I walked through the welcoming doors of Caoba for the first time roughly one year ago. Rumors of this organic farm had reached my ears after a long bout of sad stories concerning pollution from pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers that provide short-sighted solutions. I walked through the doors, and was met with a table laden with healthy potted herbs and vegetables for sale, backed by a wall of bamboo, where upcycled tires were cut and painted as toucans. They hung in the branches and held more potted plants, like tiny green waterfalls that spilled over the birds’ backs. Then, I explored the tienda filled with local products made from natural ingredients, practiced speaking Spanish with the cashier, and wandered out toward the farm itself.
I stood at the top of the stone steps and breathlessly stared at the beauty below. The rich, black soil was striped with rows of vibrant green and red lettuce. They pointed to the volcano in the distance, ringed by wispy clouds. Lavender and other pest-deterring plants poked around the rows. Upon closer inspection, I discovered sections of fennel, onions, basils, and a plethora of other tasty delights. A giant hug of edible biodiversity surrounded the neat, central rows. As someone who has spent a lot of time learning the ways of plants, I saw the wisdom and intention behind each placement, even though many of the plant species were new to me. As I continued my wander, I knew that I wanted to spend time supporting this wonderful place.
But that trip to Guatemala was over all too quickly. Many months passed, and I returned with intentions to stay a little longer. Since then, I’ve volunteered weekly and had the pleasure to work with new friends that feel like old friends. I’m learning the ways of pallet furniture, of balance, angles, and support. Often, it feels like a 3-D jigsaw puzzle that tickles my brain. Once, we stirred some varnish with a stick, and lamented that the stick was ruined for compost. I am continually grateful that I get to work with deeply environmentally-conscious people. Every stick counts. Our solution for the ruined stick was to varnish the whole thing. I took it home and dangled strings of beads and some epiphytes that had fallen off their trees from it, and turned that stick into one of my favorite pieces of art, partly because it catches the sun nicely, mostly because of the memories attached to it.
To top everything off, volunteers get to leave with a big bag of veggies. One of my favorite moments is when we go to get the veggies, and laugh with the friendly people who wash off all the dirt, then peek at the delicious surprises. It’s different every time, except salad. We always get some of the green and red lettuce from those gorgeous rows. I love finding recipes I’ve never tried in order to use the variety from the rest of the bag. The leftovers of a most delicious leek soup are waiting for lunch. Buen provecho!