Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Organic Farm in the Middle of the City 7.12.08

Aveiro, 7.12.08 - This past Thursday afternoon we went on yet another amazing excursion, which is definitely at the top of the list with the low-income housing cooperative. We went to a family-owned and operated, organic and environmentally-conscious and sustainable farm located in Lambare, just outside of Asuncion. We were greeted by Fernando, one of the sons, who also gave us a tour of the property. He is a forestry engineer who also speaks excellent English as a result of his time in the States when his girlfriend was in grad school at Oregon State. He began by telling us about the family's biodigester, which uses pig excrement and water to create methane gas that they use for cooking. The contraption itself looks like a garden row covered over with plastic, with resealable openings at either end. When they clean out the pigpen they load up the biodigester, which converts it to methane. They have piping that runs from the BD to the house through the ground, allowing it to come through the burners. The BD cost 300,000 guaranies (a little less than $100) to build and paid for itself after only 2 months' gas usage; they even use less than the propane they had been using before. The BD was in the same area as the rabbit hutch, the vermiculture (where worms are grown for composting) bins, the cow shed and the pigpen.

The farm is set up according to what I viewed as a circular, recyclicle pattern - a true model for sustainability. Many of the trees on the property grow quickly and can be used for firewood for cooking. This is especially important for small farmers who cannot afford to wait years for trees to grow because they need to feed their families. The flora truly looks like a tropical oasis; a little island in the middle of the city. It provides more than ample shade for the compost piles, which are made from the cow manure and leaves from the trees, among other ingredients. They have several bins of dirt with worms in them to enrich the soil that results from the compost. Fernando even had an experiment going in which he was seeing how well the compost pile heated water. He had a container of water in the pile with a copper pipe (because of it's ability to conduct heat) through whcih he filled it. I'm not sure how long the water had been in there, but the amount that came out was pretty warm. It will be interesting to see whether it can become a viable option - using the natural chemical reactive processes that take place within the pile to heat water instead of gas or other conventional indoor plumbing methods. They keep rabbits that are fed with greens and other foods from their farm, that they have for autoconsumption or sell. The rabbits were all so cute, especially the baby bunnies. I understand that the meat is also excellent and very lean.

In addition to purchased feed, the cows also eat the leave from the sugar cane and corn that's grown on the farm. The cows also produce milk the family uses to make yogurt and cheese, which they also consume and sell to buyers around Asuncion. All organic. They may also eat the beef from the cow - I would think so, they grow/raise everything else. Just above the cow area is the pigpen that housed about 15 or 16 pigs, including the piglets. The one male pig they had was the biggest I'd ever seen, 170 kilos (340 lbs)! At 3 years old, it was the father of all the little pigs. It was absolutely huge, it looked like the pyscho, monster pig you might see in a nightmare or that would eat people like those pigs in the Silence of the Lambs sequel. Lawd have mercy. Right, so moving right along, in addition to eating the pigs themselves they also sell them.
Next we went to the poultry coop where they kept chickens, guinea hens, ducks and quails. Autoconsumption as well, but they also sell quail eggs as a delicacy. I must say that they are pretty tasty. In there huge garden they grow yuca, hibiscus (for juice and jam, rich in vitamin C), strawberries, green onions, corn, and some other roots vegetables. So at the end of the tour, the mother and sisters had a whle spread of amazing goodies, all homemade, laid out for us - chipa (Paraguayan sweetbread), yogurt, strawberry milk, hibiscus juice and jam, orange pound cake, strawberry and guava jams, cheese, and quail eggs. The food was crazily ridiculous, unreal. We ate until we couldn't eat anymore. So folks also bought some yogurt and jam. So, from our tour we learned about new information we can pass onto our communities to improve the quality of there lives. The only thing that could've been better was if Fernando hadn't had a girlfriend; actually it's probably better that he did because otherwise we would've all been fighting over him (lol).

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