Greetings from Venezuela to all our friends and supporters -- here come some tropical treats!
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September 2015

This has been another record year for us in so many ways! Our family planning program is reaching hundreds of new families, and our rural scholarship program is supporting more and more high school and college students as opportunity beckons.

So let's look at another significant activity - agriculture - where we are having a real impact as well. It began way back in 1977, when we established our first tropical fruit farm in a small river valley on the northeastern Caribbean coast of Venezuela. The original farm came with a scattering of tropical fruits that we all know and love: mangoes, bananas, papayas, citrus, pineapple, coconut, avocados, and cashews for a start! From there, we started to plant more and different varieties of these same fruits, plus new and unusual fruits unknown to our area.

Our intention has always been to demonstrate the advantages of sustainable fruit and tree-crop farming in the tropics, where traditional slash-and-burn agriculture can produce extreme erosion and topsoil loss.  Planting trees is a long-term endeavor with long-term results, and we are finally seeing the fruits of our labor. Along with additional varieties of the standard tropical Caribbean repertoire, we have introduced and disseminated a range of new fruits such as Durian, Mangosteen, Jackfruit, Rollinia, Canistel, Carambola, Black Zapote and other sapotaceous fruits. Here are some of our favorites that have proven popular and viable:
Kontia showing off the year's Durian harvest! This distinctive fruit has proven especially popular with the local Chinese immigrant population, who remember it from back home in southeast Asia!
Jackfruit on the tree tend to grow close to the trunk, as the branches can hardly support dangling fruit the size and weight of watermelons!
The golden Biribá (Rollinia) is a delicious, beautiful annonaceous fruit said to be originally from the Peruvian tropical highlands. One of our favorites!
Bright red Pejibaye, golden Rollinia, green Durian splitting open as it ripens, and in front, two of the famed purple Mangosteen, one of the tropical Orient's most famous fruits. All harvested at our farm, previously unknown here and probably little known in the rest of Venezuela! We distribute these and other new and unusual fruits to farmers and home gardeners both nearby and afar, hoping to add variety and commerce to Venezuela's diet!
Bob and Daisy show off a Jackfruit, said to be the world's largest tree fruit. Both the fruit and the seed (cooked) are delicious, the leaves are animal fodder, and the wood is valued for carpentry!
Pejibaye, pijigüao is a jungle palm fruit native to the Amazon, widely grown by indigenous tribes, which we have introduced to the Caribbean tropics.The small red fruits are cooked, and taste a little like sweet corn with the butter included - yummy!
The Black Sapote produces abundantly on a densely foliated tree which is also planted as an ornamental. The fruit, filled with a dark creamy chocolate-like custard, is said to be originally from Mexico, where it is commercially popular.
Mangosteen, Garcinia mangostana, is said to be one of the world's most sublime tropical fruits. Here you see the light juicy petaled goblets of flesh, with a wonderfully refreshing subtle taste. We waited more than twenty years for the tree to produce, and now we know that this fruit's fame turns out to be very well-deserved!
Lesley and Bob reveling in the mango harvest. We grow a variety of grafted and native mangoes, perhaps the queen of tropical fruits!
The Durian is big, very big, a towering tree rising out of the humid jungle. Look closely, and you will see hundreds of fruit nestled in the branches. These fruit are heavy, hard and spiky, and can be very dangerous to those below as they ripen and plummet down to the ground.
The Carambola, sometimes called starfruit for its unique shape, also grows on an attractive leafy tree, very pretty when covered with bright yellow fruit. We have developed several distinctive varieties of this juicy, pulpy, somewhat acidic fruit.
Bob showing off our Mangosteen harvest, along with papaya, avocado and little red Surinam Cherries in the yellow bowl to the left. Bob is sitting at an unfinished table cum sculpture that he has hewn by hand from a massive fallen tree trunk.

Here is an Agriculture list of most everything we have tried to grow, successfully and sometimes unsuccessfully! You can also search the web for abundant information on most of these tropical delights!

We have had many years of fun growing these unusual fruits. Now it is even more fun sharing them with everyone else, including all of you!  In the rural areas where we work, the campesinos have been quick to enjoy these fruits, and seeing commercial potential, are beginning to plant them as well!  We have distributed seed and saplings to farmers and agricultural schools in other parts of the country with varying climates and soils to see where each fruit will best prosper. Time will tell, hopefully bringing new and interesting foods to this part of the world.


Imagine a lesser-developed world where rural families, however poor, can truly determine their own fertility; where rural children have genuine opportunity to be educated; and where rural livelihood can be healthy, sustainable and rewarding for an enduring future!  

Thanks for sharing this with us, and for your support  ---

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"When we are dreaming aloneit is only a dream.
When we are dreaming with others, it is the beginning of reality."
Dom Helder Camera
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