Mandy, our host and co-founder of 27,500 acre Silk Grass Farms in Stann Creek invited us for a tour of the farm on our first day in Belize. She and co-founding partner Henry loaded up three cars for a look-see at the many projects in play. Mandy’s husband, Peter, the third founder, did not to join us on the tour, but we got to know him when we all went to dinner at Turtle Inn a few days later.
We went places I thought we had no business going, but never once got stuck. That’s Belize for you. Forge ahead and don’t look back.
In previous generations, the land grew oranges and coconuts.
I tried and failed to get a good photo of silk grass, so here is a picture I pinched from Silk Grass Farms’ website. Mandy told me that silk grass is a sign of healthy land. They named the farm after the nearby town of Silk Grass.
They took out the aging oranges and planted more coconut trees, added thousands of mahogany trees, are planting cacao, growing vanilla orchids in a greenhouse, and keeping tiny, stingless melipona bees to pollinate the vanilla. They built employee housing, a school, a cafeteria, and a factory, and are also growing food.
We paused behind Bryan’s jeep when they stopped to look at a sunbathing crocodile. When Anthony stepped out, it swung around and splashed into the water, then swam away to safety. More afraid of us then we are of them, I told myself, but I was not convinced.
Mandy’s pet project is renovating the Great House for use as lab and lodging for research. I love that she reached out to scientists and asked them what they would need before talking with the builders. Floor space and a lab, they said, so that’s what they’re going to get.
We birders noticed a Gartered Trogon (Trogon caligatus) feeding on insects and vegetation in a palm off the second floor of the great house. After it was full, it perched on a branch and gave us the eye, then posed for our cameras.
We all stopped and got out for a leg stretch at the beautiful Sittee River.
Anthony, Sean, and Arlo took turns skipping rocks. Looks like Sean just threw a good one!
Our last stop was the factory where they process juices including the best tasting coconut water I have ever tasted.
After the tour, we drove to nearby Hopkins for lunch.
Tired of sitting, I wandered over to the water side for a short stroll down the beach, thinking all the while about Joe Bageant, one of our favored authors (Deer Hunting with Jesus and Rainbow Pie). Years ago—before he died, naturally—Joe helped a couple in Hopkins Village build a cabana with the caveat that he could stay in it for free when in country.
You can read that essay, here.
And then we went home to the big house at Naia to swim and cook and eat. Stay tuned for more stories about our grand return to Belize.