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NEVER LAND Farm, CHIRUSCO

Location: Loja, Ecuador
This is a Biodynamic farm in the Andes with the idea of living in an 'earth first' manner. We are an intentional community, albeit a highly transient one! We host people from all over the world with the intent of teaching the manera antigua, the old ways of farming in Ecuador, and offer a community living experience in a mostly sustainable and healthy environment.
We are about living young, not too many rules (2) and play for work is the norm. Work is shared by all and is usually FUN (the more the merrier), although we DO work hard, often in the sun (bring a hat and gloves if you can).

NEW VOLUNTEER INFORMATION HERE!! PLEASE READ THIS IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN COMING TO HERE!
We have a fairly constant stream of volunteers and students coming and going, so I have decided to ask everyone to try to drop me a line when you are coming, and if you come earlier or without notice, please bring a cheese or 2 pounds of meat or some chocolate or something, everyone loves treats! And if you must just show up, well, we will find a place for you somewhere, no worries. By having longer stays on the farm we think that we will be able to complete more projects, the kitchen runs more smoothly and volunteers get a more complete orientation and are actually able to participate in, and even complete projects. Persons who come for 2-3 days or one week simply do not get the quality experience we want for every volunteer. This doesn't mean you cant come, but most people who come for such a short time end up extending their stay. And I ask everyone to pitch in for a week at a time, even if you are only staying 5 days.

There's always something to do at the farm!!!

Whether we are harvesting cafe', gardening, weeding, creating a rock and cob hot tub (this is progressing vveeerry VERY slowly), milking or caring for goats or pigs, or doing the loads of animal care, we are having fun, not exhausting ourselves too much and treading lightly on the earth. Our gardens are providing some but not nearly all of our produce at this time. Garden work is a constant. Hans, our German gardener, has retired but lives on the farm and occasionally teaches wine making or bread classes. Hans is a permanent member here, an older German man. Any German books on biodynamic agriculture, especially those works of Maria Thun, are especially welcome! We are currently searching for a long term garden manager/apprentice to help us improve our produce production.

Several Ecuadorian men and women and families work with us, so the dominant language is Spanish. No worries, you will pick it up quickly- some of our helpers also like trading english, french, german, whatever, for spanish lessons. But you do have to go and work with them in the garden or field or on the mountain to learn! All really nice people, fun, and good teachers.

We have lunch at 12:30-1:30. Lunch is large- we almost never serve less than 10 people and we try to have soups and meat and veggie daily. We drink a lot of our own hand picked cafe. After lunch we work till 3:30 or so. This is Mon-Fri so it should work out to 25 hours a week although it is in reality closer to 18-20 hours due to weather, unexpected circumstances, and general lounging (that hammock is deadly, after lunch siestas can go long). It's relatively hard work (weeding, turning garden and compost beds, planting, etc) but, it's not a really long work day and we usually have some fun in the process. Bring gloves!! Bring extra gloves, we will buy them from you if they are any good at all. Somehow we always need more gloves!

