Even though I have a business background and will eventually be assigned to a business position here in Panama, I’m part of a larger program called Sustainable Agricultural Systems. Because 80% of the SAS volunteers will be working specifically with crop production, and the rest of us (5 of the 24 SASers this year) will be working in agri-business, we all have to go through an agricultural training program.
During our tech sessions, we’re learning everything from how to grow tropical crops to how to teach basic business to farmers who might not even be able to read.
Today was pretty darn cool though, because we just got government issued machetes. How many people can say that about their job? Since none of the farmers down here have enough money to buy electric tools or tractors, machetes are used for tons of things like clearing brush, pruning plants, and even cutting wood and food (think full pigs, not bread).
While we were clearing an area for gardening, we found a sugar cane and got to eat it raw! In case you’re like me and had never seen a raw sugar cane, it looks kind of similar to bamboo. We peeled the bark off and then got to eat it. Imagine really soft wood that’s been soaked in some sort of sweet, sugary water, and you’re probably pretty close to the real thing.
I knew food was going to be fresh down here, but I didn’t realize how fresh! Besides the sugar cane, I’ve eaten avocado, bananas, papaya, and mango straight off the tree. I’ve also had some new vegetables like yucca, otoe, name, and an unnamed vegetable that was as close to a cooked, savory watermelon that I can imagine.
I’m looking forward to continue this fresh eating trend, especially when I spend next week at a cacao plantation!