Friday, January 31, 2014

Farm in Belize: Village Farm: Attention Wanna Be Jungle Farmers!

Our Farm from the Air
This is where I grew up. Yep. That's it. My home. You can see the little pier sticking out into the bay, the mangrove forests along the coast, the jungle behind. On this organic jungle farm we have about 40 acres of certified organic cacao trees, a hilltop of allspice and coffee, a black pepper garden, a couple acres of citrus and pineapples and a diverse collection of tropical fruit trees from all over the world. The entire property includes about 1500 acres of tropical hardwood forest, mangrove forest and the cultivated farm area. 

Why am I posting about this? Well, I live about 28 miles north of this farm in the village of Placencia. My parents are still on the farm. We are looking for caretakers and ideally long term partners on our farm as my parents are in retirement age and would like to be able to spend time away when they want to. Please read below and if you are interested in learning more contact my parents, Tanya Russ and John Spang, directly at the following:

Contact Information: 

John Spang & Tanya Russ

Village Farm
Box 16
Punta Gorda
Central America

Phone: 011-501-667-6925 (when dialing from outside the country, the 011 plus the country code 501 are required. Please leave a voicemail and try again if you do not get a response, email is usually the most reliable way to reach the farm)


Young Cacao Pods on the Farm

Farm and Opportunity: 

We are looking for a caretaker/s to share our place and the work.  
This isolated property is located on the coast in Toledo District, the southern-most district of Belize, about ten miles north of Punta Gorda, the district capital of 4,000 people. Punta Gorda is Belize's most culturally diverse town and Toledo District is more than 50 percent Maya, with Kekchi and Mopan groups mostly living in inland villages as well as the district capital. Toledo District is known as the heart of Belize's rapidly growing cacao industry and two small chocolate factories are located within 15 miles of our farm.  We are founding members of the Toledo Cacao Grower's Association (TCGA) and have been growing certified organic cacao for over 20 years. This is a mangrove coast; there is no beach.  A hill about a hundred yards from the shore provides terrific views of the coast, many mangrove cayes, the sea and the hills rising beyond us to the west.  There is almost no sign of human activity (other than our own) in this panorama.

This is a beautiful, peaceful, quiet spot with many flowering plants and trees, lots of birds, butterflies, other wildlife and fish.  There is plenty to do and see for people who love the outdoors: swimming, snorkeling, hiking, gardening, rowing, fishing, birding, kayaking, tracking, observing plant and animal life of many kinds including manatees, toucans & hummingbirds, barracuda & snook. We have a single kayak for fun as well as a paddling dory.  No hunting is allowed on our property.

We grow tropical fruit crops using organic methods on about 40 acres and we manage a forest on many more acres.  We have no livestock. There is plenty of fresh fruit to eat seasonally from the farm including mangos, citrus, pineapples, bananas, guavas, avocados, starfruit and more.

 There are a variety of living quarters on the place.  These have sinks, showers, simple composting toilets and beds with netting over them as protection against bugs.  (It’s like sleeping in a big square white tent.)  At times there are a lot of biting insects – mosquitoes, sandflies and other local denizens.  These bugs can be too much for some folks to bear, so that’s important to consider.  There are also spiders, lizards, scorpions, tarantulas and the occasional snake.  If you are allergic to bug bites or have a genuine phobia about any of these creatures, this is probably not the place for you.

Our cook house, kitchen/dining/communal hang out area
  We have a dozen buildings.  Most of them are unwalled and have no screens.  Some have concrete floors and the rest have dirt floors.  Several have sizeable lofts which are used for storage/living space.  The roofs are made of a variety of materials including thatch, black tarpaper and painted steel.  We’ve built everything ourselves (with help from others) with wood from our own trees and stone dug from our soil.  We have a small sawmill and make lumber from our  trees.  We have to bring in sand and cement to make concrete.

All our systems are our own.  We have running water from a gravity-fed system with a 5000 gallon ferrocement vat.  That vat is filled by rainfall and by water pumped from a shallow well.  We have both AC and DC electrical systems.  Power is produced by various conventional generators ranging from 1 to 5 KW.  We are completely off the grid.

