Este plan se convertirá en nuestro gran campamento de verano que tendrá su comienzo este julio de 2014. El proyecto estará enfocado en aprender sobre técnicas de permacultura, siembra y cosecha de alimentos y vivir una vida sustentable y natural en armonía con la tierra. 

Campo Borikén estará reuniéndose todos los sábados, de 9:00am a 12:00pm. El programa es gratis para sus hijos e hijas. No obstante, todos los padres, madres y encargados(as), deberán unirse al Comité de Padres Asesores para asistir en la búsqueda de recursos y en la ayuda que se necesite para sacar este proyecto de vida adelante. 

Los y las invitamos al primer taller y orientación que se llevará a cabo el sábado, 6 de septiembre de 2014, a las 9:00am. Es de suma importancia que por favor confirme su asistencia; llamando o textando nosotros al 939-891-9215 para ingles o 787-397-4271 para español o al correo electrónico letsdothispr@gmail.com.
Por favor, comparta extensamente entre sus familiares, amigos y círculos sociales.

Muchísimas gracias,
The Luquillo Farm Sanctuary

Direcciones

Viniendo desde San Juan: Tome la ruta 3 hasta el km 36 en Luquillo. Gire a la derecha después del Walgreens al lado de la carretera y pasar Liberty Cable en su lado derecho. Siga por esta carretera hasta la intersección de la Ruta 992. Tome esa derecha. En menos de un km, verá un gran letrero: VILLA ANGELINA a su derecha, tome esta derecha. Siga la entrada de la finca al final de esta calle a la izquierda, aparcar en el lado derecho de la carretera y caminar por el portón.

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Calling all families!
Campo Borikén is one of the premiere programs of the Luquillo Farm Sanctuary. During the school year we are offering a FREE Agricultural educational program for children ages 6 – 15 years old…and during the summer we are going to be offering a summer camp with the hopes of developing Puerto Rico’s only Sleepaway Eco-Adventure Farm Camp. The program will focus on Organic and Permaculture Techniques of growing food and living a natural and sustainable life on the land.
Campo Borikén meets every Saturday from 9 am – 12pm starting September 6th, 2014. The program is absolutely free (during the school year) for your children to attend, however all parents must join the Parent Advisory Committee to assist with searching for resources and to help as needed.
We invite you to our first workshop and orientation on Saturday, September 6th, 2014 @ 9am. Please confirm by calling or texting us: 939-891-9215 for English or 787-397-4271 for Spanish or by email: letsdothispr@gmail.com

Thanks and we look forward to meeting you soon!
The Luquillo Farm Sanctuary

Directions

Coming from San Juan: Take Route 3 to km 36 in Luquillo. Turn right after Walgreens off of the highway and pass a Liberty Cable on your right side. Follow this road to the intersection of Route 992. Take that right. In less than a km, you will see a large sign: VILLA ANGELINA on your right, take this right. Follow the entrance to the farm at the end of this road on the left, park on the right side of the road and walk through the gate.

Permaculture Principles

Principle 1:  OBSERVE AND INTERACT

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

By careful observation and thoughtful interaction, we look at nature as an inspiration for our designs. We seek to gather as much first hand information and different perspectives as possible to help understand what is going on with the various elements in the system.

Principle 2:  CATCH AND STORE ENERGY

Make hay while the sun shines

By developing systems that collect resources and store them long-term, we     create resilience and true wealth.  The best place to store this wealth is in the soil, water, trees, or seeds as all are self maintaining, easily used, and resistant to monopolization

Principle 3:  OBTAIN A YIELD

You can’t work on an empty stomach

Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the work that you are doing.  Yield can be in the form of food, knowledge, experience, or a resource.  If the system is not generating a yield it will struggle to be sustainable.

Principle 4:  APPLY SELF-REGULATION AND ACCEPT FEEDBACK

The sins of the fathers are visited on the children unto the seventh generation

Continuously re-evaluate your systems and respond to feedback mechanisms just as natural ecosystems depend on feedback models to keep balanced.

