Plenitud: Visiting a Sustainable Farm in Puerto Rico

While searching for ecotourism destinations in Puerto Rico, I found out about Plenitud

Kids in garden with text overlay that says Our Mission

Screenshot of the Plenitud website, where they feature “Sustainability, Art, Community, and Education”

Their pictures and mission sounded great. So I called and emailed and arranged my own private visit.

These are my notes and pictures from visiting the farm and meeting their team on Monday afternoon, April 15, 2019.

About Plenitud

a hand-painted sign which reads: Bienvenidos a Plenitud

I forgot to take a picture of the big sign on the main road. But this small sign near the kitchen says: Welcome to Plenitud

Plenitud is located towards the west of Puerto Rico. It is a sustainable farm and educational project. They are grounded in the principles of permaculture. 

Map of Puerto Rico showing the location of Plenitud farm

Map of Puerto Rico, showing Plenitud about 1 hour east of Rincon and 35 minutes from Mayaguez.

The farm is 15 total acres in size. Eight people work there today, and more are hired for busy seasons.

From their website:

Plenitud PR is a non-profit educational farm and community dedicated to service in sustainability and the arts… At the heart of our service is experiential learning in sustainability and the arts that engages people in community service, fosters relationships, and creates connections.

Why Do I Care?

I love the idea of visiting a farm. I live in New York City and am surrounded by a concrete jungle. Seeing where my food is grown and touching dirt are far from everyday happenings in Manhattan.

Three chairs and a wooden bench, looking out over green fields

Overlooking the hills of Plenitud farm from this sitting spot, which is a very different view from where I sit in NYC

Visiting the Property

Owen and Paula, co-founders of Plenitud, greeted us warmly at the top of the property. The entrance gate is covered in Puerto Rican flags and general spirit.

Wooden sign with locations pointing to Rio Arena, Centro de Estudio, La Vecindad, Nate's Garden, and more

This directional signage inside the farm helps students and other visitors to Plenitud in Puerto Rico find their way around the property.

There were also three German Shepherd-like puppies by the entrance. This place is great!, I immediately thought.

After a brief orientation and tour, we would pick some of our salad ingredients to be prepared for lunch.

Superadobe in Puerto Rico

Orange and white with a roof

Final construction on a superadobe home on the Plenitud campus in Puerto Rico

The first stop on our tour was to learn about sustainable construction methods. Paula showed us a few new superadobe projects that were currently in progress. These are labor-intensive but weather-proof homes that they are training locals to construct.

Structure is gray, looks rounded

Under construction: a new superadobe house near the entrance of Plenitud

Originally, some locals made fun of these superadobe structures and their odd shapes. But after the recent hurricanes, when a finished superadobe house on their property survived and weathered the storms without a scratch, there was a greater sense of respect for these.

Looking outside of a window, from inside the house

Inside the superadobe, where you can see the wall construction

Walking through an adobe structure, we could immediately feel the cooling effects. While it looked funny, it felt very nice inside. Sturdy and cool and peaceful.

Small structure blue and white lines with roof, dog house

They even have a superadobe dog house!

Variety of Plant Life

Next we went to explore the gardens.

As we walked down the hill, Paula explained to us the terraced garden technique that they engineered to preserve the hillside and prevent against erosion.

Pink flower on a long green stem

Not grass; this is a flower. But is a better photo than boring grass. Fun fact: Owen later cut three of these flowers for us to take home.

We saw some thick-rooted grass which they plant on either side of a hill to bind the soil. This was another occasion for some “I told you so’s” (my interpretation, not Paula’s) after the hurricane. The Plenitud farm did not experience as many landslides as other properties nearby who had mocked their planting of this grass.

Pink flower with green leaves in background

Also not grass, but pretty in pink.

Harvesting Our Lunch

Every day on the farm, the staff eats lunch together, putting all work aside to be present for the communal meal. We would now help in that process by harvesting some vegetables.

Daikon radishes

Man wearing sunglasses and cowboy hat on a farm

Me harvesting my first plant from one of the Plenitud gardens.

The first vegetable that we pulled from the ground was daikon. The soil seemed full of clay.

Hand holding a plant with lots of green leaves, white root, and clay attached at bottom. Blue tarps in the background

The daikon radish that I pulled fresh from the ground

Breadfruit in Puerto Rico

Two pieces of breadfruit on a tree in Puerto Rico

Jackfruit hanging from a jackfruit tree. These can feed a lot of people!

Next, we had the chance to harvest bread fruit, which I personally thought was not a good fruit until I had a chance to eat it later. This so-called fruit does not have any sweet flavor. It tastes more like a potato.

