Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Personal Account by Compost Specialist Herbe Zapata

In 2011 Mr. Zapata earned his Veteran's Sustainable Agriculture Training (VSAT) certification. Certified as an Agricultural Irrigation Specialist, he also has his Food Manager Handler’s license and is experienced in the areas of integrated pest management and small business administration. He has also earned certifications as a Master Gardner and Master Composter. F2F volunteer, Herbe Zapata shares with us a personal narrative of the first week of his June 2013 trip to Dominican Republic.

Herb Zapata leading a session with producers in El Cercado
I arrived in the Dominican Republic on June 15 and was driven out to El Cercado in San Juan de la Maguana. I went to La Hermita where I conducted a composting and vermiculture lesson and built a shadehouse. I also built a pen on the ground to keep the worms in with cow manure, explaining the importance of a three layer bin and how to keep areas separate on the second level with food and paper. Sunday I traveled to the villages Los Tablones de Batista and Derrumbadero, where I assessed the open field irrigation systems. One issue I encountered was a pig living on the the hill on top of the spring where the community gets its water for crops. I advised them that this was unsanitary because it leeches downstream through the soil. Hopefully they can address this problem with the owner and mediate the situation. Monday and Tuesday I visited the villages of Pinal Grande, Boca del Humo, and La Rancha, assisting horticulturalists with their greenhouses, shadehouses, and worm hoop houses. I was pleased to see that Pinal Grande had lots of worms in their manure pile, keeping them sufficiently moist, as previously advised. I was asked to do a symposium the next three days for farmers from all the nearby villages: Wednesday on compost and vermiculture; Thursday on integrated pest management; and Friday on organization financial structure. I worked with the community providing technical assistance, practical hands-on experience, and sharing my knowledge of how to sell directly to customers, through farmers' markets and CSAs.

I must say my experience has been warm and heartfelt. I’ll always think of the people in these remote villages and their need for a just and leveled system across the board. This bi-national island is like the rest of the world, they have borders by land or sea, and immigrants trying to cope with a global economy.

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