Principle 5:  USE AND VALUE RENEWABLE RESOURCES AND SERVICES

Let nature take its course           

Make the best use of nature’s abundance to reduce our consumptive behavior and dependence on non-renewable resources. Ensure that use is within the renewable limits of the resource – a non consuming use is preferred over a consuming one.

Principle 6:  PRODUCE NO WASTE

A stitch in time saves nine

Design your system with closed loops, value every resource, and nothing goes to waste.  Remember, there is no such thing as waste in nature.  The output of any element should match up as the input of another element.  Maintanence is key as there is less embodied energy to maintain than to allow to crash and rebuild.

REFUSE   →   REDUCE    →   REUSE   →   REPAIR   →    RECYCLE

Principle 7:  DESIGN FROM PATTERNS TO DETAILS

Can’t see the wood for the trees

By zooming out, we observe patterns in nature and society. These patterns form the backbone of our design. Why try to reinvent the wheel, if nature has been fine-tuning her systems for billions of years.

Principle 8:  INTEGRATE RATHER THAN SEGREGATE

Many hands make light work.

By studying relationship between elements, permaculture aims at designing integrated solutions to problems.  Build in redundancy and multiple functions with every need being met by multiple elements, and every element having multiple functions.

Principle 9: USE SMALL AND SLOW SOLUTIONS

The bigger they are, the harder they fall

Small and slow as an alternative to big is better. By working locally and growing slowly, we are able to work more efficiently, naturally and sustainably.  The best design solutions are; small scale, simple to maintain, are labor intensive rather than energy or capital intensive, use local resources or support local markets.

Principle 10: USE AND VALUE DIVERSITY

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides. Diversity in permaculture is not a random assembly of objects, but the number of functional connections between them that leads to a productive system. Diversity equals stability.

Principle 11: USE EDGES AND VALUE THE MARGINAL

Don’t think you are on the right track just because it is a well-beaten path

The interface between elements or systems is where the most interesting events take place.  They are more biologically productive and hold more species as they have the stability and abundance of both systems combined.

Principle 12: CREATIVELY USE AND RESPOND TO CHANGE

Vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be

We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing, and then intervening at the right time.  We must remember that change is much more than a linear projection.

SOURCE: http://www.surpluspermaculture.org/permaculture-principles/

Campo Boriken!

SCROLL DOWN FOR ENGLISH:

¡Paz y Amor Mis Amigos!

¡Esperamos verlos a todos y todas en nuestro CAMPO BORIKÉN, este sábado a las 9:00am! Tuvimos el primer campamento y fue espectacular.

Campo Borikén es un Programa Sabatino GRATIS para que los niños y las niñas aprendan todo los beneficios de trabajar y divertirse con la tierra.

La meta es poder brindarle a la niñez una experiencia en la cual descubran desde la procedencia de los alimentos, cómo crecen y hasta la preparación para nuestro consumo.

Observa las fotos aquí

Si estás interesado en visitarnos este sábado, déjanos saber para así poder comunicarnos contigo.

Adjunto está la Lista de Recursos que tenemos bajo el Comité de Padres Asesores. Por favor, escoja un artículo de la lista y tráigalo este sábado. Estamos muy agradecidos con su patrocinio.

¡¡Estamos preparándonos para nuestro Campamento de Verano y todo se está viendo maravillosamente!! ¡Es súper emocionante! Si desea que sus niños participen, por favor envíe un mensaje para matricularlos. Nos encontramos estas semanas trabajando en los parámetros del programa. De igual manera,tenemos la lista de participantes disponible.

Nos vemos pronto,
Mucho cariño,

The Luquillo Farm Sanctuary

Dirección:

 

Peace and Love Friends:

 
Hope to see you all this Saturday at 9am for our CAMPO BORIKEN Saturday Morning Camp!  We had our first day and it was awesome! 
 
Campo Boriken is a FREE Saturday Morning Program for children to learn about the benefits of working and having fun on the land.  Our goal is to give our children an experience about where our food comes from, how it grows, and how to prepare it.
 
 
If you are interested in coming down on Saturday please let us know so we can look out for you.  And here is the Parent Resource List…please choose an item on it and bring it in.  We are grateful for your assistance.
 
