A farm in the woods.
27.09.2012 - 29.09.2012
Since she had such a wonderful time on this trip, I let Constance write up this post:
During our first week in Belize, the CCSP staff brought a man named Kimo Jolly in to talk with us about what Belize is like today and what that has to do with us. Kimo has lived in Belize most of his life and has been very involved with watershed protection and restoration. He lives on a small farm and works with a number of international student groups like our own. Kimo was…controversial. A lot of students felt frustrated at the end of his talk with us because he has some seriously pronounced views on things such as foreign aid, international development, new colonialism, etc. In my experience, people can get a little touchy about things like that, and strong opinions like Kimo’s don’t always go over so well. While many students weren’t so crazy about a lot that he had to say, Justin and I thought he was great (really all it took for me was hearing that he lives on his own farm – I loved him from then on). Truly, I think it’s so refreshing to hear people go beyond “It’s just so hard” when discussing really tough issues; we need people like Kimo who will push that conversation farther, who will say “Yes, it is hard, and this is what we need to do about it.” Maybe he wasn’t 100% right about everything; maybe he was. Regardless, he believes in a solution and works to convince others to believe in it too.
So anyway. Justin and I decided a couple weeks after he came to see us that it would be really wonderful to go out and see him. His farm isn’t so far from campus, and taking the bus there isn’t very hard at all. We got his email address and asked him if we could come, and a week or so later we were on the bus to Benque, having arranged to meet him at the bus terminal. He arrived in his pickup truck, Justin jumped in the truck bed with Kimo Jr, and a mile and half of very bumpy roads later we were at his farm.
He, his wife, and their two kids live on 25 acres of largely forested land. As he explained to us, he’s very dedicated to avoiding the slash-and-burn type of farming that characterizes most farms in Central and South America. Instead of focusing on growing nutrient-intensive crops like corn, which need the nutrients provided by freshly burned forests (or added fertilizers) to grow well, he’s been experimenting with various plants and trees that already grow well in the forests – like avocados and papayas. He also grows a lot of sweet potatoes, cassava, and other root crops that seems to not need much added fertilizer. His gardens were unlike any I’ve ever seen – no straight rows, no bare dirt to be weeded. In fact they looked at first glance like giant plots of freely growing weeds, until he started pointing out crops – there’s sweet potato, look how well it’s growing; here’s some of the corn we tried, but as you can see it’s not doing well here because we haven’t burned; this little guy is an avocado tree; here we have cassava, which is also there, and there, and over there. And you realize it’s just different levels of plants that are native to this region, growing or dying as they will without chemical pesticides, herbicides, or burning. This type of growing was completely new to me. Even organic gardeners spend a large amount of time trying to grow things that don’t grow well, either because of bugs or weeds or lack of nutrients in the soil, instead of simply observing what food crops are already growing in the wild and cultivating those.
The most wonderful thing about spending the day on Kimo’s farm was just talking to him and his family. We talked about so many different things: cooking; homeschooling (his kids are homeschooled); the importance of people getting back to the land (we talked about that one a lot); building with what’s on hand instead of buying materials; chickens, ducks, sheep (he has all three); secondary and tertiary education; the immorality of owning a washing machine. His wife made us a delicious lunch and his ten-year-old daughter made a really delicious pound cake from scratch, which left me impressed and very happy.
At the end of our visit we got him to give us a list of other farmers in Belize to talk to and hopefully visit. We are both really looking forward to travel week, when we will spend a couple days in Guatemala and then come back to Belize to do a little farm tour, seeing other models of farming in practice here. This one experience was so rewarding and educational, and we can’t wait to have more like it.
Justin here. What a wonderful trip it was. We plan to go visit Kimo and his family again before we leave. This coming week is Environmental Literature followed by the second section of Tropical Ecosystems- Forest Ecology.