Panama Organic Farm,
Finca Santa Marta.

Finca Santa Marta is located in an idyllic location on the banks of the Gariche river.  The river winds majestically through the property and from certain locations the visitor has some stunning views across the valley and down to the pristine river.

The property has outstanding natural beauty and serenity. A perfect setting where nature's bounty can be truly organically produced.

American’s, Ron and Kim Miller in 2008 opened an organic farm in the village of Santa Clara, a few miles west of the Chiriqui City of David. Their 17 hectare farm on the banks of the Gariche river has 17,600 square feet of greenhouses and they supply restaurants and private homes in the Volcan, Boquete and David area and in fact all across Panama.

Ron Miller, a 60+ Virginian, says he started selling his produce 9 years ago at the Tuesday community market in Boquete

The demand for his produce has always outstripped supply and on his farm there has been a constant expansion to try and fill the demand. He told me that he could easily sell ten times his current output – the problem of course as in any new enterprise is getting the bugs out – in organic farming that has to be done literally.

PICTURED ABOVE: Pink Chavalitas-a big no-no to nematodes

One might think it’s just a case of building more greenhouses, but organic farming is time consuming and can be highly frustrating. In traditional farming you can of course just spray the living daylights out of your vegetables. However, in the organic world inventiveness is the keyword and at times you need to be downright cunning.

As this immaculately clean prep room shows, all aspects of production at Finca Santa Marta are of the highest standard.

The archenemy of organic farming are aphids and nematodes. These little pests can destroy or consume entire vegetable plots. Ron took me into one of his newer greenhouse where his wife Kim was potting some new herbs. He showed me two known ways to combat aphids, first is to plant marigold flowers. The aphids hate the pungent smell of marigolds and these are his first line of defense. Next Ron and Kim have hung bright yellow plastic strips all over the greenhouse. These plastic sheets are covered with a sticky glue. The amount of insects stuck to these sheets was clear evidence of their effectiveness.

Ron’s assistant Richard, showed me several varieties of a flower called “chavalitas.”  (Red Chavalitas pictured above)These flowers come in a variety of colours, yes, they make the gardens quite lovely to walk through but their prime purpose is that they release a chemical into the soil that nematodes hate. Again underlining the basic tenet of good organic farming - “you do not have to use chemicals.”

 In addition there are harmless agricultural soaps that can be sprayed onto plants and some cases there are certified organic sprays commercially available.

However, before you plant your organic vegetables you have to prepare the soil. Ron pointed out to a visitor that even using chicken manure has it problems as you can’t be sure that the chickens haven’t be given antibiotics. These antibiotics will of course be present in the chicken manure and could pass through to the plants.

Santa Marta overcame this problem by simply raising their own chickens.  I looked at the two types of chickens they raise on the farm – some for food and others for egg production – and the most obvious aspect is that these feathered friends are treated well. I am sure we have all been horrified by pictures of factory farming. The chickens at Santa Marta are living almost luxuriously by comparison – they have oodles of room. 

The chickens have another great advantage – they eat organically. Close to the chicken coops are banks of beautiful green “Mani” flowers. These resemble beds of buttercups and occasionally our feathered fowl friends are let out of their coop and allowed to dine “Al Fresco” on these wonderful yellow flowers.

The farm is a hive of activity but visitors are welcome and invited to see for themselves how well a modern organic farm can be run.

Even with all the modern organic technology Ron says certain kinds of peas, lettuce and broccoli simply can’t be grown at lower altitudes. “Organic farming is a process of constant experimentation,”  Ron added.  He had successfully grown Ocra but his workers let it grow too big. Ron discovered that it was best to harvest the Ocra when it was much smaller

Finca Santa Marta has recently expanded into cattle production. Again people are concerned not only about the vegetables they eat but also about the meat they consume. 

Pictured above the organically grown herb:BASIL

Demand is such that planting and potting is a regular activity. 

Pictured above: Bok Choy. Once just a Chinese speciality vegetable now widely enjoyed outside of Asian cooking.

Pictured above 2 types of Kale. Kale is now regarded as one of the most important cancer-fighting vegetables. 

The fruit to the left is called Guanabana.

This is another product that some people claim has cancer fighting properties.

This fruit I found growing on a tree just feet away from the greenhouses.

Don't let its prickly exterior fool you, this fruit has the taste and consistency approaching a cream and custard pie.

As these long English cucumbers demonstrate, some vegetables by their very appearance, show how well they have been grown.

Ron’s prices are certainly acceptable for organic produce as his constantly expanding business will testify.  Ron says he is 95% organic, true there is no certification in Panama at this moment, but he says people are welcome to come to Finca Santa Marta, and see for themselves.

FINCA SANTA MARTA is a truly One-stop-organic market with dozens of products ranging from fruits, vegetables, eggs, herbs, meat and much more. Please CLICK on the link below to go directly to their website.

PHONES:

Panama cell 6459-5218 (no messages)  

USA cell phone (540)-560-9680  

Panama office 777-9229 with answering machine 

e-mail:

FincaSantaMarta@me.com

TO ORDER PRODUCE.

Please go to their website at:

www.fincasantamarta.biz

or CLICK link box to right.