During a recent trip to Panama we visited Boquete, a major agricultural region of the country. Most of Panama’s vegetables and all the coffee is grown around the Boquete region. Thirty microclimates and year-round temperatures between 60 degrees and the low 80’s makes it feels like spring every day.
We were drawn to the local Tuesday Farmer’s market which featured a bounty of vegetables, coffee, local honey and other treasures. It was there that we met the owner of Finca (farm) Feliz, Lynne Van de Kar, and received an invitation to visit.
During our visit to Lynne’s farm she showed us the crops and operations on her ¾ acre property that was formerly a coffee farm. She removed 75 Arabica coffee trees, keeping just a few for personal use, and began to establish her market garden. Lynne brought much of her own equipment and tools from California as it was difficult to locate such items in Boquete. She grows many crops that are familiar to us such as a variety of berries, herbs, vegetables, and fruit trees. However, also available at Finca Feliz are avocados, oranges, grapefruit, limes, bananas, figs, guavas, and Surinam cherries. The growing season is year around!
Garlic is a new crop at Finca Feliz this year. Lynne acquired some Gilroy, CA garlic that she will be growing for the market. Since there is no local garlic available at the market, Lynne will be able to introduce a new product for the gourmet cooks in Boquete.
Lynne grows something that was new to us, Moringa, a food crop that is abundant in nutrients. Moringa leaves provide protein and vitamin C, along with numerous other nutrients, vitamins and minerals. The plant grows as a tree and is managed so that it stays short enough for harvest.
Pests familiar to our gardens must also be managed in Panama gardens. One very familiar to us, the cabbage looper, visits her brassica plants. Lynne uses an integrated pest management approach, keeping her soil and plants healthy to combat pests. She has a large greenhouse where she grows most of her berries and some vegetables to keep them safe from birds, squirrels, Iguanas and coatimundis (Panamanian raccoon). The greenhouse also protects plants from the intense rains and winds. Shade cover is employed to protect plants from the tropical sun.
Except for the coatimundis and an occasional Iguana pest, it was very interesting to us how similar gardening in Boquete is to gardening in Marengo. Contact us at sdeberg@ marengo-uniontimes.com.