As Puerto Rico’s hurricane season comes to an end, we are settling back into the island life from our summer travels and getting down to business with the land application. On Thursday the Luquillo Farm Sanctuary board members had an excellent meeting with Puerto Rico’s Land Authority Department. We discussed the land, its terrain, its uses, its history, its nearby communities and its future. The meeting concluded, as meetings in Puerto Rico usually do, with the scheduling of further meetings. This week the Land Authority will be having a final review of the application and we are hoping that in the next two weeks we’ll be able to sign the lease. Until then, here is a portion of the farm plan that we would like to share with you for your reading pleasure:
The Luquillo Farm Sanctuary will grow agricultural crops according to a carefully designed farm management plan. This plan will use practices such as rotating crops, interplanting different crop harvests and leaving selected plots fallow to naturally reduce pests and increase fertility without the use of synthetic chemicals. This will allow the farm to grow high quality, healthy harvests of diverse fruits, vegetable and staples all while generating jobs and income for local residents.
The majority of the land will be dedicated to orchards. Trees such as papaya, tamarindo, pana, avocado, and plantain will be mixed, along with native Puerto Rican trees such as Tabonuco and Guaraguao. These trees will be grown from seeds and cuttings in an on-site nursery and then planted on the slopes of the northern part of the land. A smaller portion of the land will be left without crops to provide food and habitat to native birds and insects to further help control pests and promote ecosystem stability. Fruit production is projected to be low in the first two years as the orchards are being planted but will increase as trees establish themselves and start producing.
Annual vegetable crops will include tomatoes, peppers, calabaza and taro. Staples will include barley, wheat, rice and corn. These will be planted in mixed row crops. The vegetable beds and grain fields will be planted on the south side of the land because of its gentler slopes. Crop production will increase over the five years as more of the land is developed into fields and beds. The vegetables will be directly seeded, as well as transplanted from starts grown in the nursery.
Value added products made from materials grown on site will include pickled fruits and vegetables, marmalade and jams, and dried herbs. These products will require greater initial start-up costs, skill levels and labor hours to produce and so will not bring in large revenue for the first two years. As the farm becomes more established it will then devote more resources to the production of value added products.
We acknowledge that our agricultural practices will have impacts upon the environment and the community. Keeping nearby wild places like El Yunque National Forest and the Northeast Ecological Corridor clean and healthy for the benefit of future generations of Puerto Ricans is very important to us and our community. Therefore, we commit to growing high quality crops without using synthetic chemical fertilizers or pesticide toxins that could pollute the land and water. Our goal is to provide Puerto Rico with healthy fruits, vegetables and staples using an agricultural model that improves the condition of the land it is grown on and keeps pollutants out of the nearby forests and oceans.