Building a Demonstration Farm

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Over the past month, the Himalayan Institute Mexico’s plot of land has been transformed into an inviting and effective demonstration farm.

After Arturo, a civil engineer from the Jonotla City Council, donated his time to create a design for the land, a team led by two brothers, Humberto and Manuel Arriaga, immediately began putting the infrastructure in place.

The early stages of land preparation included clearing brush and leveling portions of the land.

In order to make the entrance level, a retaining wall was built with natural materials.

The paths follow the contour of the land. They are built into the hillside and are bordered by locally grown bamboo poles and stakes. A red volcanic rock that comes from Mexico was used to cover the paths. Unlike concrete, these rocks will allow rainwater to percolate down through.

The hillside plot of land now has level paths winding throughout it, bringing order to the property as well as welcoming people to walk through and view the land. Once the paths were in place, the Energy Farming team mapped out its vision for installing demonstration areas where visitors can learn about such concepts as terracing, composting, organic fertilizers, and crop diversification.

Click on the map for a larger view of the plan for the Demonstration Farm.

The first installation was a large compost bin, constructed from bamboo and wire. This entire area of the land is on its way to becoming the compost zone, in which HIM will model numerous methods of composting, including heap composting, bocashi (a form of fermented composting), vermicomposting, and the production of liquid composts and biofertilizers.

The first batch of compost was made by layering a variety of high-carbon materials with high-nitrogen materials: older compost from kitchen scraps, fresh green weeds culled from the land around the compost bin, coffee pulp, and partially rotted wood.

On a lower portion of the land, where a level portion forms a natural terrace, a shadehouse was constructed from bamboo and wire supports, with shadecloth over top.

Because the shadehouse is positioned at the base of a hillside, a small canal was dug to divert water away and downhill from the house, preventing flooding of the shadehouse. The canal is filled with small stones, which will also help to filter and slow the water flow, thereby decreasing the amount of soil carried away by water erosion.

The shadehouse will be one of the first organic nurseries in the area. Around 10,000 seedlings can be nursed at once in this space, which is approximately 8×8 meters.

Meanwhile, in the upper part of the land, another team of workers built an open-air pavilion. With three large tables beneath, the shelter will be used as an outdoor classroom and will provide a shaded place to rest while enjoying the view of the demonstration farm.

The Demonstration Farm will host its first round of visitors on April 29, when Himalayan Institute Mexico has its Gran Apertura (Grand Opening) in the community. But the land won’t be a total surprise—many curious neighbors have already begun to stop by.

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