evie altman
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down on the puerto rican farm

as soon as we decided to come to puerto rico for this week, i started looking for places to volunteer. more than a year after hurricane maria, but so much still to do. problem is that we are here christmas week, and everyone is, rightfully, taking a break. finally found a farm through jose andreas’s world central kitchen group that was accepting volunteers, but only one day. so we went.

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about 26 miles from san juan, but in the mountains so a 90 minute drive away. siembra tres vidas farm, outside aibonito. we harvested radishes, basil, and tiny red pepper balls. we hoed a bed, weeded, and mulched. we played with a little boy named sian and a dog named koa. got soaked by rain and sweated buckets. it was exhausting and really worth it. most of all, we met daniella, sian’s mom.

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daniella is in her late twenties/early thirties, i’d guess. she’s beautiful and strong and taught us so much about small, organic farming in puerto rico. now a non-profit as well, the farm teaches locals to raise their own food and, to some extent, their consciousness. daniella believes the US should not hold puerto rico in colonial status, nor should PR become a state. with a cogent, specific argument, she explained why PR should become its own country, also negating each reason against it. in the tiny house where she weighs and holds harvested crops, two puerto rican flags adorn the wall. one is black and white, representing puerto rican resistance, especially necessary after the hurricane. the other is the one we’re more used to seeing, but with the original, lighter blue, instead of the almost-navy blue that the US changed it to so it would better mesh with the american flag.

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Daniella was attending an alternative farm conference in Columbia when hurricane maria hit. her adventure returning home is quite a story. we all loved her. after lunch (at a really cool stone oven pizza place that buys her crops where we ate amazing veggie mofungo), i offered to help her set up a web site for the farm and nonprofit. i do hope she takes me up on it.

the on and off rain muddied up the hiking path starting at the farm property and ending 30 minutes down the canyon at a couple of waterfalls and river. all four of us started down, but only two completed the trek. i kept sliding on the mud, first in shoes and then in bare feet. didn’t mind the muddy butt but the next fall could wreck my ankle. so i stopped. mo joined me back up the path, falling herself along the way. we waited a couple of hours for marxe and satch, who took koa the dog with them. marxe sent back a couple of videos when they got to the bottom. looked beautiful. by the time they got back to the farm, both had also become completely muddied, satch in a punch drunk tired state. seemed to take a lot longer getting back to the city, but that could be cause we were all exhausted. mud everywhere, in everything, took forever to wash out the biggest chunks from our clothes. said adios to marxe’s hiking boots and satch’s sneakers, died a valiant death. but it was a great day.