We are getting ready for our summer program and things are looking really great! We are so excited!  If you are interested in enrolling your child please send us a message.  We are not exactly sure what the parameters of the program are yet…we are working on that this coming week, however if you are interested in participating we are creating a list now!  Get your child on it!
 
See you soon!
Love
The Luquillo Farm Sanctuary

Direcciones para llegar a la finca The Luquillo Farm Sanctuary:

Desde la Ruta #3:

Tome la salida de Luquillo, Ruta #992 (salida a la derecha después de la farmacia Walgreens, viniendo de San Juan).

Siga hacia Sabana en la ruta #992 (Liberty Cable Vision a la derecha) por .7 millas hasta la intersección con la ruta #991 (A la izquierda hay una carpa que vende comida a la barbacoa, le llaman Los Pinchos). 

Dobla a la derecha, continuando en la ruta #992, hacia Mameyes, por .3 millas adicionales (total: 1.0 milla).

Dobla a la derecha en Villa Angelina (Hay una parada de transporte público a la izquierda, frente a la entrada y a la derecha un letrero en cemento que lee “Bienvenidos a Villa Angelina”). 

Continúa por el camino dentro de Villa Angelina por un poco más de .1 milla, siguiendo la valla amarilla a la izquierda. 

Al final de esta valla, Luquillo Farm Sanctuary te queda a la izquierda, entrando por el portón que tiene una cadena. Hay un cartel de la finca justo en el medio. 

Si pasas la iglesia a la derecha, o llegas por las casas de la comunidad, ¡¡te pasaste!!

Directions: From Route 3 to 36 km in Luquillo. Liberty Cable Turn right after Walgreens depending on whether you come from Rio Grande or Fajardo … basically going from the beach to the road. Follow this road past Liberty cable follows the intersection on Route 992. Take that right. In less than a km, you will see a large sign for VILLA ANGELINA your right, take this right. Follow the entrance to the farm, park on the side and enter through the gate.

 

Can PUERTO RICO Revive AGRICULTURE?

By : HÉCTOR MONCLOVA

80% of food consumed is imported 90% of that could be grown on the island

Agriculture, an industry that was considered the only creator of jobs in Puerto Rico’s economic development before the 1950s, is today forgotten due to vast economic and social changes. In fact, the island’s agriculture has plummeted during the past 100 years from output that represented 71% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 1914 to a mere 1% in 2014—and jobs in agriculture dropped from a high of 263,577 in 1930 to 19,000 today.

Those numbers point to a downward trend that is particularly disturbing, especially when we understand that a boost in local agriculture is essential to lowering a food import rate totaling 80% of what is consumed on the island. That staggering number represents expenditures of $3.5 billion to $4 billion annually at wholesale value, according to Puerto Rico Planning Board estimates. If local agriculture were developed to its full potential, we could replace 90% of those imports, and the $7 billion a year in locally-produced food sales at retail prices could contribute greatly to the island’s economic recovery.

According to experts in agriculture, Puerto Rico, with the right public policy, is capable in the long run of generating 90% of the food the population consumes, and could be producing 40% to 50% of the food consumed locally within a short time and keep growing from there.

If Puerto Rico were able to replace 90% of its agricultural imports with locally grown produce, it would represent about $3.15 billion that would stay in the island’s economy and around 85,000 new jobs in the agricultural sector.

It would also lower the cost of food by eliminating outside of Puerto Rico’s sellers and handlers and reducing transportation expenses.

As of 2011, about 27% of local food consumption comprises meat and related products, the largest portion of food-related expenditure. This is followed by 24.7% spent on fruits and vegetables and 11% on dairy and related products, according to a study by planning, financial consulting and market strategy firm Estudios Técnicos.

Recent studies by the Chamber of Food Marketing, Industry & Distribution indicate that Puerto Rico’s consumers favor the freshness of local products and would buy local if these were consistently made available on a broad scale. Studies have also shown that for every dollar spent on local agricultural products, 70¢ stays in the local economy.

For that quick turnaround to take place, Puerto Rico would have to make the best use of its fertile soil and implement public policy to help farmers become profitable through technological innovation and more effective marketing and promotion.

