Crop Diversity with Earlham College

Last week work started with two students from Earlham College, Sadie and Eliza, who will be working on developing crop diversity at Noemy and Bismark’s farm. This type of work is a large part of the focus of our project, and it is so incredibly important in the region of Nueva Segovia.

As I see it, this work with these girls at Earlham is the beginning. By creating small scale multi-culture on a single farm we will begin to establish the availability of diverse seeds and provoke community interest.

With the girls from Earlham we’re starting slow. The family’s time for taking care of new crops is limited, and so we need plants which are easy to take care of. Even the best permaculture designs still require maintenance. We’re beginning with plants which are native or grow rapidly and easily in the climate here.

So, we decided to begin with a maracuya (yellow passionfruit) trellis out in the rocky, arid, unused plot behind the house. Maracuya is fast growing and healthy. Even better, it is well loved by people here, especially as a juice, and so it’s sure to get some use.


agriculture volunteer build passionfruit trellis

Stomping on dirt (the work here is always glamorous)



The first step was to go out into the timber stands and chop down a couple trees (at some point I’d like to see these vines climbing in stands or on bushes themselves, but due to tree-height and nasty ground cover it makes pest and illness management problematic for the time being). I could never be a butcher. I felt a little guilty just felling a tree, something which made me aware of just how disassociated from the sources of well, everything, we are in the States. It’s one thing to pick a tomato and say you feel connected to the source of your food. Those trees were probably at least 10 or 20 years old and it took a lot of energy for them to grow. It made me really feel how much energy goes into the wood for a house.


Sadie waters some sticks


When the trees were cut up into some Y branches and runners to go on top, the girls and I got to digging into the rocky soil. It was a hot afternoon of work breaking the soil and getting the holes deep enough.


Now Eliza’s watering sticks too


Once the sticks were in place we poured water on the dirt around them to set it better. We put some other sticks in the Ys and tied them on.


agriculture volunteers build passionfruit trellis

One day of work done! (it looks easier without any photos of the digging)


The next day Sadie and I went up to put string on the trellis. Claudia pointed out to me that it will need another support stick in the middle to support the fruit’s weight, so I suppose we’ll have to throw another branch in the next time we go up. We also dug another hole for planting and mixed the rocky sandy soil with some nearby clay and some chicken feces from the coop.


agriculture volunteer builds passionfruit trellis

Sadie puts string up for the vines to climb.


I can’t express how good it feels to work outside. I spend a lot of time on the computer doing translations for our tours and different promotional work for the project, but I love working in the field.  It’s nice to have a finished product that you can touch.


agriculture volunteers build passionfruit trellis

That’s a lot of chicken poop.


In the coming weeks, Eliza will be making a garden behind the house and Sadie will be working in increasing the crop diversity through transplants and the construction of a seed bank. I’m excited to have them on board.


agriculture volunteers build passionfruit trellis



Claudia’s been finding all sorts of seedlings in our compost pit. I’ve been taking tally and making some observations about what would make an easy and well used transplant.

Hopefully, when people in the community see their neighbor with a bunch of passionfruit, taro, chaya, dragonfruit, and whatever else we can manage to plant they’ll want a little for themselves.