This week I arrived at Wildane Farm in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico. The farm is a 2.7 acre space nestled in the foothills of the El Yunque Rainforest, and is situated along the Espiritu Santo River; from which all their irrigation water comes from. Wildane produces more than 50% of its electricity via our solar panels with the goal of being completely off the grid by the end of 2016. The farm is owned by Esther and Jimmy McFadden. Esther and Jimmy also live on the farm and have a smaller house that they are letting me stay in.

Wildane farm is different from most in that they do not grow food for crop production or profit. The goal of the farm is to have a diversified food forest and vegetable/herb garden that is producing vegetation 12 months out of the year. This farm is home to well over 300 trees that are all producing fruit: bananas (5 varieties), jack fruit, litchi, kwai muk, cacao, breadfruit and nut, guavas, mango, avocados, monstera, miracle fruit, abius, bilimbi, corazon, achiote, coconuts, dragon fruit, gourds, vanilla beans, passion fruit, starfruit, pomarosa, macadamias, pineapples, wing beans, papayas, blackberries,eggplants, okra,  and numerous herbs.  They are also adding other exotic tropical fruit trees such as rambutans, pulasans, mangosteens, and durians.

When I first arrived I was floored by the amount of flora and fauna; Wildane looks more like paradise than a farm. I was given a “farm walk” where I was introduced to the fruit forest, vegetable garden, and also a separate banana forest. On the walk I was introduced to tons of new fruit I had never tasted, or even heard of. I tried things like bilimbi, blackberry jam fruit, acerola cherries, and the infamous Miracle Berry we discussed in class earlier this quarter. I also got to try an apple banana, which was surprisingly citrusy and much more complex flavor than the Cavendish variety.

On my first day I started off transplanting miracle and date seedlings, and ended the day uprooting trees in the banana forest. Bananas grow in such an abundance here, that the entire forest grew from cleared ground within six to seven months. Some of the trees in the forest were blocking the draining swale on the property, so I helped uproot and separate the daughter plants for Jimmy’s brother Andrew to plant on his farm.

In addition to separating banana new growth, I also had the opportunity to plant four banana sapling varieties that are new to the farm: Mysore, Mona Lisa, Dwarf Brazilian, and Rino. I also did things like water and weed the fruit forest and vegetable garden, transplant Achacha, Madro, and Corazon plants to tree bags, and harvest banana leaves for a meal Esther cooked. I have already learned so much and am looking forward to my next four weeks here!