With farms operating as businesses, the demand for agricultural laborers will grow. However, even though the island faces an unemployment rate of about 15%, half of its coffee crop hasn’t been harvested in recent years due to a shortage of laborers, representing a loss of about $17 million a year. Yet in the metropolitan areas, there are tens of thousands of people unemployed and willing to work.

ANSWERS IN TECHNOLOGY

Agriculture Secretary Myrna Comas Pagán explained that some proven technologies are made accessible by the agency to farmers through the Administration for the Development of Agropecuary Companies Investments Program. “We grant 50% of the investment, up to a maximum of $250,000, to bona fide farmers, and there is financing through the Agropecuary Innovation & Development Fund to promote projects that involve different technologies,” Comas said.

Among the resources available, she mentioned, are methods encompassed in what is called protected agriculture. This means protected environments in which conditions regarding light and water are controlled through shadow houses and hydroponic systems, in which plants are grown in nutrient-rich solutions or moist inert material, instead of in soil. In these protected environments, the use of water is optimized; it improves control over pests and plagues, and the overuse of fertilizers. Under these controlled conditions, vegetables could grow with more harvests per year, so the products could reach competitive volumes and prices.

“There is a myth that local products are more expensive; however, when in season, our onions and peppers are less expensive than the imported product. A weak point in the vegetables industry, though, is that farmers provide their products mostly from February to May. And in the distribution-buyers chain, there is a certain resistance to buying local products because there is no guarantee the products will be available the whole year. With protected environments, we could grow crops like that beyond their regular season so we could enhance our competitive edge,” the secretary said.

Under the same program, farmers can use sophisticated, high-tech tools such as plows and sowing machinery that uses geospatial information system technology, which is based on computer systems designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage and present geographical data. This system is considered a “game changer” in the agricultural industry, and has now become an indispensable tool because the information it gathers shapes the most optimal use of land possible.

With the coordinated efforts of the Agriculture Department and the College of Agricultural Sciences of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), local farmers could have access to the latest research to maximize productivity and resistance in seeds, and manage plagues with chemical and biological control.

A PRIVILEGED ISLAND

Puerto Rico has been blessed with the most favorable factors for agricultural diversity. Its geographical, geological, topographical, agronomical and meteorological conditions, which are different from region to region, are ideal for a great variety of crops.

According to the Federal Soil Conservation Service, there are more than 350 types of soil—one of the most vital factors, along with water— in various grades of humidity and degree of acidity or alkalinity, which are grouped in 115 categories according to similarities in their composition. The constant temperatures of tropical weather (according to the National Weather Service, the island has an average year-round temperature of 82 degrees Fahrenheit, fluctuating between 78 degrees and 88 degrees, with extremes lower in the mountain areas) and rainfall levels, which peak from March to May and from August to November, also allow more harvests per year. This fact has been attractive for bioagriculture companies because more harvests a year (between three and four, while only one harvest can be obtained in most of the mainland U.S.) allow for a more prolific development of seeds—their merchandise.

Though temperature is constant due to an array of factors, such as topography and air-current patterns, it has a wide variety of effects depending on the region. These also affect the level of precipitation in different parts of the island (a yearly average of 70 inches of rainfall in the north and 45 inches in the south), producing humid, semi-humid, arid and semi-arid zones.

The best agricultural regions of Puerto Rico can be found in the coastal plains, the Lajas Valley and valleys of the central region, such as La Plata River in Cayey and the Caguas Valley.

Given these factors, an agricultural map of the island has been organized according to the crops that could best grow in different regions. For example, while the humid lowlands and midlands are good for growing pineapples, plantains, bananas and pigeon peas, the humid highlands are ideal for growing coffee and citrus, as well as for raising cattle. (See agricultural map on page 19).

Nevertheless, the island continues to import the great majority of these products. Secretary Comas has a plan to reverse that trend—not only because of the billions that it could represent for economic development, but also because Puerto Rico’s food security is fragile.

PRIORITY: FOOD SECURITY

For Comas, food security is the key phrase for a public policy that at the same time would boost the agricultural sector.

