Week One: In the Rainforest

I have been on the island of St. Croix for one week now. In all seriousness, it has been all that I expected and more. As hard as it was to leave everyone I know behind for a couple of months, I know now that this place and these people are easing the transition beautifully. I wish everyone reading this could come here and see this place and meet these people and really understand how life works on the island, and more specifically, here on this farm. It really is an amazing thing. I only hope my words and pictures give it justice.

I am living in the Virgin Islands Sustainable Farm Institute on Creque Dam Farm in the Caledonia watershed (the red x on the map). My first two days on-island were spent in Christiansted (the blue x). There are about 15 staff, apprentices and interns on the farm - at the moment, as some workers will come and go. My friend Chi is leaving in a couple of days to go to Washington state, but he is hoping to be back in March. More on Chi later - he will get his own post. Then there are the nine students in the Ridge to Reef course, including myself.

The greatest part so far has been the friendships that have already formed within our group. I'm not really sure what it is exactly, but I think it is a combination of all of our shared interests, the tight living quarters, the beauty radiating from the farm, and a real desire to be close to each other. There are just good vibes all over the place.

On top of that, I am in a beautiful rain forest in the Virgin Islands where I get to eat amazing fresh food in a communal setting at every meal, and I get to learn about things that I really feel like I will really use to seed more abundance, creativity and joy.

We spent the first couple of days last week getting oriented with the farm and each other. Our first activity was to harvest some bean pods in the Gaia garden. We pulled the dried pods off of the trellis and pulled out all the beans. Most were sent to the kitchen, but some we replanted as we learned about the germination of seeds.

Over the weekend, the class took a hike down the gut to the ocean. Nate, Wren, and Chi were able to tell us what almost every plant and seed was along the way. It is a blessing to really be able to understand your surroundings like they do, and I am soaking in as much of that knowledge as possible.

The next day, myself and four of the other students (Ryan, Mandy, Meredith, and Marshall) got a ride down to Cane Bay. After a long day at the beach, we ended up getting a ride with the bartender's boyfriend into Christiansted to eat dinner and see a concert. Then, somehow, we were able to find a ride back to the farm without having to ride a taxi the whole way. Dems islanders for ya, mon.

Right now, I am laying in my cabana, listening to the warm buzz of the rain forest. Life is all around me. If I were to crawl out from under my roof and look up into the sky, I would see thousands of stars. It makes me miss Max Patch, NC.

I will try to keep a good record of my happenings here. In the next week, I hope to be able to give you a virtual tour of Creque Dam Farm and maybe even introduce you to a few people that I have met. I'll also be keeping notes on here that will be used for a presentation that I will be giving as part of my final project. I am excited.


TakeAction! said...

Great blog! Perhaps lessons you have learned could be shared in other regions of the world that need sustainable agriculture.


Will Rucker said...

that's just great. after reading this, i felt inclined to text audrey, "sounds like ben is having a great time."

your pictures are actually really good. i'm surprised at the resolution turn out.

so, i'm officially jealous. period.

Brett said...

I've been anxious to hear about your transition into island life at the farm. Sounds like you're happy with the rhythm and learning you've experienced there. Looking forward to hearing more about your experience. Has Art of Mentoring or Jon Young come up at all? I'm curious to know how much of an influence that work has on their approach. We're bringing Jon here in May for an evening talk and then a weekend workshop at a sister school in Idaho. Very excited about it!

Deep peace and big eyes to you, journeyman!


Mom said...

I enjoy your writing and not just because I know you have a journalism degree! I feel like I am there through your descriptions. Sounds like a piece of Heaven!

h. ryann. said...

ben. i just enjoyed looking at this with your brother. it is so incredibly beautiful and please please keep posting more.

i am praying for you and am so glad that you are doing well.