After an overnight flight from LAX and a transfer in Lima I arrived in Quito Ecuador after 24 hrs of traveling. My hosts were there to meet me and we had a 45 minute drive to Hacienda Verde. The farm is located about an hour outside of Quito right on the Equator – walking from north to south on the farm I crossed the Equator 5X one day. The farm consists of 100’s of acres and is a combination of Dry Andean primary and secondary forest as well as thriving agro-forestry projects managed by Fabian Bucheli and his wife Lucia de la Torre. Tannin, avocado and citrus trees are the main producers with understory plantings of beans, alfalfa, peppers and other harvestable plants. Diversity is a key to the management of the farm. Some of the land is leased to a flower producer, as well as to a poultry production operation. The other parts of Hacienda Verde are actively managed by Lucia and Fabian. All irrigation is gravity fed with water obtained from reservoirs on the farm. Irrigation canals are dug across the hillsides and water is diverted to fields on a rotational basis. Horses are used to help with the harvest. One of my purposes in going was to photograph the plants, animals and insects on the farm. It is a photographers paradise. A highlight was standing quietly on a hillside
covered with flowering plants photographing hummingbirds. Ecuadorian cuisine is outstanding. Fabian and Lucia have created their own special fusion of Ecuadorian (Lucia’s heritage) and Columbian (part of Fabian’s heritage) recipes that made each meal memorable. Fresh juice is made daily from passionfruit, tree tomato and many other fruits. And did I mention the cheese? also made locally. It is pure foodie heaven. Fabian and Lucia are actively developing a eco-tourism business involving guided hikes of the farm and surrounding forest lands together with a traditional meal following the hike. They are also going to be offering cooking classes featuring fresh picked produce from the farm. If you are planning a trip to Ecuador I would highly recommend contacting them and arranging a visit. Contact information can be found at http://www.fabianbucheli.com
On one day of my visit we drove to the market town of Otavalo via the backroads that used to be the main trail that the native Ecuadorians took to get to Quito to sell their products and pick up supplies. The towns are located about one days ride apart and are 500 years old or so. The scenery as we climbed into the Andean Cloud Forest – another unique ecosystem in Ecuador – was spectacular. We dropped quickly into Otavalo after crossing the mountains. Lucia and I briefly explored the local market and then we drove to a lake near Otavalo where Lucia is monitoring a family run business that sustainably harvests reeds from the lakeshore and creates everything from furniture to wall art to baskets and more. On our way home we stopped at the beautiful home and dairy farm run by Rafael and Baunila – friends of Fabian and Lucia. They have about 30 cows – mainly holstein crosses as they are healthier than the American holsteins in this climate. Dairy management is far different than in North America. Cows are milked for up to 8 years and are on pasture every day. Rafael and Baunila welcomed me into their home with open arms and we had a wonderful visit.
The final day of my visit was spent photographing pollinators.
Honeybees are disappearing in this part of the world as well which is very worrisome as they are the main pollinators of avocado trees for example. Lucia is looking for another pollinator if honey bee populations get much lower – the first step being to identify what was visiting each plant. We found some wasps and a bee I call a panda bee that were also pollinating fruit trees.