Like many of us I saw the Life in Syntropy video a few years ago and was immediately intrigued. Syntropic farming looked like the type of agroforestry that I envisioned in my personal and professional work. I dug around for more information, but was slowed by the Portuguese language barrier and lack of distinct resources unique to this style of agriculture. To overcome these challenges I decided to organize a workshop here in Costa Rica on Syntropic Farming.
The vanilla orchid (Vanilla planifolia) is one of the world’s most interesting plants. Of the nearly 35,000 species of orchid, the second largest botanical family of plants, vanilla is the only species that produces an edible fruit. True vanilla is a sought after product, usually the second most expensive spice in the world, yet we associate the word vanilla with plain, boring, and commonplace. Native to Mexico and Central America, the vanilla vine is well suited for any tropical homestead. Yet vanilla is a particular plant requiring special care, in particular during pollination where every flower must be hand pollinated.
There’s nothing like the smell and flavor of real corn, baked into cornbread or roasted on a skillet as a tortilla. Corn has been grown and eaten in these ways for thousands of years throughout the Americas. Unfortunately, in many areas, genetically modified, chemical-dependent corn monocultures have given this plant a dicey reputation. But older corn varieties, grown organically on small farms and cooked using traditional methods, are a beautiful expression of corn’s real and wonderful legacy in the human diet.
Our world today moves too quickly. The velocity of transactions, vehicles, information, all have hidden repercussions, principally the inability to take in feedback and adjust. This velocity results in new cycles that are instantaneous, financial systems that rapidly shuttle money from local economies to multi-national banks, and a pace that deteriorates our quality of life. The ability to observe systems and gather feedback is drastically enhanced by a lower velocity of action. The speed at which one chooses to move through the world affords different vantage points of observation.
A few months back a series of clients began asking me questions that I didn’t have the answers to. I knew just enough about the topics to know what I didn’t know. One client wanted to know about building restrictions around a small body of water, another needed information about opening up land for a road through an existing forest, and a third was seeking support to enroll in the FONAFIFO Environmental Service Payment program.
Cuisine is diet that's unique to a physical place and a human cultural group. We can taste the patterns of modern cuisine in the melding of characteristic ingredients into characteristic forms. Wheat noodles with tomato sauce points us in the direction of Italy. Fermented spiced cabbage leads us to Korean kimchi. Even amid tremendous variation, and even as these cultural foods are exported, appropriated, and evolve in different ways in different places, we are still able in many cases to recognize a cultural and geographical narrative embedded within relational patterns of flavors and forms.
Every project starts with a goal in mind. Regardless of scale or time line, the inception of a project revolves around achieving a goal of some sort. Despite how seemingly simple it is to set a goal for a project, even the best of plans are often sidetracked, delayed, or made overly expensive because of a lack of clear vision for the completed project. Purposeful planning that steers projects in the right direction, coupled with accurate goal setting, is one effective way to avoid hiccups and get from point A to point B faster. Goal setting and a matching planning process also circumvent potential future problems.
Mentorship may be one of the biggest opportunities for growth in our fledgling permaculture movement. There is interest in professional careers as permaculture designers, but the field lacks quality mentoring opportunities. By these I mean mentoring in a specific field, by a professional who has years of experience, with the goal of developing a specific skill set and livelihood.
I live in a visually stunning part of the world. The landscape here is a tropical blend of rugged hillsides and steep valleys, ridges extending haphazardly into dense jungle, white sand beaches pock marked by rocky outcroppings, and bizarre flora and fauna adapted to this chaotic climate. There are no cool months; heat pervades everything. Humidity, however oppressive at times, ranges significantly in its intensity. The ebb and flow of water throughout the year dictates nearly everything