“Since agriculture is the origin of all food, enhancing food security must be the mission of our department,” the secretary said. “We could evaluate it from different perspectives, and one of the angles we are working on mostly is with food availability, including where the food Puerto Ricans consume comes from and how it reaches their tables.”

Comas, who was a professor in the Department of Agriculture, Economy and Rural Sociology at the UPR’s Mayagüez campus, said that securing an ample food supply is an issue she has thoroughly studied. “My Ph.D. dissertation was about the vulnerability of our food chains, where we are almost totally dependent on imported products [mainly from the mainland U.S., followed by China, the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica, among others], traveling thousands of miles from their points of origin. And since there has been a series of events that could put production at risk as well as food distribution, such as natural disasters and threats from climate changes we have been experiencing, it is urgent to establish agrarian policies focused on ensuring the availability of food by producing it here.”

And shipping experts agree a natural disaster, such as an earthquake, could affect the island’s capacity to transfer products from ships, which would cause a food shortage before the ports became fully operational again. Comas talked to CARIBBEAN BUSINESS about less dramatic conditions that could still do harm to the consumer’s capacity to acquire food products. “For example, there is the possibility of a new increase in the price of rice because of the drought in the western U.S., which could lower supply and increase the price. And that is why we are trying to establish strategies to enhance local production,” she said. California’s Sacramento Valley produces 2 million tons of rice a year, and is the main provider of rice consumed in Puerto Rico.

NEED OF LANDS AND CONSUMERS’ HEARTS

Comas explained that during the first months of her administration, the Agriculture Department made an inventory of the agricultural lands that the government owns or controls through the Land Authority, the Family Farms Program and the Puerto Rico Agricultural Reserve.

“We are talking about 204,881 acres as a result of the recently approved amendments to the 550 Land Use Plan Act of 2004, which guarantee a minimum of 582,600 acres [600,000 cuerdas] for agricultural use. Then we calculated the local consumption of food and distributed it between what is imported and what comes from local production. Then we went, product by product, calculating the available land with the type of soil needed for each one and the available water,” Comas explained.

The needs vary from crop to crop. For example, to be self-sufficient in producing rice, Puerto Rico would need around 24,000 acres, which the secretary said aren’t available, given those acres in which rice would be grown are in the coastal plains, which are used for other important crops such as bananas, plantains, tubers and tomatoes, as well as seeds, fodder for cattle and livestock.

“We could start with at most 1,456 acres [which is what is available for rice], and we have approached farmers to participate in the program,” she said. The farmers who are currently raising vegetables, plantains, bananas, fruits and cattle are being approached to cede some of their land for rice production to secure more acres for rice, Comas stated.

BUY LOCAL

The secretary said that equally as important as enhancing local production is that Puerto Rico consumers decide to buy locally grown food.

Since there are local agricultural sectors with great demand that have gone through hardship due to the lower price of imports, such as poultry in the late 1990s (after Hurricane Georges, imported unfrozen poultry was allowed to be sold as fresh, thus ending the niche of 45% local consumption of poultry provided by 220 local farmers), Comas said there are ways to protect a number of sectors while they grow.

“We have institutional markets over which the government can exert control. And acting under protective laws, we can calculate the demand for those products in those niches such as, for example, school lunchroom meals,” she noted.

Comas said 60% of public-school lunchroom meals, with a value of $55 million, are from local products. Among them, she mentioned, are locally grown products such as pineapples, papayas, mangos, cantaloupes, cassava, melons, bananas, oranges, tangerines, sweet potatoes, yams, plantains, lettuce and pumpkins, as well as pasteles with pork, pork burritos, fresh pork meat, chicken, fresh and processed beef, fresh and processed hamburger meat, and eggs. Other products that will be a part of lunchroom meals are locally grown rice, orange juice, cucumbers, fruit purée and barbecued ribs.

About taking the Puerto Rican products to consumers’ tables, Comas assured that study after study by the UPR has shown that consumers prefer local products, associating them with freshness and quality. However, most of the time, there is no way to determine which items are the locally grown products, and often these aren’t available at the moment, she said. “We have to impact those areas with marketing strategies such as reviving the Marca País seal, which enjoys a wide reception among consumers and the different components of the food distribution chain.”

