I worked at a farm located in the rainforest of Puerto Rico.
The farm sat atop one of the mountains in the El Yunque rainforest. The views were stunning--I would gaze across the mountains and get my breath taken away, every time. The clouds would sit right on top of the peaks, but on clear days, you could see the very top of the mountain. On the other side of the farm, you could see the ocean from a clearing of trees.
The farm had everything.
Every tropical fruit, every type of kale, everything. The climate of Puerto Rico is perfect for farming; the lack of frost allows for year-round farming and harvesting. At the farm, they idealize the concept of "conserving to develop". Instead of overworking and ruining the land, they tend to it and protect it with lots of care and love.
The farm had: avocados, oranges, lemons, papayas, sweet peppers, pineapples, cherry tomatoes, plum tomatoes, basil, mustard greens, arugula, lettuce, strawberries, kale, raspberries, coriander, starfruit, rosemary, onions, spinach, radishes, cashews, cranberries, pumpkin, carrots, guavas, asparagus, and collard greens.
And that isn't even a complete list.
My tasks around the farm included weeding, harvesting, and planting.
The usual workday at the farm was from about 8 to 5, with a lunch break from the sun's rays. Organic farming requires a lot of weed management. Most of the work I did was weeding, often using a hoe for larger areas. I helped harvest edibles (cherry tomatoes, kale, mustard greens, etc.) from the greenhouse, which we used for meals. We planted bromeliads, which are flowering plants that are great for attracting bees with their bright colors. The inside of the bromeliads are also the homes/breeding grounds for the Coquí frog.
My first day, I was weeding the base of the sweet pepper plants, minding my own business and humming Disney tunes to myself. Suddenly, I found myself ankle-deep in fire ants. The furious red ants were all over my boots, climbing into my socks. I was shaking my legs vigorously with sharp jerks, but the red ants clung on with all their might. I ended up having to individually pluck off each ant, yikes! Lesson learned: be alert and mindful of what you're doing when you're farming.
The food was absolutely delightful.
The best part was that I knew exactly where each part of the meal came from. The grilled pumpkin? Harvested it a few hours ago. The papaya smoothie? Picked it off the tree this morning. Salad? Just cut the kale.
The owners of the farm bought all their other foods from the local market, where they knew the vendors personally. The fresh cow cheese and eggs we ate were from close friends whom they had known for quite a long time.
The moon and stars every night? Incredible.
It was as if I were looking up at another world. When people look up into the vast stretch of stars, it's a humbling reminder that they are part of something greater than themselves. Every night, during the trek back to my tent, I would take time to sit on a growing palm tree seed and watch the wonders of the night sky, getting lost in the stars.
The takeaway: farming is difficult, but extremely rewarding.
The farm changed the way I see things and experience the world around me. While at the farm, I ventured on a journey of mindfulness and appreciation. I realized the importance of organic farming, not only to one's health but to the greater good of the environment. I am so grateful for the food I eat everyday, now that I know more about the art behind creating produce.
People need to be more aware of the wonders and capabilities of Earth. For me, it took several days of tilling the soil and watching the clouds pass over the peaks of the rainforest, to realize the true beauty of our Earth. Never take anything for granted--be aware, be appreciative. Love the world around you.