Generally, we have between 2-15 volunteers at any given time. Volunteers stay from a few days to a few months. At least a couple of weeks is preferred to give you time to really experience the farm but it's not mandatory. We have bunk house type accommodations with 2-6 in a room but also have rooms for couples and even larger spaces for families, at need! We ask for a minimum $50/wk contribution, which helps cover clean linens, candles, gas for cooking, food not grown on the farm (and food grown at the farm, of course), Silvia to help us keep the kitchen sane, cows that we milk for our own milk, yogurts and cheeses, chickens for biodynamic eggs, meat and compost and the general operating expenses of the community. Additionally, our farm supports several families locally, we are supporting a few teenagers to continue high school education, we do tremendous amounts of community service work, we offer free Internet and wifi to the town nearest us and we support a local midwife practice. That would be me, Tina. Each person contributes equally in this community, and it IS an egalitarian community. It's nice, since we all put in equally no one has to ask permission to make a snack or bake cookies, all food is communal. But make a lot!
The farm cannot offer the quality of experience that we do without the support of every community member, permanent and transient. Additionally, many people make donations, both specified and unspecified- feel free to pitch in, and by pitch in i mean contribute. And try to help out by being prepared to pitch in your share when you come to the farm, not expecting someone else to cover your week until you get to the bank machine in town! Thank you. I don't call this paying for food, it's much more than that. The small amount the volunteers contribute goes an amazingly long way. Our farm is a source of local income, donations and service. Because we all participate, we all benefit. And the benefit is mostly inclusion, we are always invited to the local fiestas, bingo games, we have a lot of fun. It's really nice to get to feel a part of a community even when you are here for a short time.
We eat VERY well!!! Vegetarians and carnivores alike are accommodated (fruitarian, too, but you have to gather your own which is not included in farm hours as it takes a lot of time). At this time we buy some produce (mostly tomatoes) off the farm from organic growers but are aggressively trying to bring our self-sustainability up to at least 70%. We are fairly remote, being a 45 minute walk to the nearest little barrio(town) Tumianuma which has a usable telephone (.25 a minute to the USA) most, but not all, of the time and snacks, beer, soda etc. as well. Someone there has a pool table too, in their house, but if you play pool you will probably be welcome! Tumianuma has really good fun parties. Really good!

Our farm does now have internet. We do not include internet usage in our weekly participation budget (its too expensive), so if you need access for more than just calls to your folks and quick email checks, you can pitch in some on the monthly bill, please! Tumianuma and the farm have wireless internet since Jan., 2011, thanks in part to a lovely donation from globalgiving.com. We, Neverland farm and the volunteers, pay for this internet access, we don't ask the neighbors to help, they are just learning it all and have no money for this! But it is really helping the high school kids. We also have pretty good solar panels, mostly for lights at night and definitely for music, for charging batteries etc.
Our internet cafe' in Tumianuma is NOT open now, our new space is not yet wired and we are waiting for funding to complete it. It will be in the big new Community salon in Tumianuma, next to the church. Neverland farm has been a major donor in this construction, check it out when you come! Our local high school need volunteers as well, in computers and english pronunciation. If you are interested in teaching, you must be motivated. Its an early morning and they only have morning classes. But the english teacher there says please, anyone who can spend even a few days helping with pronunciation will be very welcome. Let me know in advance if you are committed to this, its a great way to meet people and learn more spanish, but requires you to dress appropriately and commit to your time with our students.

Vilcabamba is the closest town of any size and that's an hour bus ride from Tumianuma (population 300 +/-). It has telephones, internet cafe', an ATM, and some of the comforts of civilization. Loja, another hour ride from Vilcabamba, is a larger city and is where you'd need to go to find harder to find items.

Speaking of, PLEASE do not bring non-rechargeable batteries to the farm. They tend to accumulate (disposable batteries are NOT) and we have no way of disposing of them properly. I really highly recommend the BoGoLight from SunNightSolar for excellent solar rechargeable flashlights that last forever. If you get any of these lights the farm will happily purchase them from you at the end of your stay!

Please do not attempt the path in/out at night for your first time, you will get lost. Our neighbors will save you but its better in daylight. If your bags are too heavy to take on a 35-45 minute walk, leave them at the store in Tumianuma with Gloria and her family. They will be safe there and you can get someone to help you come in with a burro and pack your things out. Don't try to be a hero carrying a monster weight. Please don't leave your things sitting beside the path to retrieve later, many people walk this path, and while they are not thieves a big pack just sitting there in the middle of nowhere does look kind of like a nice gift, no?!

The past years the farm has seen projects to maximize our garden and orchard production, as well as a more organized and comprehensive volunteer program. And we are now accepting apprentices for longer term through the North American Bio-Dynamic Apprenticeship Program, NABDAP. Anyone interested in longer stay at the farm should consider this possibility, it is an excellent program and we are always happy and proud to host trainee farmers!