Dirt road and two women looking up at a large tree

Rachel pulling down a breadfruit while Paula from Plenitud looks on

Later for lunch, Paula fried it twice into tostones as one would typically do with plantains. The breadfruit paired well with stewed and deliciously-seasoned jackfruit.

Spinach and Other Greens

Next up was the greenhouse to harvest greens. There was chard, baby arugula, spinach, collard greens, and more. We cut the greens as close to the base as possible.

Man wearing hat a white shirt, pointing at vines of spinach

Me pointing at some spinach growing inside the greenhouse of Plenitud in Puerto Rico

 

Many green leafy vegetables in beds

Fresh green leafy vegetables that we picked and snipped for our salads

This was very exciting because it was the first time during our visit to Puerto Rico that we saw so many vegetables! Most of the food we have eaten in Puerto Rico before this visit to Plenitud had been fried food.

As we were harvesting, Paula noted that Puerto Rico falls very low in the list of vegetable consumption among all US states and territories. As a native of Puerto Rico, she grew up disliking vegetables because she ate them primarily from a can.

Green leafy vegetables inside a bowl

Freshly picked greens which we will use for our salads

With a fresh bowl of greens, we left to relax on the gazebo while Paula and others prepared our lunch.

Hammock Gazebo

Woman relaxing in a hammock

Rachel relaxing in a hammock at the gazebo

This was my favorite space on the farm. It was so nice to relax here and listen to the sounds of the river. I even fell asleep for a few minutes.

Man hugging a dog while he lays in a hammock

I think this is a no-no, but I gave their guard dog a big hug.

Vegetarian Lunch

Time for lunch, and what a treat it was! It was an honor to have our meal prepared by the founders of this sustainable permaculture farm in Puerto Rico. The food was extra delicious.

Overhead view of a lunch

Cashew cream in the red container. Fresh cherries, nuts, plantains, salad, and more.

 

Lunch trays on top of tables. Puerto Rican flag in the background

Sitting down to lunch with this view.

Questions for Plenitud

During lunch, I asked these questions of the Plenitud team. I’ve included their answers as I remember them after each question.


What’s the point? What are you trying to do here?

We share love with the local community and beyond by offering workshops, cooking, and farming grounded in principles of permaculture. Owen noted that though people may connect with Plenitud initially for more external components (farming/building practices), they ultimately come away with an internal shift.

Could you franchise Plenitud in different parts of the territory?

Owen suggested we read the book Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered by E.F. Schumacher. Then Owen said, “We’re trying to grow organically, just through relationships. When we find the right people, the “Who,” we get more energy into those special projects. Like now, with Rebecca, doing more agriculture.

When kids come to alternative breaks, they never knew they could eat vegetarian food for a week. Sometimes they get letters years later from the students about how much their visit changed their lives.”

What are your most popular workshops?

Last year we got a grant from the Hispanic Society to fund workshops on bio construction.

What are your major funding sources?

Many grants and volunteers.

How much is your annual budget?

$150k-$250k/year.

How do you manage your alumni list?

Hector on their team does this. He uses Trailblazer software for non-profits. We talked about making an ask to alumni, especially the students, immediately after visiting. They had concerns whether this would give “bad vibes,” but also “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

What’s up with your Airbnb tours / what has your experience been?

There isn’t enough traffic here yet. It is too difficult to host a couple people a day at $25 per tour. While they want to share the land and mission with others, there is also work to be done everyday by each member of the team.

Why is dance so important?

Folks around the table look at each other and smile before replying, “Why not??”

How do the Alternative Spring Breaks for college students work?

College students from alternative spring break programs shared in a promotional video that they came to Plenitud thinking about externalities: vegetarian food for a week, learning about permaculture farming and building practices etc. And then they came away impacted most by an internal shift within themselves.


With lunch finished, we explored the farm a little more.

After four or five hours it was time for us to leave and continue our trip around Puerto Rico.

Conclusion

It was an excellent afternoon and I enjoyed my visit. I suggest visiting Plenitud to anyone who is interested in vegetables, farming, Airbnb experiences, and seeing a more rural side of Puerto Rico. Now I have a lot more respect for the work they are doing.

Thank you to Paula, Owen, Rebecca, Christina, and Hector for hosting us with open hearts and minds.

Special thanks to Rachel McEvoy for help exploring this space and editing this article.

More Information

More Pictures

Woman holding two flowers, Owen a founder of Plenitud wearing a maroon shirt

Rachel and Owen discussing permaculture

Large blue plastic tank

Water collection device near the kitchen area. It is located directly near the greenhouse

Brown small-ish turmeric roots in black containers, on concrete floor, with sunflowers in the background

Turmeric roots, drying in the sun. They want to sell these to a wider audience.

Thanks to JD at Plenitud for providing corrections and updates on the above!

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2019-05-31T12:22:48-04:00 April 21st, 2019|General, Travel|