Adios Nicaragua

February 20, 2011 § 3 Comments

It seems that time always passes too quickly…  We’re now in route to San Jose , Costa Rica for our flight back to the states in just a few more days.

Things have been excellent on this journey, better than we could have imagined.  We have learned a huge amount that we will be able to carry with us and share with others far into the future.    We leave with strong bonds with great people and a deepened connection to this planet earth, who’s million faces are always remarkable.  New doors have been opened that, without coming here, would never have been known.  Thanks again to all the people who have supported us in this venture.  We share the regards of our family in La Garnacha.  Here are a couple of photos of the faces of people who’s lives have been touched by you all.


The beautiful family that shared their home and lives with us in La Garnacha


We took one last trip to the farm before leaving.  When we got here we figured we wouldn’t have the opportunity to see the fruit of the seeds we brought down, but the climate here allows things to grow at a rate that seems pretty incredible to us.  The beans are already being taken to market.  Some of the squash are ready to eat and producing heavily and the carrots are coming along nicely.


Baker Creek Green Beans

Reynaldo with some of the Baker Creek seeds

The seeds have definitely been the biggest teacher on this trip.  We intend to continue working for environmental and social justice through seeds.  We hope to return to Nicaragua soon with more seeds and knowledge that will strengthen the possibility of starting a viable seed bank in the northern region.  Again, a huge thank you to Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co and also to the Durango farms Seven Meadows Farms and Banga Farms for their seed donations.  Look for their local organic produce at the Durango Farmer’s Market this upcoming season.

It has been hard to say goodbye to Nicaragua, but we leave with an incredible gratitude for having been here.  If ever a trip to Nicaragua interests you, just let us know and we will be able to share the network of connections with you.  And, of course, there are tons of details to to elaborate on and we look forward to sharing more with you all in person.  That’s the next step.  Our bags are loaded with more information and warm clothes for the trip home.  Our hearts are full, our determination strengthened, our understanding deepened.

With all our love and gratitude,

gretch and trav

Coming to a close…

February 11, 2011 § 7 Comments

Hello all! Sorry for the wait between posts, but things have been busy as we start to come to a close here in La Garnacha and in Nicaragua. What has been an incredible journey isn´t over yet, and it looks like we will be busy until the moment we leave the community…there is never enough time it seems.

We put the finishing touches on the mural today, and it turned out better than I think we could have hoped. We received some help from Carmelo for a few days and then Gretchen and I finished it out during the last few days.

Carmelo helping on the mural

People in the community were constantly intrigued with the design and the bright colors, and during our painting time we had many people, kiddos and elders alike, stop to watch and comment. The design came out of the three principles we have been working around: land, community, and education. In the center of it all is a sprouting seed, one of the great foundations of life and the center of our project in La Garnacha.

To the left of the seed is a 3/4 view of the earth tilted so that Central America and South America become the focus point. Also appearing is a portion of Mexico and the U.S. as well as Africa.

This provided an interesting point, but more on that in a minute… On the wall adjacent to the earth is a farm scene featuring a cow, a hen and her chicks and a rooster.  To the right of the seed is the open book that was originally part of our ¨logo¨ and above it the mountains and volcanos of Nicaragua. Inside the book the lines of the pages represent the rows of the Finca and develop into a farm scene.

Travis working on the book portion of the mural

Houses on the top of the book complete the community aspect. To the right of the book, on the adjacent wall, are some flowers, and a chalk board turned into a house.

Back to the bit about the Earth…

As we finished up the painting of the earth we were surprised to be approached, on more than one occasion, by community members of all ages asking, ¨what is the map of?¨ At first we were a little taken aback, thinking that maybe our interpretation of the globe wasn´t so clear, but pretty quickly we realized that people simply didn´t recognize the location or shape of the continents. They simply had never been taught, or had never learned the layout of the earth. Most of the older generations in the campo, the countryside, received little education, if any, outside of some basic reading and writing. Even the younger generations are limited in their education, and many cannot afford to continue past primary school. It was a little of a shock at first…most of us, in the U.S. and western world, have seen the image of the earth more times than we can count. In fact, I have heard that the famous ¨Earthrise¨ photo is the most printed and viewed photograph in human history. Yet, truly this is not the reality for many people.

the earth, seed and right wall with book

After realizing this we took the time to paint the names of the continents on the mural and positioned the word tierra, meaning land or earth, above for more clarification. It was a good moment for us…

Land, Community, Education...




the final mural



We also helped Reynaldo make a sign for his market tent that advertises his selling of organic produce.

