Thank you for visiting my website! I’m Sadhu, the founder of Govardhan Gardens, a natural living and self-sufficiency oriented farming project near Mayagüez, Puerto Rico.
After traveling the world for over 20 years, doing volunteer work for various cultural, social, altruistic and agricultural projects, an opportunity came up to acquire my own land. Thus, I could fulfill my old dream of living in nature and being as self-sufficient as possible. When I acquired my land, a ten acre farm, it had severely eroded, heavy clay soil and it was mostly covered with weeds; in short, it was a major challenge to even get the most basic cultivation going.
My first project was to grow as much of my own food as possible. Despite all the challenges, I lived off the grid for a while and was happily eating my own produce. At that time, there were not more than a handful of organic projects in Puerto Rico, and everyone grew more or less the same limited varieties of crops. I felt that there was a need to bring more diversity to the island and I started to systematically collect tropical fruit species. Since I needed an income to survive and develop my farm, I soon opened a small tropical fruit tree nursery.
Within less than a decade, I was able to establish the most diversified tropical fruit and nut collection as well as nursery in the Caribbean. By now, my farm has turned from a weeded place full of invasive plants into a true tropical fruit forest. In February of 2012, I reached my original goal of planting at least 350 tropical fruit and nut species at my farm. (Update July 2013: by now, the collection has reached 400 species - which surprises even me). Almost all of the collection species are spreading fast throughout Puerto Rico which is a big step in securing the fruit future of the island. About 160 of these new tropical fruit and nut species are the first ever being circulated in the Caribbean.
Throughout the years, I continued to systematically study, propagate and promote new tropical fruit, herb, vegetable and bamboo crops. In March of 2007, I published "Oro Verde - Securing the Future of our Food" - which is a proposal of how to improve or even revolutionize the derailed state of agriculture in Puerto Rico. I am happy to see how a new generation of small -scale farmers is taking advantage of this publication, and is currently helping to introduce a new era of sustainable, holistic farming in the tropics.
Puerto Rico, like most other Caribbean islands, lacks biological and genetic diversity of vegetables, grains and herbs. In order to help improve this situation, I started the Oro Verde Foundation with the help of a local activist and farmer, Magha Garcia. From my perspective, the acquisition of the hundreds of required tropical vegetable and herb species is a major challenge, and foremost, the endeavor is a race against time. Open pollinated heirloom seeds are disappearing at an alarming rate and ruthless corporations are working hard to control the world's seed market.
In the fall of 2007, I began to add a bamboo collection of high quality structural, edible and ornamental bamboos. (A special thank you for his guidance and help goes out to Jim Rehor, who has one of the most beautiful bamboo collections in the Western hemisphere). I consider bamboo cultivation one of the more important steps towards self sufficiency for any small scale farmer. Some of my nursery species are already used by farmers as wind breaks, living fences and even as a food source. I am looking forward to the day when I can start to popularize bamboo construction projects in Puerto Rico.
All these years of improving Govardhan Garden's eco system has led to an increased bird population (Birds @ Govardhan Gardens). In order to protect and support the avian community, I have written a Bird Manifesto and the farm has become a true bird sanctuary, with over 50 species frequenting or living here. I also started an island-wide program of studying local and visiting tropical bird species systematically.
By the end of 2015, was able to document 170 species, which increased to over 220 species by November 2016 and to an unprecedented 250 species within 2.5 years (June 2017). I am currently trying to find land for a privately run bird sanctuary in the southwest of Puerto Rico. Please contact me in case you want to support this much needed and important project.
In 2015, a local TV documentary was put together about the farm. July 2015 marked the planting of the 450th tropical fruit/nut species, which happened to be Garcinia multiflora. The Garcinia collection itself has expanded into one of the largest private Garcinia collections in the world (50 edible species).
In December of 2015, I completed a compendium of the best 1,000 fruits on the planet. The work was done for a friend of mine, who is considering to put up a new fruit web site for fruit enthusiasts.