We have many tools, implements, etc. to do our work and to build and repair things here.  We do our own fiberglass work and welding as well as maintenance and repairs (sometimes major) on virtually everything on the place.  We try to keep enough supplies/spare parts/ etc. on hand to avoid getting caught short.  We try to think ahead, to see potential problems, to anticipate breakdowns and generally to avoid avoidable difficulties.  We want caretakers with similar habits and abilities.  The ability to plan and ahead and to fix it (y)ourselves is important to keeping things running here.

Although there is no road to our place, we do have some roads on our property.  We have a diesel tractor and several utility vehicles called PUGs which are used for logging, hauling, etc.  The PUGs have Briggs & Stratton 16 HP gasoline engines.  We also have several boats and outboard engines in various conditions.  A 26’ fiberglass skiff with a 70 HP outboard is our main transportation.  All the outboards are OMC (Johnson/Evinrude).  Boating skills and experience are essential here.  Small engine repair/maintenance skills are also very useful and we are looking for someone with such abilities.

We have a Maytag washer and a blender, but not much else in the way of appliances.  There is no refrigeration.  We cook on a woodstove and also use a 2-burner gas cooker set up in the kitchen.  The cookhouse is the main social center of the farm.  It has a dirt floor, a thatch roof and no walls or screens.  There is a marine radio there as well as a desk-style cell phone (the service is fairly reliable and expensive), a shortwave radio (for receiving only), AM/FM radio and CD player. There is internet access at the farm. We have no TV but there are a large, varied library, plenty of board and card games, a number of magazine subscriptions and the great outdoors to enjoy.

Blooming Heliconia
While we have no objection to occasional moderate alcohol use, we have zero tolerance for the use of illegal drugs (including marijuana) and we don’t want folks who need booze or other self-prescribed drugs to function.  If you can’t go to town without drinking while there, please do not apply.  Boats and booze are a lousy mix.  This is not a good place for anyone with serious medical conditions which require ready access to sophisticated medical care.

We employ people from area villages on an as-needed basis.  They do much of the agricultural and forestry work and assist with building and repair projects.  Generally a small group (2 to 4) of men comes out to work for two weeks, then they take one week off at home before returning to work.  They have their own living quarters and do their own cooking and housekeeping when they are here.

This is an area where flexibility is required because this schedule can be interrupted/disrupted for any number of reasons.  A caretaker should be able to manage workers and should be attuned to cultural differences.  Experience directing people who may not be fluent in either English or Spanish is useful, but not essential.  You will be responsible for simple paperwork (timekeeping, pay records, etc.) in connection with these workers during our absence.

Safety is paramount and we want caretakers who take safety seriously.  We make every effort to work smart and to work safe.  Our safety record is very good and we want to keep it that way.  You will need to be able to provide competent basic first aid in the case of injury or illness.  

Breadfruit on one of our Trees
This is not merely a supervisory job.  It can be a hands-on, get-dirty/sweaty/itchy/greasy position sometimes.  At times you will be doing manual labor, just as we do.  The work demands vary depending on the weather, available help, and other factors.  Some times are busier than others, however you should normally have time for your own pursuits.  The pace is rarely hectic.

We expect to spend time training caretaker(s) and working together for a while before leaving anyone here on their own.  If you are willing to learn, we are willing to teach you what you need to know to handle things here.  We hope to find the right person/people, to share our place on a continuing basis and give us and our caretaker(s) flexibility for travel away and being here.

If we find the right person or people we would love to find a way to make a permanent partnership arrangement where you would get an opportunity to creatively bring this unique, beautiful and remote organic farm into its second 50 years.

If you are interested, please get back in touch with any questions.  Tell us about yourself, your qualifications, skills and previous experiences, your expectations and your requirements. 

We answer all messages we receive.  If you don’t hear from us that means we never got your email/letter/phone call.  Keep trying.

We look forward to hearing from you.


Tanya Russ and John Spang

Sunrise on the Farm Pier
Wild Heliconia Blooming on the Farm


This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Beautiful blog.
Saludos desde EspaƱa.

Lucille D.Clarke said...

Hi John and Tanya,
Love you blog. I would love to visit here one day. No worries I also have a low tolerance for drugs and alcohol. I am a 56 yr young first time college student working on a blog for school. I have met so many nice people via the internet who blog and who love food. Please feel free to check my blog out at

Thank you,
Lucille Clarke