We hope that this will help to attract people to his table and to aid in the slow process of education around organic agriculture that is growing here in Estelí. It is a simple sign, and not very big, but as of now there is no differentiation between those farmers growing organic, which are few, and those who are not, which are many. One of the greater goals by some of the folks working on these issues in the area is to get those growing organically to be recognized as having something special, and thus try to create a market for their produce and their hard work. He thought the sign was beautiful and looked forward to bringing it to market.


Reynaldo´s sign



We are also in the process of finishing up the information packet we have been putting together over the past month or so. It outlines, in spanish, most of the major crops being grown, and how to save seed from them. For each crop it describes the family name, what other crops it will cross with, how to recognize seed that is ready, and how to harvest and store the seed. Because of the difficulty with some crops we had to, for the time being, omit a few but the hope is that in the future we can work more closely with some of the farmers, and those working on with them to organize a better text. Much of this information is readily available in english, but little seems to exist in spanish. In addition there is the ever-present barrier that many of the campesinos have low levels of education and many cannot read or write very well. More and more we realize that what is needed is people to be on the ground, working directly with the farmers in a hands on experience.  For the time being this text is what we can provide, and the hope is that it will be carried on by some of the similar projects in work, like the one our friend Janie is working on. Hopefully someday soon we can return and continue the work we have begun.

The time has simply gone too fast.

As of now our plan is the leave the community this coming up Tuesday. From there we will start our travels south towards Costa Rica where we fly out on the 25th. We are saddened to leave the community, but have been offered a place to stay and work any time we would like. The family has been so gracious and has truly taken us in as their own. Although we will miss the family and the community we feel as though it may not be too long before our return, and we look forward to seeing everyone at home–although the cold of the Colorado winter is looming. But there is good work to be done at home as well, and we plan to continue to aid those down here from the states as well…working with research, seeds and advice hoping to keep a finger in Nicaragua until we can return. At home there are goats we look forward to petting and a gardening season fast approaching as well as many new ideas and concepts of agriculture, and another season to learn about the world around us in the most intimate way we know…growing our own food, raising our own animals and working a little more every day to once again reconnect ourselves to the natural world, and the knowledge it takes to lead a self-sufficient lifestyle.


Travis looking over Nicaragua at sunrise

As we prepare to leave this beautiful land and these remarkable people we are reminded, yet again, how thankful we are to everyone who took part in this project. None of this would have been possible without all the help from our family, friends, and community. Again we have to thank Baker Creek Seed Co as well for their priceless gift. It turns out this is common practice at Baker Creek and they provide tens of thousands of dollars in donated seed every year to farmers and educational programs around the world. I strongly suggest that anyone interested in home gardening or organic food systems visit their site at  The beauty of sharing quality, organic seed is beyond words, and the power of  passing this gift from one hand to another is one of the greatest age-old traditions in agriculture. In something as tiny as a seed we can successfully challenge many of the greatest injustices in our world today.


Thank you all kindly for extending your hands and your hearts to touch the lives of others. We are grateful every day to have had this experience and to live the lives we are living, and to be working for the earth and for people.

With all our gratitude and dedication,

Travis and Gretchen

¨A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.¨ -Annonymous

The Lapiz Project, 2011

Just Some Photos

January 29, 2011 § 7 Comments


A close up photo of a wild orchid in the forest


Thought we´d add a few more photos while we have some extra time today.  If you click on them you can see a larger view.

This first one was taken in a neighboring community to La Garnacha.  It´s an orchid.  They grow wild and are very abundant in the area.




Dash for candy!

This one is at a piñata party in La Garnacha.  Each year the preschool funds a little party for the youngest kids in the community.  Piñata is serious here, with the blindfold, spinning in circles to get dizzy, and two people one either side of the piñata pulling it in different directions.  The kids are skilled though.



