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Maya Mountain Research Farm Intern Program Thank you for your interest in Maya Mountain Research Farms

Intern Program. Below you will find more information about our background as an organization, the region we live in, and what to expect from our intern program. An additional resource is our web page, which has lots of information about what we are doing, and some photos of the farm. Who We Are: MMRF started out as a family farm, run by Christopher Nesbitt and Dawn Dean, who were latter by their children Esperanza and Zephyr. In 1988, the farm was purchased and a transformation from a cattle and citrus farm into a productive agroecosystem began. Since then much work has been sunk into rebuilding the soil and creating an agroforestry system comprised of fruit trees, timber, tree legumes, herbaceous perennials and medicinal crops, as well as building housing, developing water systems, and establishing gardens. Throughout time, MMRF has expanded to its current size of 70 acres. In 2004, MMRF was created on this land. Working with a board of directors, MMRF was first a not-for-profit business, and then, after review of our program by Government of Belize, a registered Non-governmental Organization. What We Do: Our mission is to research and demonstrate sustainable agricultural techniques and technologies appropriate to Belize that promote and ensure food security, economic security and environmental conservation and to transfer this information to farmers and extension workers in Toledo and other interested people. We provide a venue for training and research. We have provided training for Peace Corps and Belize's Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries Department, Ministry of Health, several village councils, local schools and international Universities, as well as local NGOs and Community Based Organizations including Tumul Kin, Yax Che Trust, Sustainable Harvest International, Friends of the Valley, Belize Botanic Gardens, Toledo Institute for Development and the Environment, Plenty Belize, Toledo Development Corporation, and local community members. We have also hosted groups from the US such as Sierra Institute, Appalachia State University, Cornell, UC Santa Barbara and Truman State University. Permaculture at MMRF: MMRF is a very well established farm utilizing permaculture principles. We have hosted permaculture courses here that had both international and local participation and been taught by renowned permaculture teachers Toby Hemenway, Penny Livingston, Maria

Ros, Larry Santoyo, Andrew Goodheart Brown and Albert Bates. Our annual Permaculture Design Course is a wonderful way to learn permaculture, but living here for extended time is a very good way to experience crafted living systems. The farm has been designed to mimic natural processes, and, in microcosm, with our stacked polyculture, and vertically integrated components, our agroforestry system resembles the primary rainforest in structure. We raise chickens, turkeys and duck, and we also raise insects for poultry food. The farm is set up to facilitate internal nutrient cycling. Location: MMRF is in a beautiful location at the southern foothills of the Maya Mountains, which, except for a narrow coastal plain, cover the south of Belize. We are situated within one mile of the Columbia River Forest Reserve, and within two miles of the Kekchi Maya village of San Pedro Columbia. The Columbia River, which springs out of the ground mile up river from MMRF, is also one border of the property. Access to the farm is by trail or river. From February through May, during dry season, the river is crystal clear. From May to December, during rainy season, the river is a bit higher and the water is brown. Big floods can come during rainy season, but they only last a day or two. With the Columbia Branch of the Rio Grande at its door step, and with the vast expanses of the Maya Mountains behind it, MMRF is located in a critical location for conservation. Wildlife is abundant here, with hundreds of species of birds, and occasionally mammals like jaguar and peccary. Cultural and Ecological Context of Our Work: Toledo District, where MMRF is located, is the most marginalized district in Belize. Rural communities in Toledo face environmental damage and land degradation from increasing population densities and migration from Guatemala. Agroforestry has a significant role to play in solving many of the problems that face Belize in the 21st century. By demonstrating and sharing sustainable agriculture techniques, MMRF hopes to ensure food and economic security while restoring ecological services in our district. About the intern Program MMRF has an intern program designed to train people in low impact living, sustainability, permaculture, tropical agriculture and agroforestry.

Working and Learning: Work at MMRF greatly varies with the seasons, but there is certainly plenty of it all year long and of different interests. Interns can expect to participate in the day-to-day running of the farm, to help facilitate the courses when happening and to be in charge of a largely self-directed project if they are staying for more then a month. Most of the daily work here is agrarian, involving planting and maintaining plants, harvesting and processing food. Common activities include gardening work (weeding, mulching, watering), food processing (harvesting, drying of beans, fermenting cacao, preparation of meals, pickles, jam, chutney, wine and vinegar), maintenance and development of the agroforestry system (mulching, pruning, tree planting), management of the poultry, maintenance of the trails and infrastructure (digging of trenches, building of stone steps or paths, cleaning of buildings, sewing, construction of furniture), data collecting, seed collecting, identification and labeling of plants. Work can be hard and at times dirty, but very enjoyable and definitely a great way to gain knowledge. Another learning resource is the library, where interns can look to find information on tropical plants, natural building, food processing, wildlife of Belize, and all kinds of interesting stuff. A wireless Internet connection powered by solar panels and a wind generator allows interns who bring along a laptop to access the web when the sun is out and the batteries are well charged. Food and Kitchen Work: At the farm there is a major emphasis on sourcing of food from the local bioregion. As much as possible fresh, organic, vegetarian wholefoods are gathered as close to the property as possible. Ingredients which arent present within the bounds of the farm, are collected from the watershed, the Toledo district, greater Belize or internationally, in order of decreasing preference. Advantages of this approach include reducing and in most cases negating the impact of fossil fuel usage in food production and transport whilst supporting the local economy and increasing food security. On a more personal level eating this way increases understanding of food from plant to plate. It can be challenging to learn to live within the limits, both seasonal and regional of such a diet. Flows of food need to be utilized through careful planning of meals and storing any excess yield through preservation. This reality can be one of the most confronting realizations for individuals unfamiliar with living in a reduced energy environment. For the most part, meals are vegetarian. All of the cooking is done in a communal kitchen on a wood fire stove and all meals are shared with everyone present. Interns are expected

to participate in the kitchen work by being responsible for preparing meals and cleaning the kitchen on certain days of their stay. They are also welcome to take part in the post harvest food processing. There is no better way to get in touch with the food produced on the farm. Housing Facilities: Accommodations are simple but comfortable. In order to create privacy as well as a sense of community, the three dorms are a few minutes walk apart, they each contain a few rooms and a common space. They all have solar powered light. There is no television or radio, but plenty of hammocks, tables and games, and interns are more then welcome to bring along their musical instruments. On Saturday night we have movie night, when all the volunteers and interns have the option of gathering together to watch a DVD on the light glow of a laptop. If possible, interns are provided a private room, except while courses are happening, with complete bedding, a mosquito net and a towel. Some times we have to double interns together in the same room. All rooms have two beds. Bathing is primarily done in the river, although there is an outdoor shower for the rainy season and for light use in the dry season. There is one central double vault composting toilet and laundry is done by hand at the river or at the laundry sinks. Upcoming projects: Interns who are staying more than one month may choose to develop a project to be self-directed. Here are some projects that we started, are planning on starting or would like to see happening under somebodys lead: maintain and complex the agroforestry system, establish a goat dairy, create a small aquaculture system for native cyclids, start beekeeping again, develop educational/interpretive trails, create a grey water system, improve the species list, create documentation about wildlife in the area, further develop food processing. We are also open to other project ideas that would be suitable for the location and in keeping with MMRFs vision. Costs: Internship at MMRF costs US$175 per week, or US$600 a month. The Fine Print: To be considered an intern at MMRF, you have to commit to a two week period. Visitors of less than two weeks are considered students/researchers. We are not a hotel. This is a working farm, and interns are expected to be actively involved in the farm. Expect to get sweaty. Additionally, MMRF is a substance-free zone (except coffee and chocolate!), so we ask that drinking and smoking be done off-site.