A trip to the Peninsula of the North coast of the Dominican Republic: Las Galeras.
On the weekend of Jan 19th, 2013, I left the farm early one morning for Samana via a direct gua-gua. It left in rising sun at 7 am from nearby Saboneta and arrived there at 10:30 am. It was a very easy trip with one stop on an uncomfortable and overcrowded bus which was exacerbated by the holiday weekend. Fortunately it was cheap too, only 300 pesos ($7.50 USD). From there I met some friends and we went onto Las Galeras which I am sure is one of the more beautiful places on this island. Very Caribbean with its palm ladden beaches, forested hillsides in the distance, and white sands with colors of the sea you can hardly imagine.
So it wasn’t all just beaches as we stayed at a place called Los Mariposas just outside of the village of Las Galeras. We stayed the weekend there at the Italian family run place which started the holiday home business and then ventured into agriculture some years later. Their agriculture adventure has spawned one of the great projects for rural development in the Dominican Republic known as La Ruta del Jengibre
; a ginger co-op. It was quite amazing to see, 80 something growers with the legal structure all there as well as all the papers and legal bull**** to export the ginger. Apparently, there is a huge market available in Germany which is of no surprise to me as any trip into the processed aisle of an organic supermarket in Europe will quickly reveal who lays claim to the chief food processor. In fact demand is so high it outweighs production right now. Unfortunately, their Italian foundation money has dried up and are looking for capitol investment to expand to better meet the market demand.
They have had great success but last year I believe it was they had a problem with Fusarium. It is a plant disease that turns the roots of plants into black mush. From what I know its proliferation is set up through low oxygen conditions which was probably brought on by heavy rains. Oxygen is pushed out of waterlogged soils and the red soils stained from iron content looked poor and present tough growing conditions. We had the same problem in Costa Rica with our ginger and turmeric roots the year before I arrived which was one of the farms cottage industries through steam distillation producing organic essential oils. We talked awhile at the processing center with one of the co-op members where the ginger is washed and readied for export. He revealed they do some fertilizing with chop and drop and also with vermiculture and what sounded like compost extract. Unfortunately my Spanish failed me a few times along the way.
Also there where we were staying I met another grower but this time of coffee. I talked about Taino Farm and he felt like it was too low in altitude in Los Brazos to produce coffee. He offered other choices which of course we have like Cacao, cinnamon, and avocado’s. He had formed a relationship with the Ginger Route and together they were marketing a coffee with ginger inset. Spicy and yummy!!!!! But there I also was able to collect some seeds and the woman who runs the joint gave me turmeric bulbs from her garden. She said it grows easily for her and so maybe we can grow both ginger and turmeric. Both are great medicinals with a great range of fresh and dried uses. Overall it was a great weekend and upon arrival to the capitol I had a great meeting with some folks from the seed and education company from Florida known as ECHO. The weekend was refreshing and informative and set the stage for getting to know the country better as now I work from the capitol of Santo Domingo for some days.