The next few are from Esteli…


Main Street, Esteli


City meets country here.  Esteli is the major hub for many surrounding mountain towns.  The horse is still a common mode of transportation, especially in the countryside.  Probably more popular than cars still.


Loading the Bus


The other major mode of transportation is bus.  Most people don´t have cars here, so busses are responsible for hauling everything into surrounding communities.  There is always an attendant on the bus (or a few in this case) who is in charge of loading and unloading things on to the top of the bus.  What´s really nice is that the busses stop wherever they´re asked to, so everyone can get as close to their destination as possible.

This bus load was especially impressive because it took 3 strong guys to lift some of the sacks off the ground, and then the biggest of them lifts the sack above his head to two other guys who are on top of the bus.  Sometimes they also climb the ladder on the bus with a sack or basket balanced on their upper back.  They´ll be staring at the ground, climbing the ladder with both hands, with the load perched on their back and neck.  Impressive to say the very least.


A Mural in Esteli


Esteli is also filled with murals.  This is on one of the major streets that are also filled with vendors of all kinds.


A Historical Mural


This mural is a depiction of the Sandinista Revolution.  Esteli was the last city where the dictatorship held onto it´s power during the revolution.  After the people took to the streets and defeated the National Guard in Esteli, the entire regime fled the country, along with most anyone who was loyal to it.  The uprising was truly a popular one, where people armed themselves with whatever weapon they could get- guns, kitchen knives, molotov cocktails.


Leaf Cutter Ants Eating A Head of Lettuce


Back at the farm-

Here are some leaf cutter ants devouring a head of lettuce.  They play an important role in the ecosystem here, composting leaves and brush that fall to the forest floor and eventually turning it back into soil.  They can also be one of the worst garden pests here.


A View from La Garnacha


And this is one of the views from La Garnacha, looking west.  The mountainous land is very intricate and beautiful.  We´re lucky to be able to be here.  Thank you so much to all of you who are supporting this endeavor.  We are forever grateful to you.

Till next time-

gretch and trav

The First Harvest!

January 28, 2011 § 4 Comments

This week has been full of progress and surprises…

The preschool is coming along nicely.  We took a break from cleaning and painting for some repair work to be done on the building.  The repairs included replacing some beams that hold up the roof, building a new door, and patching up some areas where the cement was separating from the bricks.  Nicholas, one of Adriana´s many brothers, helped us to get everything done.   It took a little while to get all the materials to the school- the wood had to be hauled up the mountainside by horse, the cement was brought by bus from Esteli, and then by horse from the bus stop to La Garnacha (about a 2 km walk).  A testament to the pace here, where things take more time to evolve than they do in the states and instant gratification is still somewhat at bay.

Travis helping to put a new beam on the preschool

Thanks to the help of many people, the repairs are now complete and the building stands stronger than before.  It´s been fun to share time with Nicholas.   We´ve enjoyed the opportunity to get to know him, his wife, his oldest son who´s about 4, and hilarious, and their new baby who is just one month.  We also finished the painting and we´ll be starting the mural this week.

Last Thursday, the first crop from the seeds we brought down was harvested and taken to market.  Big, beautiful, tasty, red radishes- Baker Creek´s German Giant Radishes (Thanks Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co!).  We helped out getting everything ready for market last week and we were having a ton of fun washing the radishes.  The others seeds that have been planted from the delivery are growing faster than we could imagine.  To our amazement, the squash have fruit on them already and the beans are beginning to flower!

The first harvest of radishes!

In the midst of it all, we were surprised to see Carlos show up earlier than expected.   Carlos helped us organize this whole project.  He´s the reason we´re in La Garnacha.  Up until now, he has been in Europe traveling and selling his artwork.  He´s a very talented weaver, painter, and thinker, who´s work has taken him to many places across the planet.  We had only been able to communicate via e-mail, but now he´s back in La Garnacha organizing, and planning many works that will benefit the community a great deal.  He has helped to organize a group of 20-25 German students who will be coming to the community for a week in February.  Their stay will be a huge help because they will be buying all their food from the local farms and store fronts and staying with local families.    This is the first of many projects, plans, and aspirations that are taking hold, thanks to Carlos´s influence and direction.  Everyone is happy he´s back!

