When deciding where we’d settle down, one of our biggest non-negotiables was having access to local produce. After experiencing so many islands that rely completely on imports of marginal quality, having local fruit and veg became a big priority – both for taste and for our health.
The first time we visited our local farmers’ market in Old San Juan, I knew we were home (more on this very special market in a future post). The growing movement towards organic farming in Puerto Rico is on display each Saturday, when farmers get up well before dawn to drive their gorgeous harvest into the Old City. Such a sight for sore eyes.
By insane coincidence, our next door neighbor, Laura, happens to be one of the co-founders of Mercado Agricola Natural. Since we met, Laura has graciously introduced us to a ton of cool stuff happening around local food in Puerto Rico. So, when she asked me if I’d like to join her volunteering for a day on a biodynamic coffee farm up in the mountains, I immediately said yes.
After a nauseating car ride through some of the most beautiful rainforests and mountains I’ve ever seen, we rolled up to Finca Gripiñas, a farm that sits in the shadow of Puerto Rico’s highest peak. Here, Laura introduced me to owners Elena and Miguel, who gave me a tour of their beautiful farm and coffee roasting operation before Laura and I got down to business. The order of the day was stuffing soil into bags that would soon hold one seedling each. While not the most exciting, this task came at a critical point of the harvest, and I was glad to be able to provide an extra set of hands. Plus, Elena brewed us several exquisite cups of beautiful espresso as we worked and cooked us a delicious lunch made entirely from ingredients grown on the farm.
Over lunch, Elena and Miguel described how they, along with a handful of like-minded farmers, are slowly changing farming practices in Puerto Rico, and why she so passionately believes in the practice of biodynamics. I’ve met a lot of wine makers in other parts of the world using biodynamic methods, but it was fascinating to meet a farmer who truly embraces the spiritual connection of the practice. Watching Elena chant mantras as she plants seedlings may seem strange to outsiders, but one sip of their beautiful coffee, and you know she’s doing something right.