Goat Protection

VOLUNTEERING AT GOVARDHAN GARDENS

All farms have one thing in common: unlimited work! From that perspective, all farmers would be happy to have countless volunteers helping out. But for some reason, many of the small-scale farmers I talk to are very hesitant to accept volunteers. I thought that it would be helpful for volunteers and farmers to post some of my thoughts in this regard:

Many of our small-scale farmers have very busy lives and can barely make ends meet. They receive very few goverment benefits, if any at all; instead of receiving support, they often have to deal with government opposition and bureaucracy. Practically all agricultural laws are written in favor of corporate farms, and completely ignore even the existence of subsistence farm. Itís therefore easiest for many of these farmers to just do most of the work by themselves or hire some local labor for $5 to $7 per hour. The advantage of hiring local farm worker is that they just do what they are told to do, that they can work by themselves, and that they donít require food or housing. Whenever their work is done, they go home; their work was helpful for the farmer and hardly caused any distraction from his own work.

The main downside of having to hire farm workers is that many small scale farmers simply can't afford it. Most local farm workers are not used to ecologically sound practices (traditionally, farm workers in Puerto Rico have mostly been trained to spread herbicides and chemical fertilizers or harvest a mono crop like coffee) or they canít be trusted (theft of produce is rampant in PR).

One would therefore assume that a volunteer is an ideal solution for every farmer. But this, unfortunately, is rarely the case. First, volunteers who want to help out at farms for extended periods of time, require housing and food. The cost for housing and food per month is easily several hundred $$ - worth 65-100 hours of paid farm labor. In addition to that expense, volunteers who stay for extended periods of time generally require training and attention (which reduces the time the farmer can focus on his own work).

Even if the farmer doesnít mind the training and giving guidance or attention, the volunteer would have to do quality work for at least 20-25 hours a week in order to just break even with the expense of housing and food. Physical work in the tropics is quite challenging because it is most of the time either blazing hot or rained out. While hired farm workers are used to these conditions and usually also glad that they found at least some work, volunteers often tend to think that they are a major support just because they help out for a few hours a day.

Many farmers are therefore charging volunteers or interns in order to avoid any financial pressure of additional cost of food and housing. I always avoided to do that at my own farm and my main conditions for volunteers were just that they abstain from eating meat or drinking alcohol at my place.

Over the years, I have encountered great souls whose primary motivation was to really support the project, but also many others who just wanted to do a minimum amount of work to stay for free and then spend an increasing amount of time at the beach. Because of these experiences, I have become more reluctant to accept volunteers for extended periods of time, and instead mostly just accept volunteers for projects that donít last longer than a few days. This has worked out much better: it was easier for the volunteers (who often over-estimate their own work ethics) and for me.

I am very busy with so many projects, that I can only have people around me who know how to work independently. In other words, for anyone who wants to volunteer at Govardhan Gardens: be self-motivated and ready to really get absorbed in work.

I definitely want volunteers to get the important experience of working in ecologically sound and inspiring farm projects around the island. In order to have a win-win situation for all parties involved, I am starting this new section on my site, where local eco farmers can post what their needs are and what they offer, so that there are no false hopes or misunderstandings.

As far as volunteer work at Govardhan Gardens goes, I have decided to lay down the following ground rules: 

         * I only accept volunteers who have a high level
           of work ethics, who can work independently, and
           who can cook for themselves (only vegetarian
           food! No cooking/eating of meat, fish or egg
           allowed).

         * Minimum amount of work per day: 6 hours.

In exchange, volunteers can stay for free at the guest house.

The best months to do outdoor work at my place are usually November to June . July to October are the apex of the rainy season and mostly rained out, which makes work around the farm is very challenging and risky.

Local volunteers are welcome to help out at any time, even if its just for smaller projects and only for a few hours.

VOLUNTEERING AT OTHER ECO PROJECTS IN PUERTO RICO

If you are an eco farmer in Puerto Rico and you would like your project to be added here, please contact me (sadhu@coqui.net ).

The first project, I am listing here besides my own, is that of a friend of mine, Magha Garcia, called Pachamama Forest Garden (http://pachamamapr.blogspot.com). Her place is still very rudimentary and only for true eco adventurers. Itís a beautiful tropical forest farm with a bordering river, close by Mayaguez / Anasco. At this point, there is neither housing nor electricity available. Any help or donations are welcome. The main goal of this project is conservation and low impact ecological development.

One of the largest eco-projects in the rainforest area (Patillas) that gets many visitors and hosts volunteers is:http://eyeontherainforest.org/?page_id=3744. You can also contact the project leader, 3T Vakil, directly: wanderwoman3t@gmail.com

I will keep posting more projects of friends and farmers who have ecologically sound and inspiring projects.

 

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Sadhu Govardhan is an independent thinker, eco-organic farmer, tropical rare fruit connoisseur and researcher. Extensive journeys for over twenty years have allowed him to study indigenous cultures and different life styles throughout the world.

His first publications on philosophical and spiritual topics were published in Europe and translated into several languages. He now lives in Puerto Rico and has dedicated himself to researching and growing tropical food crops and promoting alternative farming methods. He is currently involved with consultant work and inspiring and developing educational organic role model projects in the Caribbean.

read about the project 

I would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to everyone who has helped out this project over the years. Even if I can't acknowledge all of you individually since so many people have supported Govardhan Gardens in so many ways, I certainly remember every one of you.

If you would like to find out more about the tree sponsoring program and other opportunities to help the project, click here

view sponsors and friends 

This list will grow over time as a natural/simple living resource. I only include companies and sites here that are in line with Govardhan Gardens' vision.

Please let me know if you know of any additional good resources, would like to trade links with us, or if any of these links are broken. Thanks.

View the resources 

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Tropical Fruits Nursery Photos by Sadhu Govardhan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://organicfarm.net/contact.htm.

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