On a more tangential and less positive note, i´d like to share some information we´ve recently learned about that´s comnig out of the agricultural industry here.  Basically, in the northwest of the country–where sugar is the monocrop, the industry, and the law–huge numbers of people are dying from Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD).  The area around Chinandega is particularly hard hit.  Sugar Estates Limited which is part of the Pellas Group is one of the largest businesses, and owned by one of the richest families, in Nicaragua.  They control the vast majority of the sugar cane production and just about all the people who live in the area work for the company.  The same company produces Flor De Caña Rum, which is something like the Jack Daniels of Nicaragua.

The rates of people affected by CKD are about 70% of all the men and 30% of all the women in the area.  The disease is eventually fatal without dialysis and later kidney transplants… both a distant dream in the economically impoverished region.  Particularly when Sugar Estates Limited pays a mere two dollars a day to workers in the field.

It is well-known that components in agrochemicals can lead to conditions like CKD.  Unfortunately, however, there is no ¨conclusive¨evidence that the chemicals used in the sugar industry are the cause of these high rates of disease.   Nor is their much effort being put into investigation or awareness.  Instead, the people there are led to believe that the disease is hereditary, and thus few seek treatment or justice.  What´s more is that all the employees of the company are routinely tested for CKD and if they´re found positive they´re fired on the spot with no compensation.

I don´t write this to inspire guilt in anyone far away, but rather to generate awareness of the toll that humans and the earth are taking in the name of large scale industrialized agriculture.   May this encourage whoever it reaches to learn where their food comes from, how it is grown, and how it affects the lives of others.  We can all make choices in our everyday lives that can challenge these systems, even in the United States. As much as it has become rhetoric it is truly important to look at where our food products are produced and by whom. When we buy things like coffee, or products produced with sugar it is important to focus our consumption to companies that produce fair trade and organically grown ingredients.  This should be another reminder to us all that environmental justice is social justice, and this is all our responsibility.

We hope the work with the seeds that we´ve been inspired to continue will help to challenge these systems of oppression now, and in the future.

The house dog, Canela, and her new born pups!

Because I don´t want to leave you feeling sad or heavy, the last news will be happy news.  This morning we woke and Canela, the family dog, had just given birth to puppies!  She´s a very sweet dog and already looks to be a good mama. We look forward to getting back to the community and seeing the little ones running around!


We hope that everyone is doing well at home and staying warm…Talk to you all soon…

With all our love and dedication,

Gretchen and Trav

Like pigs in the sunshine…

January 16, 2011 § 9 Comments

Hello all!

Sorry it has been a little longer than usual. The past few weeks have been busy but, as always, eventful. We took a short break from the community to take some time to ourselves and travel for a few days last week. Connections have been growing in the area, and we continue to find ourselves crossing paths with incredible individuals who are more and more in line with our paths. Much time has been spent sharing ideas and adapting plans for the future.

We have recently come to know a few folks who have moved to Nicaragua in recent times and are developing some land nearby with the intention of developing a permaculture farm. Off and on the past few weeks we have been meeting and hanging out sharing some ideas about agriculture and community development. It has been a really refreshing time, and has fueled us further to work on the issues at hand…both here and within the world.

Things in the community have been going on strong. The preschool is coming along and is almost ready to begin the mural. While working there we have noticed some structural issues, such as support beams that are weakened and some cement work that needs repair. A few days ago we connected with one of Adriana´s brothers, who does construction, and talked with him about helping. He was more than willing and it looks like that will begin later this week. Once that work is done we will finish the painting and then begin the mural.

Bush bean from the seeds we brought

On the farm we got an opportunity to help Reynaldo and his two sons harvest for the weekly market. It was fun to get our hands in the dirt and help out with the vegetable washing and packing. Reynaldo grows some beautiful produce and it was nice seeing his process. In the next week or two he will have the first round of radishes that we brought…The seeds are growing fast!  Above is one of the bush bean seeds we brought.   Aside from the radishes there is also a few trays of lettuce seedlings ready to go in the ground and the peas are growing, growing, growing. It is nice to see the seeds finding their place and already coming to fruition.