The Agriculture secretary also stressed that it is incorrect to assume the imported product will be automatically less expensive, as in the case of local onions and peppers.

Other marketing strategies the agency is implementing are:

—Establishing marketing networks among farmers, supermarkets and food-service chains interested in supplying vegetables such as lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers for their markets.

—Opening Family Markets where farmers could sell directly to recipients of the federal Nutritional Assistance Program for needy families.

—Launching marketing initiatives focused on taking consumers directly to farmers, such as La Ruta del Pescado, a marketing strategy that includes training in entrepreneurship skills and the creation of a webpage and a mobile application to let consumers know about the location of fishing villages around the island and the products available (See sidebar).

—Participating in international fairs and expositions through the Integral Fund for Agricultural Development, which sponsors local companies to attend agricultural fairs around the world.

Comas said the department is also in talks with local hotels so they may offer seasonal products on their restaurant menus. The gastronomic sector represents 44% of the local food industry, she said, which is mostly supplied by imports.

There are about 7,000 restaurants in Puerto Rico. For the chefs who work at these establishments, fresh food produced on local land would be their first choice, instead of having to rely on imported food from the States, Spanish and French markets.

Although the bioagricultural industry, which develops seeds for large crops with industrial uses such as soybean, corn and cotton, is a $35 million-a-year business, Comas doesn’t see it as contributing much to the equation in terms of the agenda of the government agency she directs. She explained that the weather and soil composition allows three to four harvests a year, which would give companies a competitive edge for their products. However, the secretary admits that the department doesn’t do much with them (about nine bioagriculture companies in the entire island) because, “as they expand their operations, they rent directly to the farmers.”

PUSH FOR SUGARCANE

The Puerto Rico Industrial Development Co. (Pridco) and the Agriculture Department are promoting a strategic project aimed at growing 19,424 acres (20,000 cuerdas) of sugarcane in the Coloso, Añasco, Guanajibo and Lajas valleys to ensure the production of high-quality molasses needed by the island’s rum industry, the world’s largest producer of rum.

Pridco opted to promote the project to ameliorate the skyrocketing increases in molasses’ prices and a decrease in the product’s quality, something that could affect future local rum production. The government is investing $9 million to provide the land and cane stock needed, and has put out requests for proposals with the world’s largest sugarcane growers to invest $172 million in the project and receive benefits under Law 73.

“This project will create more jobs, improve rum production costs and increase local Treasury’s revenue through increased rum rebates,” Pridco Executive Director Antonio Medina said. “This is a strategic bet.”

To date, the government has planted 971 acres (1,000 cuerdas) in the Coloso Valley, which should be ready for harvest in 2016 since it takes three years for sugarcane to mature, Medina said.

Once fully up and running, the project is expected to grow 800,000 tons of sugarcane that will produce 20.5 million gallons of molasses worth $51.2 million, and generate 43.2 kilowatts of electricity worth $6 million. The project will cover 80% of local rum producers’ need for molasses.

Increased rum production also will result in a projected $30 million in rum rebates, which now glean Puerto Rico $325 million a year. The project also is expected to create 1,000 direct and 3,000 indirect jobs in 10 poverty-stricken municipalities in the southwest region of the island, Medina said.

“This project is win-win all around. It will create a virtuous circle,” Medina said, noting 20% of Guatemala’s electricity is produced with sugarcane.

TO WORK THE LAND

In Puerto Rico, agricultural activity has suffered from a stigma related to a general perception of misery and hard work with low pay.

Though Comas admitted there is a shortage of labor (in past years, $17 million a year has been lost in coffee harvests due to a lack of personnel), she said the way agriculture is perceived has been changing, although slowly.

“In terms of direct jobs generated, it is estimated there are 19,000 people working in the agricultural industry today. To that, you have to add 13,000 self-employed farmers and their relatives, who work the farms without being registered as employees. In general, we are talking about 40,000 people involved in agricultural activity. For each job generated in the farm, there is a multiplying effect of 2.5 jobs generated outside the farm, so we could see 100,000 people involved with agriculture. And the number is growing since we are seeing a lot of young people who are interested in becoming involved in agriculture either as entrepreneurs or as workers,” she said.

