[Market-farming] Help for Roots Farm, Dominica

karen sutherland karen at rootsfarm.info
Sun Mar 4 16:10:38 EST 2018

So many of you have asked how you could help us survive and recover from
Hurricane MARIA which in one night in September 2017 destroyed our farm, an
investment of some 17 years, along with almost all Dominican agriculture.
Apologies that the rigors of day-to-day survival here and the difficulties
of communication have delayed my response and also keep me from answering

Brief recap and update:  Category 5++ Hurricane Maria packing winds in
excess of 220 mph danced a ( beginners) Argentine tango down the spine of
Dominica. Our farm at 1600-1800' got kicked to death. 17.5 acres of mostly
interplanted tree and root crops just reaching 1st year of commercial
productivity after 16+ years of hard labor, intermittent weather
catastrophes (like the terrible landslides from TS Erika in 2015 followed
by the damages from the winds of TS Matthew) and heavy financial investment
which effectively converted all assets (except land) into now unpayable
loans.  (Other undeveloped rainforest land will have to be sold to pay off
those loans, hopefully to someone who will treasure and preserve what is
left of the postMaria forest).  Government assistance in the past has been
limited to treated seeds, synthetic fertilizers and Ag chemicals along with
discounted prices on treated seedlings. 5+ months post Maria, we have not
received any aid to rebuild.

We have cleared the rubble and replanted a market garden with short term
crops for some income to keep our and our long time farmworker's family
eating and paying (some) bills.  We are now about ready to start cleaning
and replanting the farm proper.  We have no financial resources left to
rebuild (or income to repay the crushing debt required to establish the

Weather has been very difficult and challenging since Maria:  WIND!  RAIN!
Continuing lack of any electricity, of infrastructure, including
communications, of supplies in local stores that have been able to reopen,
frustrations and time sinks at every turn, stress everywhere, further
increase the difficulty of recovery.  Market conditions are dismal both due
to infrastructure failure and the exodus of people post Maria without the
usual tourist and snowbird influx.  Lack of refrigeration and income keep
people from buying vegetables.  Only a handful of restaurants and eco-inns
have reopened, further depressing market opportunities.  Hirable farm
workers have been lured out of agriculture by the bigger bucks in building
and road reconstruction.  Disheartened landowners allow their land to be
used by immigrants who abuse the land and produce with herbicides and
pesticides and erosion-producing methodologies, while flooding the local
market with produce being sold at under true production costs.  Government
aid to farmers has distributed treated seeds, pesticides and synthetic
fertilizers.  We have as yet been offered nothing we can, in good
conscience, use.

What would help us most is actual experienced physical help with clearing
land of fallen trees, with weeding, with pruning, with carpentry.  We have
a 2 bedroom guest apartment (see Facebook: RootsFarmGuestApartment) --
currently no electricity but otherwise comfortable and clean -- in which
helpers could stay.  (Andwe do expect electricity to return in next few
months.)  Perhaps potential contributors might wish to donate to a fund to
help defray transportation expenses for a volunteer worker.  I have just
set up a Paypal account for RootsFarm at protoscape.com to receive any such

And, of course, there is the matter of the worker(s) themselves.  Anyone
interested in a few weeks or more of hard work amongst beauty and hope in

If no one is able to come, any moneys raised would be used instead to
purchase and ship untreated seeds or phytosanitarized replacements for at
least some of our hundreds of lost fruit and nut trees (mangosteen, lychee,
rambutan, mamey, etc. etc. etc.) that will not otherwise be available in
Dominica;  and/or such organic supplies as iron phosphate slug bait or bird
and trellis netting; or farm/marketing tools/equipment such as coolbot
storage,  Ez-up market protection, etc.

Other helpful actions:

Come to Dominica and tell your friends.  A work exchange at our farm would
be great and allow us the pleasure of meeting you, but even a standard
"vacation" here or elsewhere on the island would help the economy in

Help us find ethical conscious buyers who will continue to share with
nature our (was and will be again) gorgeous rainforested land we have to
sell and who will not be developers who open up the land and with it the
entire surrounding area to standard development.  We have a Facebook page
(written before the storm): Gorgeous Tropical Rainforest Land for Sale.

Sometimes good things emerge from tragedy -- Dominica is currently
proclaiming itself on a path to be the world's first climate resilient
nation.  (Whether this is fund-raising verbiage or path to a real change
that includes not just technological "fixes" but also changes in peoples'
consciousness, hearts, minds and behaviors remains to be seen).  We are
pushing the understanding that resilience must include LONG TERM
self-sufficiency, which means regenerating so land remains full of life,
and that resilience requires diversity in crops and techniques and
solutions.  We would be so grateful for help demonstrating that naturally
based farming systems can be key to both short and long term survival,
sanity, resilience.  Without successful demonstration, people will continue
to rely on the short term, narrowly-measured-productivity enhancing
chemicals and techniques which are destroying the health of our earth.

I am thankful to you all for your concern and support.

All best wishes,

Karen Sutherland
Roots Farm Organic Produce
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