In July 2016, I gave two interviews that were read by tens of thousands of people on the island and abroad: http://www.organicfarm.net/Article_Naled_Assault.htm, http://www.organicfarm.net/Article_Naled_Aftermath.htm
2017 turned out to be the year of the extremes. On one hand, I was involved with very interesting projects and I also set a new record of documented bird species for Puerto Rico (227); on the other hand Hurricanes Irma and especially Hurricane Maria destroyed large areas of the farm. I had to dig deep and revisit my original plans. The botanical collection, which had grown into the most diversified and important fruit tree forest in the Caribbean, was largely destroyed. I was able to continue the project only with the help of friends and generous well-wishers and I am still in the process of cleaning up the farm as well as reconsidering its future. 2018 mostly went by with emergency farm work and also starting to work in Haiti. Two issues that were of particular concern to me, turned into the following two articles:
Both articles surround unfortunate and saddening topics, but I felt it was important to adress them. The first of these two articles was published in Puerto Rico's main agricultural newspaper, Agrotemas, and the second was related to one of my Haiti visits.
There is undoubtedly much work to do and maybe not that much time left. We are living in a fast paced materialistic time where money, power, exploitation and mass manipulation dominate practically every sphere of life. It is not surprising that these unhealthy dynamics are resulting in an artificial economy, based on the exploitation of limited natural resources. Now that this artificial economy is about to crumble under the weight of having reached its peak, sustainable agriculture and lifestyle are again in a position to resolve many of humanity’s deep-rooted problems.
In general, a citizen has only two identities for our governments: being a tax payer and devoted, materialistic consumer. All necessities of life are increasingly controlled by centralized powers and my work is to fight these powers in order to create a network of independent self-sufficiency oriented communities.
Every other year, another false hope or dream is sold to the public. Currently, there is much talk about the progressive "green wave", and as usual, it is a dishonest product meant to be sold with high profit margins. Almost all "green" products have the same unsustainable, toxic background as any of the conventional products ( Link to Solar Power Article ). It did not take long and the once idealistic organic movement has been infiltrated by opportunistic and ill motivated people who have no concern for true holistic eco-farming or nature in general. All they see is a new opportunity for high profits and a white-wash of their bad conscience for having been addicted to toxic agricultural practices. The fight over government grants for organic and sustainable projects has already begun, and the same power hungry and greedy people who were enthusiastic proponents of mono culture and toxic chemicals, are now the ones grabbing most of the federal funds circulating in the system. As usual, the honest and hard working small scale farmer doesn't see a cent of these funds.
It is not difficult to understand what all of this has done to our agriculture. As a result of unqualified agricultural leadership, Puerto Rico's agriculture has been pushed to the brink of extinction. Today, there are only 18,000 registered farms and slightly over 30,000 farmers left. Much of the farm land (several thousand acres per year for the last six decades) around the island is sold, broken down into smaller plots and subjected to erosion, neglect or housing developments. A good percentage of these 18,000 farms are not under cultivation and the vast majority of the cultivated land has practically no diversity. The main concern for the local department of agriculture is still the coffee mono culture industry, which ultimately doesn't benefit anyone. After all, we need to grow food, not unhealthy stimulants. Instead of seeing farming as an ecologically responsible lifestyle, Puerto Rico's agricultural "leaders" see farming merely as a business based on exploiting farm land.
For too long now, Puerto Rico’s agriculture has followed the same trend that prevails almost worldwide by only growing a few mono-crops that are “cultivated” with an array of pesticides, chemical fertilizers and herbicides. The average modern farmer and sadly especially the government has had little or no concern or vision for an ecologically sound and sustainable agriculture. Not many farmers know about the medicinal, nutritional or insecticidal properties of herbs, fruits or vegetables, and only very few are self-sufficiency oriented. Instead of seeing farming as an ecologically responsible lifestyle, modern agronomists see farmers merely as a business based on exploiting farm land.
Currently, the island is highly food-dependent (about 94% of all foods consumed in Puerto Rico are imported). Unknown to most, a large percentage of those imported foods contain hundreds of dangerous chemical additives and transgenic ingredients. “Oro Verde – Securing the Future of our Food” explains how the island could turn towards a healthy, decentralized food production and become largely food self-sufficient.
Holistic farming can be a meaningful and fulfilling way of life and it will always remain the most important natural means of economic security. To reach this point, nothing short of a complete paradigm change is required. I hope to be instrumental in paving the way for this change by inspiring people to become independent thinkers and true lovers of Mother Nature.
Feel free to contact me if you need help with finding, designing or developing agricultural land in Puerto Rico or the Caribbean.
For those of you who would like to visit in person, the fruit tree and bamboo nursery are open by appointment at any time of the year. Extended farm tours are only possible during the dry season (January-March). - Sadhu