Comas explained there is a strategy for educating people about agricultural labor as something dignified, and that unlike the general perception, it is a job that generates enough income to sustain a household. “It was thought that the hourly wage in agriculture was $5.25, but after some research, we have found that workers in the agricultural industry earn $6 to $6.50 an hour. And there are certain benefits because employers provide transportation to the work area, breakfast and lunch, and some of the farm products. A lot of people ask me, ‘Are there really people who want to work with agriculture?’ I invite them to the sugarcane project in the Coloso Valley in Aguada, where there are about 30 young employees between ages 21 and 30, who will tell you, ‘We work hard here, but we have jobs.’ They have a sense of belonging to the project.” She added that as the project grows, another 150 direct jobs could be created.

The secretary explained that part of the growing interest in agriculture is due to the training the Agriculture Department is offering workers, which was previously only focused on farmers. “But since they are the ones who work the land, it is logical to teach them about their trade. We are also giving those people training in the fishing industry, where it has the same empowering effect,” she said.

ABOUT EXPORTING

For Comas, there are two main crops with the best chance of competing in markets abroad. One is the local mango, which has received an “excellent” rating in Europe.

In Puerto Rico, about 4,000 acres of land are exclusively used for exportation in the southern municipalities of Santa Isabel, Juana Díaz, Ponce and Guayanilla, contributing about $8 million to the local economy and creating nearly 700 jobs. “Mango producers have a great opportunity to have a stronger presence there, but there were some problems about maritime logistics,” Comas said. For years, there was insufficient space assigned for the maritime transportation of the southern-produced mangos, which reduced the volume and revenue, shrinking the sector to less than its potential. “We were working with them and with local shipping lines until we identified routes that are going to make it easier to reach Europe, enhancing at the same time the potential to have a larger production locally.”

The other crop is coffee. “For coffee growers, we are working on different projects to provide their product with the denomination of origin because everybody around the globe talks about Puerto Rican coffee, but people don’t know where and how to get it. And we are taking our coffee growers to international trade fairs, where the product is exposed and where they have been able to establish international market networks,” Comas said.

An example of this is that last August, Puerto Rican coffee companies Hacienda San Pedro and Offecay Inc., sponsored by the Agriculture Department, debuted at the 2013 Specialty Coffee Association of Europe Show, held in Nice, France. At the event, the island was positioned as a great producer of specialty high-quality coffee, exhibiting on par with countries such as Brazil, Honduras, Colombia, Jamaica, Guatemala, El Salvador and many others in Africa.

“We have done this with the help of the Puerto Rico Commerce & Export Co. to establish distribution centers for Puerto Rican products in New York. We are sharing this information with farmers in other crops to motivate them to grow their products in amounts large enough for exportation,” the secretary said.

—CARIBBEAN BUSINESS editorial staff contributed to this story.

PERKING UP THE COFFEE INDUSTRY

In the second half of the 19th century, Puerto Rico would become the fourth-largest coffee-producing area in the hemisphere and the producer of the most-sought- after coffee, to the point that the island’s coffee would become the favorite in the Vatican and Royal Courts of Europe.

From the 1870s to 1900s, the golden age of the island’s coffee industry took place with about 1,000 plantations, some of which were self-sufficient towns, producing 60 million pounds of coffee, and reaching a peak of 77% of revenue from exports. The dropping of coffee prices at the end of the 19th century, stagnating of international demand and booming production of Brazilian coffee ended that momentum.

The industry since then has been mainly a domestic one and has gone through its ups and downs. Last year, Puerto Rico produced 8.4 million pounds of coffee, meeting only about 25% of the 33 million pounds of local demand. Nevertheless, coffee remains an important agricultural sector that impacts about 26 municipalities islandwide.

Puerto Rico Coffee Roasters (PRCR), a company that owns 11 brands of Puerto Rican coffee, among them seven of the major ones, opened the largest coffee-processing plant in the Caribbean in May 2011. The company’s initiatives are helping to perk up the local coffee sector.

