If you really want to experience permaculture – or finally figure out what it actually means – La Granja de Mama Lulu is well worth a visit. For the past 34 years, Mama Lulu (or really one of her two sons) has worked to turn a former coffee plantation into a veritable mountain oasis. The property is just under two acres, but hosts enough biodiversity to feed the family of two kids, a husband, wife, a sister, uncle and mother.

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The owner explained the family was presented with a decision to make nearly 35 years ago – continue competing in the coffee rush, or opt out and restore their land to a level of production that could support the entire family. Going with the latter, the pequeña granja also began to serve as an educational center to learn about biology, botany, entomology, and of course permaculture.

The small site is impressive in the amount of resources it’s able to provide and systems it’s able to support. In addition to the human family, the farm also boasts ducks, chickens, pigs, rabbits, three goats and one cow, not to mention several aquaculture ponds. Tucked among the papaya, mandarina and banana trees are the tall grasses for the goats and the cow, along with the hibiscus bushes preferred by the rabbits. And, because nothing is wasted at Mama Lulu’s, the animal waste is no exception. Composting didn’t really come as a surprise, but using the pig manure to create cooking gas was impressive. Waste from the pigs’ cement pen is regularly collected and funneled into a holding tank that’s covered with, what looks like a garbage bag. With the help of shit-eating bacteria, and heat from the Colombian sun, the pig poop is converted into gas for the family’s cooking stove.

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All in all, Mama Lulu’s didn’t disappoint.

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February 24, 2014