Reynaldo´s son, Reynalito, and Gretchen wash produce

It was an experience in itself to just harvest for the market. Reynaldo´s property isn´t accessable by car, as we have mentioned, so all the produce is brought out by horse and donkey. They are loaded down with two crates a piece and then walked out of the valley and back to the community where the produce is picked up by a bus and taken into town. It is a lot of work, but it also keeps the farm a little more connected to the land and a little further away from industrialized agriculture.

One of the horses going out with produce

Reynaldo has become increasingly interested in different ways of growing, such as biodynamics and permaculture.  He has voiced to us an interest in working more with us, as well as some of the people we have met, to develop his property with a variety these agricultural practices. For those not familiar, and to keep things short, biodynamics is a practice of growing with the changes in the moon and celestial cycles of the Earth, and permaculture is the practice of working with natural landscapes and ecological events to create ¨edible food forests¨ that mimic natures patterns. In both of these practices the idea is to work more with the land than against it, and to develop crops to work together with the local ecology rather than to be sterile and seperate.

Both of these practices have been used for millenia, such as growing with the moon cycles, however much of the traditional knowledge has been lost to industrialized practices. We are currently working to compile information on biodynamics and permaculture in Spanish, so that we can get the information to Reynaldo and others interested. Ultimately, what we have come to realize is that it is difficult to explain these things, and what is really needed is a living, breathing example that farmers could see.

The development of our friend´s farm, in the future, could act as one of these examples. Local farmers would be able to see a functioning example of permaculture and be able to carry those seeds of knowledge to their own practice.

Learning more and more every day, and continually finding that flexibility in all our thoughts and ideas is the most important element…

To leave you all with a good photo here is the little pig at the house who has grown quite attached to Gretchen…maybe it´s the other way around. In any case she has found that if she pets his belly he flops onto the ground to enjoy the belly rub for as long as she is willing to go…not unlike most dogs. He is a cool little animal and provides a lot of laughs. We are doing our best to work hard, but not forget to find time to be like a pig in the sunshine. To just be, and to take it all in.

The house piglet

We´ll try not to be so long between the next post. Should be settled in for the next few weeks, so they ought to be more regular. Hope no one was worried. We hope all is well with everything back home, and we send our love and thoughts often.

Talk with you all sooner than later!

Travis and Gretchen

… y Feliz Año Nuevo!

December 31, 2010 § 8 Comments

Thinking of you all during the holidays and wishing you the warm weather of the tropics!

Things continue to go well here, with opportunities to learn and share around every corner.   Some highlights from the past week include the Christmas celebrations, mural collaborations, trellis building and a growing network of people working in similar veins in the area.

Christmas was a special time to be in La Garnacha.  We woke up to Christmas music at dawn and there was a very happy feeling throughout town, especially with the kids.  In the afternoon all the kids got dressed up in fresh clothes for the special celebrations.  First, some gifts were handed out to the kids.  Most people in the community are living a very minimal lifestyle and gifts aren´t a part of the budget, but within the community they managed to get a box of toys as presents for some of the kids.  It seemed pretty random who got a present and who didn´t, and Trav and I were surprised to see that the kids didn´t argue or fight or get upset if they didn´t get a gift.  The ones that did though, were super happy!  Then there was some piñata smashing, candy for everyone, and more games for the kiddos. In the evening, the kids came around to every house in town singing Christmas carols with the community Father.  They led the way to a big Christmas mass.

It was really beautiful to see people having fun and celebrating without all the excess that goes along with the holidays back home.  And it was especially fun to watch the kids just having a blast.

We´re also happy to be making progress on the preschool.  Cleaning the building has been a huge job, but we´re just about through and have begun painting.  We also finished a mural design with the help of a young local artisan named Carmelo.  He´s going to help us paint the mural as well.


Trav touching up the preschool



And there´s progress with the farm to report.  We built a small trellis for the peas in the preschool garden. This is the first time Don Reynaldo has ever planted peas (they were brought to him last year by a woman from Spain) and it seems that most people are very unfamiliar with them.  It probably goes without being said that we´re looking forward to sharing some sugar snaps with the community!  We also got the rest of the supplies we need to build a trellis for the beans, which are growing way faster than they do at home.  Don Reynaldo reports that the carrots are germinating well, too!


