#46 TNT The Las Marias Project: How a regenerative horticulture project is thriving in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria

by | Jan 12, 2020 | Blog, Podcasts | 0 comments

While some in the U.S. of America believe Puerto Rico is in a state of total disarray, most people on the island would not agree. They have bounced back after Hurricane Maria, and are working towards a regenerative future by developing permaculture projects.

In episode #46 of TNT, hear about one such project — the Las Marias Project–and enjoy a short story and enjoy a short story I wrote while volunteering there.

In 2018 a friend told me that, in some ways, the United States has politically declared Puerto Rico a lost state and that the island is still in total disarray.

Correctly, the territory (as it is legally declared) recorded over 4,000 deaths and a growing $50 Billion in damages since Hurricane Maria. But as far as the citizens are concerned, they’ve recovered, and are already moving towards a more sustainable future.

I spent twenty days on the island in August of this year, and sought a true picture of their status by interviewing local people affected by the record breaking storm. A part of my stay was passed as a volunteer on a permaculture farm called The Las Marias Project located on the western side of Puerto Rico.

In 2015, Clint Poplar moved from his hometown in Minnesota and started developing the 25 acre parcel of land with his girlfriend Andrea Durano, a Puerto Rico native. Together, they hope to establish themselves as an example of self-sustainable agricultural design for other projects in the area and provide educational programs promoting permaculture.

They work intentionally with local school districts and other co-operative farm projects to align their shared visions for the future of Puerto Rico; A land where unexpected hurricanes won’t cripple their social structure for half the year.

The house sits upon a mountain top, overlooking acres of banana trees sprawling up and down tropical valleys that eventually meet an ever-glistening Caribbean Sea. A volunteer’s work on the property ranges from planting papaya seedlings to nurturing the field of fruiting trees. My favorite part however, was feeding the adult boar, Piggie Smalls, who flattens the parcel’s tall grasses to make room for future crops – all by going about his daily business creating mud.

Clint and Andrea balance their day-jobs by directing smaller projects on the property such as a earthbag structure, built using recycled nylon bags filled with dirt and clay, that will eventually serve as a garage for their restored off-road Jeep.

When the sun goes down, and the croaking frogs start their symphony, it feels good knowing work done at The Las Marias Project contributes to a more sustainable Puerto Rico.

~~~~~~

August 22, 2018

Las Marías, Puerto Rico

 

“It’s probably going to rain”

“You’re right”

“We could just stay here and read books”

“Yeah, but I just drank a cup of coffee… see ya soon”

 

I took off, machete swinging’, greenish shorts ablazin’.

 

The hill was steep and packed tight with grAyish-red clay in spots, but blasted by banana leaves everywhere else.

 

Chop, chop, slice, clang *rock, chop, slice.

 

My machete minced overbearing vines and sideways sugar stalk into a fine salad, revealing massive mossy logs, previously chewed by el dueño and his chainsaw.

 

Glistening drips of sweat made it nearly (nearly) unsafe to be swinging a recently sharpened blade, and I decided a tropical plunge was in order.

 

Sliding past the last, sometimes pricklin’, thousand meters, I met flatness. A plane, with 15 feet of rushing rapids splitting the scene.

 

Perfect, I thought, what a treat from wherever.

 

The machete found its place, sticking from a wall of clay, and the rest of my sticky clothing hanging with it.

 

Dip, slip, dunk… I was under water. Upon breaking surface, some seriously striking thunder soaked my cerebral – it was loud – as if part of a grander subjective clock.

 

And with it, thousands of gallons of water.

 

“Hoooo, cooo, cooo, cooooo, coooooo!” My heart howled without intention, sending a reverberation off the bambooed walls.

 

Tooka Tooka Tooka, the rain didn’t stop.

 

I sat beneath the tree, “thinking’ bout stuff”: Where I got my opinions. Whos’ my heroes? Why am I cool right now? And not tomorrow?

 

Then I got bored. And cold. Naked, shivering, in the jungle.

 

Better question: Why am I always naked?

 

~These were Q’s for later, best get home, buddy~

 

Hopping in the pants, plucking up my knife, I started sprinting. Up the hill, dodging bolts, squatting for my life, like they taught us in Cub Scouts.

 

Squat. Sprint. Squat. Sprint.

 

Lightning bolt, who needs a coat.

Soaking wet, with mud and sweat,

that’s what I get… for drinking coffee after 3

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