Letting Nature Do its Best Work

At Simply Natural Farms it is key to, well, keep it natural. No small feat when talking about a farm that owns the largest greenhouse and organic nursery in Central America.
by on Thursday, March 26, 2020

The Role of Ingenuity, Innovation, & Technology in Natural Farming

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At Simply Natural Farms it is key to, Well, Keep it Natural. No Small Feat When Talking About a Farm that Owns the Largest Greenhouse and Organic Nursery in Central America.

How do they manage it?

Simply Natural Farms forego toxic fertilizers and pesticides, relying instead on permaculture practices, organic pest control systems, and the production of their own soil amendments and “secret sauce” of a bio-fertilizer. All geared toward producing the tastiest, healthiest crops possible.

The people behind the farm are big believers in avoiding any negative impact on the ecosystems thriving on their land. When our team had the privilege to visit their farms in Los Olivos de Natá this past December, the very first stop on our tour consisted of watching Simply Natural Farms’ CEO and tour guide for the day, Brian Angiuli, rip a handful of leaves right off of a neem tree and chew on one.

He handed a leaf to each person in the party, inviting us to do the same. “Neem is great for your teeth and gums,” he said, and tossed the remaining leaves to the wind. He casually explained that not only do the leaves balance out the nitrogen in the soil, but the potently antiseptic plant also helps with fungus and works as natural pest control.

Neem, as it turns out, grows remarkably fast, with trees reaching up to 13 feet in their first year, under favorable conditions. That’s why at Simply Natural Farms they line their fields with rows of these trees, providing their crops with natural barriers that both shelter them from the wind and keep diseases away.

Their general approach to agriculture is one of ecological awareness and natural solutions. Their land blooming with wildlife—jungle cats, big snakes, tarantulas, and many other bugs—they have a similar attitude towards all of it: It’s there. Simply Natural Farms believes in working with the land, not against it.

Let nature be, assist where you can, and then step back and let it do its job.

One feature that showcases Simply Natural’s approach is their water sourcing. The farms are located in an ecoregion known as the Arco Seco or “Dry Arc.” As its name would imply, the area receives a lot less rain than other parts of the country.

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The Simply Natural farms rely on four major sources for water: Rainfall, natural ravines, the Rio Grande (literally the “Big River” running through their plantation), and their impressive pump water drip system, which draws and collects metric tonnes of water from underground rivers that run through the Dry Arc. The dryness of the land plays a key role in their operation with their drip irrigation system. The climate gives them solid control over the precise administration of water resources, guaranteeing the best water economy.

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They also work advantageously with nature through their grafting process. Perhaps one of our favorite parts of the tour was the grafting procedure demonstrated by farmer Michael.

He explained how they grow a local variety of “mango criollo,” and chop the plant down a few feet from the ground. Then, appropriate cuts are made into the remaining rootstock to graft the scion of a juicier mango variety onto it, securing the graft with the help of surgical tape that dissolves over time.

After the operation, the small tree is shaken and bounced vigorously. Our guides explained that a plant’s nervous system is very similar to our own: dopamine-based. Add a little bit of stress, and survival instincts will kick in, pushing it to adapt and grow. Adequate challenge and pressure seem to bring the best out of everything.

The result is a mango tree that will yield a juicier, sweeter, and less fibrous fruit, with a higher percentage of pulp and a smaller seed. These trees are supported by a local rootstock that is familiar and compatible with the land, and complemented by a tastier, more saleable variety.

On our tour, we witnessed many examples of how mixing technological innovation and natural wisdom, local and foreign techniques and species, can create a special, best-of-both-worlds kind of success—much like the farm itself.

Learn more about Simply Natural Farms here.

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