WE TRUELY LOVE WHAT WE DO AND SHARING OUR PASSION OF PERMACULTURE IS WHAT WE DO BEST!
WHAT IS PERMACULTURE?
There are literally hundreds of definitions of permaculture and as far as we are concerned, they are ALL VALID. Part of respecting and valuing diversity and self-regulation means tolerating ideas or interpretations that one may not agree with. While we spend a lot of time in the garden and working in nature, permaculture is applicable to all aspects of life. A more technical approach to permaculture suggests that we mimic nature and natural patterns to design and implement ecosystems that meet our collective needs. A deeper definition considers the whole of human culture and suggests that permaculture is a tool for designing new ecological culture, considering the whole of the earth in all of its strategies. Whatever definition works for you is cool. We like to say, it doesn’t matter what you call it, just so long as the work gets done!
The original land, bought in 2009, is comprised of 2.2 rocky acres with a year round river marking the western border. By taking advantage of this river, the whole farm now has reliable, gravity-fed water, a system that has no moving parts, pumps, energy usage, or regular failures. While the land does have an abundance of water, the original soil was another story. The whole farm is rocky and covered in only thin layers of soil. Due to irresponsible corn cultivation techniques over the past few generations, our farm soil was very worn out and, while still rich in some minerals, it was severely lacking in organic matter and major nutrients. We should note that the original condition of our farm is representative of much of the valley floor in which we are located. Naturally, the goal is that each year we are actually building more soil, covering rocks, and creating fertility.
The farm is now being developed into smaller areas which can be classified into three types, not counting the human and animal buildings.
1. Intensive vegetable cultivation areas (30% of total area)
2. Food Forest with Integrated Wetland areas (50% of total area)
3. Fuel and Food Forests, which are generally found on the most steep slopes of the farm (greater than 30 degrees) (20% of total area)
These three types of cultivation are employed based on the natural lay and geography of the farm, which creates an interwoven patchwork designed to capture water, soil, sun, and other valuable resources, while also producing high value products for sale and trade. The creation of these smaller plots also enables us to have control over the grazing patterns of our animals. This design is constantly evolving and has been based mainly on Permaculture and Innovative Organic Gardening Techniques.
Here is a brief introduction to our staff. We are all focused on building and maintaining a fully-functioning, profitable, organic permaculture farm. We are proud to say that we are able to support 3 families of our staff member with vegetables, fruit and animal products.
SHAD QUDSI - Co-founder of Atitlan Organics
Shad Qudsi has 15 years experience in organic and commercial gardening and farming. He is certified in Permaculture Design and has over 6 years experience in holistic site development and homesteading. Shad originally set out to study mathematics and work in big business, but long ago had a change of heart. He can now be found dancing in his garden in Tzununa. Aside from all of this, Shad is an enthusiastic teacher who truly believes in the work he is doing. Human resiliency cannot be erased from the landscape and now, it is coming back with a gentle loving caress.
MAX BENJAMIN - Earth Works and Homesteading Ninja
After earning a degree in mechanical engineering, Max spent eight years enjoying rich travel experience in India, Southeast Asia, Latin America, USA and Canada between stints faking it at a handful of 'good' jobs. Eventually, Max left his marginal existence in New England and opened El Jocotel, a small ecoretreat on a slope around Lake Atitlan in the western highlands of Guatemala. There he studies, practices and teaches permaculture to visitors from around the globe.
BENITA HERNANDEZ - Goat and Dairy Ninja
Bonita has worked at Atitlan Organics for 2 years. She grew up here in Tzununa. Her job on the farm is to prepare breakfast for the volunteers. She works very closely with the goats. Every day she takes them on a 2 hour walk so that they can eat fresh shrubbery and get some exercise. She loves her job and feels very privileged that she has the opportunity to work on the farm because work for women in Tzununa is often very hard on the body.
NICHOLAS HERNANDEZ - Farm Manager
Born and raised in the town of Tzununa, which lies right below Atitlan Organics, Nicholas has worked with Shad and Colleen since Day 1, helping to craft the this amazing landscape. Nichloas is a supreme ninja farmer with skills beyond explanation. Shad and Colleen are endlessly impressed with his resourcefulness, ingenuity, and sheer motivation. Nicholas runs the day-to-day operations of the farm and manages the other farm workers.
JUAN CUMES - Vegetable and Animal Ninja
Jaun has been with the farm for 4 years. He is in charge of all vegetable production beginning with seeding, composting, weeding and finally regular harvesting for markets. Juan also walks the goats. He is the farms closest neighour living across the river where he tends his own small garden with his family.
LESYK CENKO - Lead Developer
Lesyk has a degree in Biomedical Engineering from Johns Hopkins University and is currently studying for his master’s degree in Biotechnology and Business Management at Carnegie Mellon University. Lesyk is partnering with Atitlan Organics to implement a local expansion project which includes the construction of a sustainable living education center. In his spare time, Lesyk is a kiteboarding instructor, avid skier and motorcycle enthusiast.
NEAL HEGERTY - Ninja Volunteer Manager and Beet-Man
Neil is originally from Ireland. He grew up on a dairy farm and has been around animals all his life. He studied agriculture in Ireland and has worked as a permaculturist for the past 10 years in Antigua. During his weekends he helps families to start permaculture gardens. Neil runs the volunteers every day on the farm. He makes sure they are on task and answers any questions students may have.
HALEY CALDERWOOD- Plant Propagation Ninja
Haley is from suburban Southern California. Having changed her major multiple times, and feeling a lack of practical skills, in 2013 she dropped out of University to travel through Central America, where her real education began. Permaculture Certified for 3 years, Haley is passionate about reconnecting others to live in harmony with nature. She has made Lake Atitlan her home, where she manages a small farm, teaches, and gives consultations.
COLLEEN QUDSI - Co-founder of Atitlan Organics
Colleen was born and raised in Rhode Island, later moving to Maryland to attend the Johns Hopkins University, where she studied International Relations and Economics. She came to Guatemala with Shad in 2008, and since 2012 has been teaching at Escuela Caracol, Guatemala’s first Waldorf School. In her free time, Colleen likes to cook and ferment, go running, read, and study Kaq’chikel, which is the indigenous Mayan language of the area.