Finca Morpho: A Planned Permaculture
Finca Morpho is an intentional community that has come together to bring our many visions to life. We are a sustainable permaculture farm that focuses on bettering our small community and the community around us. There are five community members, and we also host a volunteer program for individuals interested in learning more about permaculture, sustainability, and intentional communities. In the past two years we have been involved in many different community projects and activities: Puerto Jimenez Community Garden, free permaculture workshops, Adopciones Peninsula de Osa , farm-to-table events, volunteer programs, and planting fruit trees along the road to Matapalo.
According to Permaculture: A Design Manual by Bill Mollison, “Permaculture is a system of agricultural and social design principles centered around simulating or directly utilizing the patterns and features observed in natural ecosystems.” When hearing about permaculture, it is even more helpful to understand “permanent culture,” which simply means creating a system that can function indefinitely within the limitations of nature. Mollison also states that, “Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single product system”. Permaculture has three main ethics: 1) care for the earth, 2) care for the people, and 3) return of surplus to the land and people. Along with those ethics we have a design process that focuses on observation first, analysis next, combining the data into a plan, and finally acting on the plan created. At Finca Morphos we work with the Earth by planting local fruits and vegetables that grow naturally in this type of climate.
Our first challenge was changing the way we looked at the world around us. First we noted that the property was once used as cattle fields and rice plantations, and our observation was that the soil was dead and in need of regeneration. Our focus has been to plant specific plants that provide nitrogen and potassium for our soil, two elements we were missing. Also we allowed the natural ecosystem to recover by allowing some plants that are normally considered weeds to grow. These “weeds” are nature’s way to regenerate the soil; zinnias, marigolds, chanca piedra, madera negra , and dandelions have evolved to extract nutrients that would otherwise not be available. They achieve this through a symbiotic relationship with fungi, protozoa, and bacteria in which they exchange nutrients directly through a mycelium network similar to our Internet. Using these principles, we have begun to grow many types of different foods. Another unique feature of permaculture is companion planting, in which crops are planted together in beneficial combination instead of only planting a mono-crop field. This means you can grow more in less space and have less maintenance because all spaces are filled with usable plants. We have planted chaya, Pacific spinach, turmeric, ginger, sacha Inchi, bananas, moringa, jungle salad mix, okra, and sweet potato all in one small area. Each of these plants require different nutrients from the soil and provide an input back to the soil as well. The plants are not competing directly with one another for the nutrients in the soil; rather they are cooperating to create an abundant and healthy forest. This is how it occurs in nature and we have found that our plants are larger, healthier, and happier by duplicating this at Finca Morpho. To see more about this amazing science, check out the documentary video by BBC “What plants talk about” on YouTube.
In a sustainable community or property there are many challenges to make sure we are working with and not against nature , while creating as little impact on the Earth as we can. Permaculture is more than just plants and involves culture and community. One of our sustainable practices is growing our own bamboo and using reclaimed and recycled wood from old projects to create our wonderful structures, homes, and composting toilets. Our composting toilets mimic the natural process of dealing with manures by using black soldier fly larva, sawdust, and occasionally biochar for a deodorizer. We use a 55-gallon drum to hold the waste until it is full and then set aside for about a year for health concerns to use as a fertilizer for our trees. You can learn more about composting human waste in The Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins. This process is key in permaculture as we strive to produce no waste. Another sustainable project we have is our trash program, or as we like to call it our “resource center”. We are one year into our trash program where no solid waste has left the farm. Finding new ways to deal with waste is a full-time job on the farm. We stuff most of our trash into larger plastic bottles called “Eco Bricks” to use like regular bricks in building almost anything. Other trash we accumulate on the farm can be used for roofing, art projects, insect hotels, and planters. Projects we have going on the farm go on and on and never stop because we are striving to become as sustainable as possible.
Our community is tight knit, and we focus on improving ourselves as well. Living in a community is challenging, but we have many practices that bring us closer together and allow us to positively communicate.. On Fridays we have talking-stick circles, where everyone can come and share in a safe and loving environment and openly share while everyone listens. We have weekly community meetings to help refocus and keep us all working as a whole rather than only individually.
At Finca Morpho we’re excited to share our knowledge to progress to a more open world. In January we are hosting a Permaculture Workshop, which will consist of a 3-day hands-on experience with teachings about the basics of permaculture and how to implement it into daily living living. There will be a farm-fresh lunch served and a lesson on preparing and cooking the foods we are growing. We have a lot to share and hope to see you here.