Carlitos with his weaving and his little brother Camillo

In the meantime, we´ve had a couple improv weaving classes for the kids.  They´ve been turned on to the magic of macrame by our friend Carlos who helped us put this project together.  He´s an incredible macrame artist himself and has brought a lot of artisan friend to the community who have shared their knowledge of weaving with the kids.  The kids are excited to get their hands on a bit of string whenever they can.  One of them in particular, Carlitos, has a very evident gift for weaving.  The picture below is of him holding a bracelet he made.  His little brother Camillo is behind him.  They´re a little camera-shy, but great kiddos who we love to be around.


We´ve also had the opportunity to connect with a woman in Esteli who runs several different social and environmental justice projects, which include a hostel and cafe downtown.  Her name is Juanita and she´s been working in Nicaragua for seven years.  Her knowledge of the area, the issues, and the resources is extensive.  We met up with her recently to talk about our project as well as some of the challenges that we see.  She affirmed that any non-gmo, non-hybrid, or organic seeds, are undoubtedly being shipped individually from overseas.  Anyone with any sort of organic operation here has contacts abroad who ship them seeds.

She is in the process of getting an organic food project off the ground here.  The idea is that her organization will buy organic produce from small, struggling farmers at a fair price, then resell the produce to restaurants and residents of Esteli.  Any profit will go back into the program to pay an organic agriculture specialist who consults with the growers on a regular basis, and to eventually give a percentage back to the farmers themselves.  As the program gets rolling we hope that Don Reynaldo will be able to get involved.  He´s excited about the opportunity as well.

Juanita also put us in contact with several other organizations and individuals who are working in the realms of organic agriculture and permaculture.  We´re working on checking out the organizations and getting in touch with the individuals.

There has been lots of movement this week and it looks like more is coming in 2011.  One last photo for today, to stir the imagination.  This one is of a chamomile field, a huge crop in the area.  Imagine walking past a big field of chamomile and taking a deep breath of the sweet smell…  We´ll be breathing deeply for you all!


A Chamomile Field


Happy New Year!


gretch and trav

Feliz Navidad!

December 23, 2010 § 2 Comments

Hello all, and a warm greeting from the sunny south!

Another week has passed, and we are once again in Esteli doing our city work. We have become quite familiar with this city and it becomes more and more comfortable every time. Projects in the community are going well, and the past week brought some good work and new relationships. Where to begin…

The preschool is coming along nicely, and last week we bought the first round of school supplies while we were here in Esteli. As Gretchen mentioned the preschool is run on a volunteer basis and there is no funding for supplies. After running around Esteli to different stores we were able to amount all the fixins´ that the little ones need to have a more fulfilled and fun experience at school. We started with the basics, pencils and paper, but also bought art supplies, coloring/activity books, some educational toys, and childrens books. In addition, we collected some notebooks and pencils for the adult students that Adriana (the preschool teacher) teaches literacy classes to. It feels good to know that the kiddos will return from their Christmas break with all the tools they need to open up their creativity as well as the tools Adriana needs to help her teach to her full potential. She is an amazing woman and we are more than confident that she will be able to do amazing things with the little ones. We look forward to some opportunities to help out with the school garden too once the kids return.

School supplies for the preschool and adult literacy classes

We also managed to touch base with Adriana´s brother, Carmelo, who is a local Artisan (stone carvings mostly) in La Garnacha, about helping us with the mural we want to paint on the preschool wall. He was excited and we look forward to collaborating with him and getting together some ideas. More on that to come…

Reynaldo, the father of the family and the farm guru, took us to a family member´s house this week about an hour walk from La Garnacha. He took us on some beautiful trails that led through the Reserva Tisey (the nature reserve that the community is located within) to a smaller community at the entrance to the reserve. There we met with a woman and her son, who at one point lived in La Garnacha with Reynaldo and the family. At the moment his name escapes me, but while he lived in La Garnacha he helped Reynaldo with some organic agriculture projects.

