Tour Side-by-Side Food Crop & Clean Energy Production
Puerto Rico is known for its beautiful beaches, delicious food, and rich culture. Now, Agrotourism should be added to that list. You can visit many different types of agricultural-related farms all around the island. The Tropical Fruit Farm and Turbines Experience at Finca Don Manuel in Santa Isabel is one we we did recently and really enjoyed.
Finca Don Manuel is located in Santa Isabel, a town on the south coast of Puerto Rico, about 1 hour from the San Juan area. The thousands of acres of agricultural land in Santa Isabel are owned by the Puerto Rico Land Authority, who leases it to various farmers and Pattern Energy (who owns the wind farm).
Finca Don Miguel is a beautiful, large farm (about 320 acres) where they grow a multitude of tropical produce, like plantains, bananas, squash, corn, pineapples, and papayas. Because Puerto Rico’s climate allows the farm to produce all year round, you can see the plants in all stages of growth. There are also a handful of the large wind turbines amidst their crops, so you can see these amazing structures up close and at work while touring the farm.
This tour at Finca Don Manual was a great experience. On it, we got to see the rows and rows of plants for miles, along with the majestic wind turbines spinning in the distance. Once we arrived, we relaxed in an open air (it was breezy!) gazebo, where we were offered water and a piña colada. They also provide, and highly recommend, sunscreen — you will need it when you head out into the growing fields.!
Our guide (Jenny) is an agronomist on the farm. She is with you for the roughly 1 hour you out touring the farm. You get onto an uncovered farm wagon (pulled by a tractor) and it takes you around through the different crop areas, where the guide will explain all about the crops — how they grow, when they are ripe, how they maintain the soil, etc. Additionally, the crops are grown using sustainable farming practices, which promote healthy the soil and reduce plant diseases, so they can replant the offspring or tops from their harvested crops. All very interesting. Jenny was great, and she gave a bilingual tour for us.
As we passed by the different crops, we learned about each of them — plantains and bananas (the similarities and differences in growing them), papayas, and pineapples. We got off the tractor in the shade of the plantains and the workers arrived with Coco Frios, which they opened for us to enjoy and cool off. Here, the owners and Jenny were available to chat and answer questions about the farm and the crops.
Then we went right up to one of the large wind turbines, where Jenny explained a little bit about them. These things are massive … like 380 feet tall! The almost constant Caribbean breezes make clean energy without hurting the crops or using much horizontal space on the ground. All very interesting to see and learn about. As it turns out, the farm does not use the energy produced by the turbines (it goes to Luma for use in the public grid), but the farm does use their own solar panels to generate their energy.
This farm land used to be sugar cane fields, so they still use the old water canal system that was made in the mid-late 1800s for irrigation. You can see the remains of a sugar train car loading system, and even the old farm equipment still sitting where it was abandoned. They are considering planting some sugar can on the farm, just for historical purposes.
Back at gazebo, you can see lots of the birds that enjoy the farm! Plus the fish that live in the water holding “lake”. Our tour had dinner included, which was a yummy, typical Puerto Rican meal of BBQ chicken and/or ribs with the usual sides (even a pastele!). Here we enjoyed more cold water (or soft drinks), and some of their freshly cut pineapple — so sweet and delicious! And wonderful treat!
Combining sustainable farming practices with public education about the dedication and effort required to cultivate crops in Puerto Rico, this farm tour serves as an outstanding illustration of how a brighter future can be forged for the region. Gaining firsthand experience through education and visiting a farm helps individuals recognize the significance of supporting locally grown produce.
This is appropriate for all ages. Areas where we walked were relatively flat. There are only a few steps to climb to get into the wagon.
They offer a couple of different tours (by reservation only). There is the Tropical Fruit Farm and Turbines Experience (described here), and another shorter version they can do during the week in the evening. Check their webpage for times/dates and available tours, and to book the tours. Contact them directly to arrange for student groups.
The longer tour like the one we took are generally offered mornings or afternoons on weekends, or Thursday/Friday, after the farm work is done!
The farm tour is in full sun – bring a hat, and sunscreen.
Allow about 2.5 hours for the tour.
Finca Don Manuel is located on Carretera 542 KM 3.4 in Santa Isabel.
The farm is about a 1-hour drive from the San Juan area.
Click on a placename below to view the location on Google Maps ...
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