Agro-Ecological Education for New Farmers in the Central Western Region of Puerto Rico

Project Overview

LS20-330
Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2020: $49,992.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2022
Grant Recipient: Plenitud PR
Region: Southern
State: Puerto Rico
Principal Investigator:
Co-Investigators:
Bryan Brunner Montes
University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez
Owen Ingley
Plenitud PR

Commodities

Not commodity specific

Practices

  • Crop Production: fertilizers
  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, technical assistance, workshop
  • Pest Management: integrated pest management
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    Plenitud PR is an organization dedicated to teaching and demonstrating sustainability practices that promote a life in harmony with the environment. We carry out this mission through workshops, talks and community service across the island, and from our own farm and teaching center in Las Marías, Puerto Rico. We teach and demonstrate sustainability, permaculture and agroecology through such techniques as water runoff management practices for erosion prevention, agroforestry planting, compost systems, rainwater harvesting, intensive food planting and ecological bio-construction. We receive an average of 1,000 people a year who participate in workshops, internships, and 1-2 week apprenticeship programs, as well as volunteer programs and other educational activities. Our goal is to present viable sustainable alternatives to the many and increasing challenges faced by ordinary Puerto Ricans, such as climate change related natural disasters, economic uncertainty, and food insecurity. With the knowledge gained from our direct farm experience applying permaculture and agroecological practices, and through the experience gained in providing our educational programs, we have developed a 200 page agroecological manual, “Siembra Boricua: Agricultura en Armonía con la Naturaleza” (Translation: Manual for Agriculture in Harmony with the Natural Environment), complete with all the information and tools needed to produce food sustainably. This curriculum addresses the main challenges and key solutions through sustainable farming in the tropics, especially in Puerto Rico. Through our collaboration with SARE and sustainable farmers from western Puerto Rico, we will address our major food insecurity problem through intensive educational programs based on the Siembra Boricua manual that will equip underserved beginning farmers with the tools needed to successfully and sustainably increase local food production in Puerto Rico. 

    Through this SARE supported project, Plenitud PR will: (1) offer one 140 hour intensive agroecological training program accessible to 25-30 beginning or transitioning farmers; (2) offer one round of a mentorship program for 3-5 participants of the intensive agroecological training program; (3) offer two  7-month paid agroecological internship opportunities focused on sustainable intensive commercial production systems; (4) continue to distribute the Siembra Boricua manual to be used as official curriculum for agriculture education; (5) give four to six educational agro-tours; (6) develop new educational material to create sustainable and replicable programming for many years to come.

    Our educational objectives are designed not only to train future farmers in sustainable practices, but to generate sustainable, profitable programming that will allow this work to continue beyond the scope of this project. We first offer our intensive agroecological trainings to provide theory and experience of key sustainable practices applicable to our tropical ecological context, followed by more focused groups programs including a mentorship and internship to more thoroughly train future sustainable farm managers. We have also created our outreach components to disseminate the material more widely, and to increase visibility for the program so that it can be profitable and sustainable for years to come. Combined with our intensive production model, this approach will generate sufficient income to repeat the program in the following years.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    A primary goal for this SARE-funded project is not only to provide high quality intensive education to beginning and transitioning farmers for the period of the initial project, but also to implement the education in a way that is self-sustaining and easily replicable. We intend to provide these trainings and opportunities for sustainable farmers as a yearly programmatic effort, and thus we have instituted several mechanisms to allow for a long shelf-life for both the materials and the educational programs we discuss below.

    1. Provide a 140-hour intensive agroecological apprenticeships to approximately 25-30 new farmers. Work with partners to implement the program and apprenticeship offered at Plenitud PR farm and UPR, Mayagüez Campus farm. 
    2. Provide a 220-hour intensive long-term professional mentorship to 3-5 selected participants from the previous apprenticeship to receive extra and personalized training on how to not just be sustainable producers, but how to run their own business as well. One will be offered each year.
    3. Select, train and provide employment for two individuals for a paid 7-month agroecological internship focused on intensive production system. This will be offered each year.

    -Sell produce and added value products as a means of income to maintain profitability of the project

    -Use the high-tunnel production system as well as other productive systems of the farm as living laboratory for testing sustainable practices (part of revision and development of the educational curriculum in our agroecology manual) such as: worm composting, organic fertilizers, pest control, soil amendments, etc. 

    -Revise and develop curriculum on sustainable agriculture, paving the way for future workshop series to be offered more effectively and with less cost to the organization 

    4. Test and continue to distribute the Manual, “Siembra Boricua: Manual de Agricultura en Armonía con la Naturaleza” (Translation: Manual for Agriculture in Harmony with the Natural Environment) with the new farmers in the educational programs.

    5. Offer 4-6 educational agro-tours to the general public to continue spreading knowledge of sustainable agriculture and how people can support it.

    6. Develop new educational material, for use in educational initiatives described above and in future years. The completion of this objective will ensure that our curricula is fully replicable (with continuous quality improvement), thus facilitating sustainability of this program for many future years of sustainable agriculture training at Plenitud. These materials will also allow us to easily share content with the general public, from commercial farmers to backyard gardeners and local consumers. As a result, we will be further enabled to raise awareness of the importance of sustainable agriculture and to continue reviving farm to table culture in Puerto Rico, increasing public support and demand for sustainably farmed goods and produce.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.