Over 40 members of the Pedasí community met at the AEP office early on Saturday, January 19th to visit the Santiago Gomez’s organic farm. Santiago has been growing crops on his farm in La Canoa, Herrera using chemical-free practices for over twenty years. His farm has a diverse set of crops from coffee to plantains to citrus fruits. The tour participants made up a diverse group, from families, to students from the University of Las Tablas, to agricultural producers from Los Asientos. The Azuero Earth Project was also pleased to have Fermín Romero Panama’s Ministry of Agriculture’s Head of Organic Agriculture, and Meinaldo Mitre of the Panamanian First Lady’s Dispatch on the tour. During the tour, Santiago showed visitors many components that make up an organic farm, including his composting toilet, a center where he makes compost and natural pesticides and insecticides, his chicken coop, and his nursery where he germinates seedlings for crops and trees. Santiago makes various types of compost, including green compost, bocashi, worm compost, and biol, a natural fertilizer.
Santiago emphasized that organic agriculture, in addition to being a comprehensive agricultural system, is a way of life. “Organic agriculture is a world [of ideas and practices]. There is no [specific] recipe in organic agriculture.” It is important, first of all, to observe nature and see how it functions, then work within natural processes and relationships. “We have forgotten the function of insects”, says Santiago. Some insects are actually beneficial to farms and gardens. For example, it is a sign of a healthy farm if one sees butterflies flying among crops. The success of the tour made it clear that there is interest in organic agriculture in the Azuero. Tour participant and producer Yonis Montenegro commented, “I never realized that these leaves that I collect every day could be used for compost. I always bought compost, bought urea, but I have everything [to make these products] in my backyard” If you are interested in learning more about organic agriculture, check out AEP’s organiculture links, join Geoffrey’s Garden on Facebook, visit AEP’s organic garden at the office in Pedasí, or contact the Organiculture Program directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 995-2995. Written by Sophie M. Fuchs