That is why at the Marqués community in the Algarrobo Sector of Vega Baja, in what was previously an illegal dumpsite, the company, with help from the Agriculture Department and the University of Puerto Rico, has established a nursery for coffee plants. The coffee plants are the result of crossbreeding and have been enhanced in quality, fruitiness and resistance to elements, different terrain and harmful organisms. The initiative plans to sow a million plants to cover all local demand and produce enough volume of high-quality coffee for local consumption and export.

The fruits of this effort are to be shared among all coffee growers, said Germán Negrón, director of PRCR’s agricultural affairs.

“We have here 243 acres with plants sowed and another 97 acres in Maricao. We want all companies involved in coffee to know what we are doing at Coffee Roasters and participate in what we are doing,” he said.

Negrón said the project is so creative that it is establishing protocols that are being closely monitored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to be later implemented in other coffee-growing areas such as Hawaii.

“We have to create a huge positive impact on our communities, the coffee industry and our land,” he said.

The project, which was established four years ago, has created 80 direct jobs and, when the coffee harvest comes between November and December, is expected to provide employment for about 700 people.

PRCR has implemented other measures to help the industry, such as establishing an eco-sustainable coffee-processing plant and a market in Lares, near coffee growers in the mountain region, where the company buys about $15 million worth of coffee a year from farmers.

RESTAURANTS BUY FRESH AND ECOLOGICAL

Gustavo Antonetti and Paulina Salach are co-owners of Spoon Food Tours, the highest-ranking culinary tour company in Puerto Rico, and are also the creators of the Puerto Rico Restaurant Week, a showcase of the different gastronomic alternatives throughout the entire island. One of the best features of the event is that many of the ingredients used by the chefs from the participating restaurants come from Puerto Rico’s small farmers.

“Last year, we started the initiative of backing up local agriculture, especially small farmers. So, we began to connect restaurants with the most consistent farmers we could identify. Then we put as a requisite that in at least one of the plates each chef would use local ingredients and, if possible, ecological ones. And the response was great. Every restaurant complied and at the end, everybody took notice of how huge the difference was,” Antonetti said.

This year, on May 14- 20, about 40 restaurants will use seven or eight local farming operations, preparing dishes that use local ingredients, such as La Vista’s braised short ribs, served with apio (celery root) purée, market vegetables and a Cabernet Sauvignon sauce, and Pamela’s French cut pork chops, with crusted yuca (cassava) mofongo and sun-dried tomatoes, topped with a guava-ají dulce (sweet bell pepper) chutney.

PROVIDERS OF THE BORICUA FLAVORS

Two of the local farming projects which are participating by supplying fresh ingredients to the restaurants are Frutos del Guacabo Inc. (FDG), and Siembra Tres Vidas.

Frutos del Guacabo, a company founded in 2010 by husband and wife Angelie Martínez and Efrén Robles, connects local farmers directly with clients, helping with the distribution and consumption of local products. The main market for FDG is the gastronomic sector in metropolitan San Juan, which depends in part on tourism, but also consists of providing fresh vegetables to Wal-Mart and Sam’s stores. It works as an agricultural cooperative in which eight farmers are involved plus some 20 to 30 employees, creating from 15 to 20 indirect jobs. There are farms of one to five acres for a more traditional agricultural setting, and farms of less than one acre to work with hydroponics, which grows plants using mineral-rich solutions, in water, without soil. FDG has a five-times-a-week delivery service to guarantee freshness, all achieved with the efforts of eight farmers who ensure a steady supply for clients.

Siembra Tres Vidas was founded in 2007 by Silka Besosa, who moved from her home in San Juan to Aibonito, where she established a farm with her daughters, Daniela and Tara, and neighbor Edwin Rosario Soto. At Siembra Tres Vidas, the agricultural methods that are used focus on the preservation and enrichment of the terrain, such as crop rotation and contour plowing, using only 100% ecological seeds and no chemicals at any stage of the process.

The company, along with three other employees, grows different types of lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, cooking herbs and edible flowers, producing about 140 pounds of these products a week.

Farm Director Daniela Rodríguez Besosa explained that employees earn $7 to $10 an hour, plus a share of the farm products, making them, she affirms, the highest paid farm workers in Puerto Rico.