I hope this answers most of your questions. If not, just drop me an email. Please refer to the rest of the website for detailed lists of what you need to bring, directions to the farm (oh- we now have a lovely rock and cement post/metal gate at our entrance, with a sign with our farm name on it) and lots of other useful info!!! Peace, and happy travels!

We have only 1 cow at this time. We have a stallion, mare (peruvian paso fino) and a really wonderful filly, gone on her first ride with a saddle TODAY, burro and pregnant burra, little burro Pinocchio, born on the farm, two pigs, Morty and Gladys, 15-20 chickens, our milking goats are all pregnant and will not be milking again til we have babies, and way too many cats and dogs. I guess we will be have bees coming as soon as someone gets dedicated to THAT project! Our farm has around 30 acres under irrigation, most of it pasture land, 60-70 varieties of fruit trees and cafe scattered all over the place in a really nice example of an established (but overgrown!) permaculture farm and a 2 acres established garden with another acre just going into garden production. We plow with oxen, we are heavily dependent on pack animals. There are very few motors here, one old chain saw and a brush cutter, both now broken, to be exact. What percentage of our food we grow ourselves varies week to week, but this week I estimate that only 45% of our food has been produced on the farm...
I guess you could say that this is a sustenance level sustainable farm. Everything that happens here has to be funded by, well, everything that is happening here. We have a regular stream of volunteer labor, woofers, help ex'ers, green workers. The national universities send me students for practical work towards their titles, mostly short term, two weeks, maybe 50 kids a year. Our water systems are all gravity fed and we have a lovely creek running through the farm and constant spring that flows from the mountainside for our drinking benefit. It IS paradise.
I am very casual. I have a hard time adhering to a schedule. I do manage to be regular for the animals, they aren't nearly as flexible as I would like them to be! I have a goal here to teach people who want to be BD farmers by giving them lots of free rein and practice. We make most decisions by talking about things and reaching accords, vs the executive decision making process. This means sometimes things take longer than expected! But it also means that everyone comes out feeling good about what's happening here. I ask that anyone who come to live and work here treat the farm as if its their home. And it is your home, with rights, for the time you are here. It's a different approach, but it's been really successful.
I advocate an egalitarian lifestyle, so we share and share alike. I like this because it comes out that even someone who is wealthier than everyone else eats the same food and lives on the same budget while on the farm. If I am having a steak dinner, or eggplant parmesan, everyone is having it. We eat very very well here, food being the what and why we do this!
The farm and its Volunteers have built a classroom for special needs preschoolers, bathrooms, a multi use sports court and added handicapped accessible rooms and routes to homes of less abled persons in Tumianuma, Quinara and Yangana. We have provided wheelchairs, medical and emotional assistance and we all go and help out our neighbors whenever asked. We support our local elementary school and have installed fruit trees, irrigation and painted. We seem to paint a lot, old peoples homes, the church, the school. Always something to do! And the townspeople all know my name and the farm. I like to think we are well loved here. I know that we are invited to every local party, fiesta and ritual, we always attend and we are always embraced by the entire town. Is only 150 families, so it's not that big a deal, but it is very nice.
Please have a look at more of our web page if you are interested in coming. The names change, as daily and monthly activities, but everything is still pretty much the same. I ask that everyone participate economically, but I am able to be a little flexible if the need is great. We scholarship almost all South Americans who want to be here, as well as pay for a couple of kids a year to attend high school, so money is short. But I would hate for lack of money to mean someone would be excluded.

All members, temporary and permanent have to participate in daily chores and cooking, perhaps 6 hours a day. You must be fairly self motivated here!

Lg overly friendly dogs live with us, outdoors only, as well as cats, horses, cows.
Solar power for music and light only. NO TV. Farm is truly in the forests, secondary lowland, so you may see wild animals, great for birdwatching.
We recently had 8 nationalities represented here at lunch! Join us.
NEVER LAND Farm, CHIRUSCO NEVER LAND Farm, CHIRUSCO
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