Alex hammers away with his shovel into the sun-dried dirt. He´s so focused on what he’s doing he doesn’t take notice of me standing behind him. Eventually, we get to talking and he tells me what he´s working on.
“Spinach, squash, and over there I’m experimenting with peanuts.”
Though my Spanish isn’t fully able to catch some of the nuances he describes, his passion is evident.
He tells me of his father who cultivated the earth before him and inspired his love of farming.
The term “farming” though doesn’t really begin to describe what Alex does on the property across the street. He´s more of a chemist in the way he approaches his plants. I stood in awe as he explained in meticulous detail as to why he planted the pineapples right below the sweet chillies. Something to do with watering schedules and the pH balance of the soil, I’m not too sure. But Alex is sure, so I listen to him and try not to feel too ignorant.
The farm is self-sustaining but requires a lot of planning and effort to ensure it remains that way.
Let’s explore what it takes to get a piece of fruit from the farm to your plate.
The Background of Your Food
Because everybody likes them, and because I think they are rather interesting, we are going to use the pineapple or piña as our subject of interest. The following are the steps required to get a pineapple onto your plate for breakfast.
Step 1: Pineapple seeds are planted.
Step 2: Wait one full year. Yes, it’s true; pineapples are remarkably inefficient by nature. A pineapple plant is only capable of producing a single pineapple, which it takes a full year to fabricate. Alex tells me that a pineapple can be grown in nine months with certain chemicals but his processes are all natural. He disdains pesticides and chemicals and speaks of them the way an athlete might speak out about steroids. His dispassion is contagious and I would find myself leaving with a palpable disgust for grocery store produce.
Step 3: Pineapple is picked and brought over to Blue Osa for consumption.
Step 4: The rind of the pineapple is collected and brought back to the farm where it is placed in one of the compost piles.
Step 5: Wait one full year. The compost takes another full year to decompose before it can be used as a fertilizer.
And so the process continues.
To grow a single pineapple, a year’s time needs to be invested in decomposing the compost before it’s ready to be used as fertilizer, then another full year for the plant to produce the fruit. That’s the same amount of time between the summer and winter Olympics. What’s more is, that’s just for the pineapples. On the farm, Alex is growing every single fruit and vegetable I’ve ever heard of, and then a few dozen more. Fruits with foreign names and shapes that look delicious nonetheless.
What became evident is that Alex is running a marathon, not a sprint. He has a surfeit of projects that are being monitored over the time equivalent of a presidential service. It is all very humbling. I usually shovel fruit into my mouth every morning without so much as a thought as to all the time and energy required in producing it. That all changed with one visit across the street.
Alex makes my job as a writer easy for one reason, he´s passionate about what he does. He has been cultivating this earth for twenty-eight years and has no plan to stop soon. Though his sunhat covers most of his face, his smile betrays him and I can see happiness radiating from his face. He really loves what he does.
“I am happy to produce the food that we eat here,” he looks down and uses his shovel to wipe some mud off of his boots. I can tell that he’s smiling again.
It fills me with joy to know that, instead of having to import vegetables and fruits covered in pesticides, from some distant location, we have a very passionate, very caring individual who takes pride in what he does, and supplies us with (quite-literally) farm-to-table food.
What exactly does Farm-to-table mean?
Well, it promotes exactly what it preaches. A farm-to-table approach means the food travels from a local farm source to your plate. In our case, local is right across the street. Whereas most produce today is subjected to, on average, 1500 miles of transportation before it arrives on the shelves, the food on your plate hasn’t traveled 1500 steps.
Well, in order for those fruits and vegetables to travel such long distances they are often picked before they have had the chance to fully mature, meaning many nutrients are sacrificed. Furthermore, farm-to-table food is better for the environment. By omitting the fuel emissions associated with transportation costs, as well as the spraying of harsh chemicals you can indulge knowing your plate is eco-friendly.
Here at Blue Osa, the farm-to-table approach we take with our food lays bedded in the core of being eco-friendly. The food we eat here comes directly from our organic farm across the property. The fruits and vegetables are picked fresh from our organic garden, the eggs come from the chickens that roam freely, and the fish are caught fresh and purchased from local fishermen.
So next time you’re gorging on a pineapple, a bell pepper or a fried egg, stop to think about the journey the food has taken to arrive on your plate. No longer can I eat a pineapple without appreciating what a tremendous effort nature puts forth into its fabrication. In fact, it has inspired an inherent curiosity into the background of the food I so heedlessly put in my mouth. Fortunately here at Blue Osa, if I do have any concerns I don’t need to travel too far to the source. I simply cross the street and have a talk with my good friend Alex. He’s always more than willing to talk food with me, and fortunately natural is pronounced the same way in English as it is in Spanish.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ben von Jagow is an avid traveler and aspiring writer from Ottawa, Canada. He studied Business at the University of Western Ontario and worked in the banking industry before leaving the country to wander. His frugality coupled with his passion for adventure has transformed him into a traveler who searches for diversion in the unorthodox. Before coming to Blue Osa, Ben played professional football in Spain. At Blue Osa he spends his free time being manhandled by the waves with a surfboard trailing somewhere close behind. Despite the ocean´s attempts to dissuade him, he can usually be spotted returning the next day with a smile on his face. To see more of Ben´s work, visit him at www.benviajando.wordpress.com.