In true latin american form she fed us and gave us coffee while we sat and talked with her son. At one point he took us on a walk to visit one of the local farms that, unfortunately, uses some chemicals. He wanted to show us the land and their crops. Through our conversations we were once again reminded of the growing problem that faces Nicaragua, and other countries in Central America regarding industrialized agriculture. The young man told us that he sees increasing problems with the use of chemicals in growing practices, and that he struggles to see his country people head down these roads.

We talked for some time about the importance of organic agriculture, and about the misconceptions farmers have about using chemicals and monocropping practices. We have become more and more aware, through experiences like this, that La Garnacha and some of the surrounding communities make up a very small minority of organic farmers in this country. More and more, because of lack of education, and lack of resources (like good seed and diversified crops) farmers are put in positions where they retreat to the ease, and immediate results of chemical pesticides and fertilizers.

Fortunately, communities like La Garnacha remain strong in their stance to use organic practices knowing that the health of their community, and the land rests on their sound choices about how they farm.

The following day Reynaldo took us back to his farm, Finca El Carrizo, to help with some coffee harvesting, and to see the progress of the seeds we had brought that had been planted. Like all his produce, the coffee is 100% organic, and is grown in a natural forest setting on the hillside near the farm. Coffee is one of those crops that can be grown in an organic, permaculture setting, but is also one of those crops that is notorious for its plantation´s use of deforestation, oppressive work environments, and extreme use of chemicals. It was a pleasure to walk in the woods with many of the community members, laughing and joking, and havest the coffee that is shade grown, and organic.

coffee beans on the plant

After a few hours of picking we left to go down to the farm and see the progress of some of the seeds that Reynaldo had planted which were, after only a little over a week, already sprouting. Among those planted were two varieties of beans, squash and lettuce. Reynaldo was pleased with the germination rates, and exited to see the seeds coming to life. It felt good to see the seeds find their home in the beautiful soil of the farm and know they were beginning to play a role in Reynaldo´s life. We are currently working on developing a pamphlet with Reynaldo that will explain ways to save seed of the different crops we brought.

the first beans...

We are hoping that with how fast everything is growing that we might have the opportunity to share in some meals with the family, and some of the new crops. In addition, we have begun the process of getting more seeds sent down here with the hopes that we can share more with some other farmers working to maintain organic growing practices. The hope is that a seed saving program can be developed, and if all goes well Reynaldo and other farmers will be able to sell some of their saved seed to others who lack access to quality, and diverse seed.

the first squash...

In addition to the farm activities, Reynaldo also took us to meet his mother this week. She is an incredible woman, and also is a natural healer. Esteli and this area of Nicaragua is known as a hub in the country for natural medicines and natural healing. As many of you know both Gretchen and myself also share an interest, actually probably more of  a passion, in natural medicines and their use at home in Colorado. It was a pretty incredible experience to meet with the Señora and have her introduce us to some of the local plant medicines, many of which she cultivates in her backyard. During our meeting she explained to us that she grew up in a family of 14 brothers and sisters, and that her father was a natural healer. Throughout her life all of their medical ailments were addressed using natural medicines, and it was her father who taught her the art of being a natural healer. Unfortunately, although she currently practices in the community she lacks many resources for making and saving her own medicine, like small jars and tincture bottles. She explained that one of her dreams has always been to have a small medicine shop, and be able to help more people. While in Esteli this time we will be visiting a local natural medicine producer called Cecalli where we hope to purchase some of the materials the Señora needs to practice her art. In exchange she said she would teach us some of her ways and how she makes various tinctures, salves and soaps. We look forward to adding another collaboration to the project and helping this powerful woman work towards helping others. More on that to come as well…

Well, this post is getting long, and we have to get going to make sure we can catch the bus back to La Garnacha in time. Again, and again, thank you to all who have made this project possible. I hope these posts are providing a just view of the sucess we are having in Nicaragua, and of the experiences we are hoping to share. I´ll leave you with one last photo. It is of the greenshouse at the farm where Reynaldo starts his seedlings. Many of the lettuces in the foreground are seeds that we brought…yet more life finding its home here in the beautiful mountains of Nicaragua.

The greenhouse and starts...

Happy holidays to all…we will be celebrating with our family here, but many of our thoughts and our love will be with you all. Be well and we´ll write again soon.

with all our dedication,

Travis and Gretchen

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