July 6, 202310 Minutes

Recap of the first 6 months of farming experiments

Setting up the Framework

Farm to Crafts is an ongoing project aimed at investigating the feasibility of producing agricultural materials to support the local crafts industry. The project has a planned duration of one year. Typically, it takes a minimum of two to five years to establish regenerative agricultural practices. To expedite the process, a decision has been made to utilize large raised containers placed at the project site for experimentation purposes. These containers are positioned under a roof, receiving approximately 3-5 hours of direct sunlight. Additionally, they are equipped with a drip irrigation system that operates every other day for 15 minutes.

However, it has been observed that not all cultivated species in the containers are receiving sufficient sunlight. Some of the plants were mistakenly placed on the boundary of the location, where they were quickly consumed by livestock due to their exposure. In response, we decided to wait out the dry season and prepare for planting the most promising species directly into the ground in September 2023, just before the anticipated rainy season. To carry out this experiment, two rows will be designated within the grounds of Hofi Cas Cora. Companion planting and syntropic principles will be employed to enhance the soil quality. The selected species will be nurtured in a nursery before being transplanted into the soil as seedlings.


To ensure the feasibility of our experiments within the scope of the project, we have chosen to focus on a limited number of species, which can be divided into two main categories: 1) Fibers and 2) Dyes. Within each category, we further distinguish between species that are cultivated specifically for this project and those that are sourced from existing farms, gardens, or directly from nature.

Fiber-producing plants typically yield fibers from their stalks or stems, such as flax and banana. Indigo, on the other hand, is extracted from the leaves and stalks of specific plants. Some species have fruits or flowers that can be utilized as a source of both fiber and dye, like cotton and butterfly pea. The selection of plants for this initial phase takes into consideration their growth rate, as some species are fast growers and can produce the required materials within a few months, while others require a longer period of maturity before they can be utilized.

In addition to growth rate, other factors that influenced our plant selection include maintenance and management requirements, as well as the potential for a species to become invasive. We have made a conscious decision to prioritize locally sourced and grown plants, aligning with our commitment to supporting the local ecosystem and community. For more data, have a look at this table providing an overview of the species

  1. Fibers

Various types of fibers can be extracted from different cultivated plants. Soft and woody fibers found just under the bast of certain plants, such as flax and hemp, are suitable for textiles and rope-making. Coarser, yet longer, fibers can be obtained from leaves of plants like agave and banana, which can also be used for ropes and twine. Hairy fibers can be extracted from specific seeds, as seen in the fluffy covering of the kapok tree (Ceiba pentandra) during its season, and the island also has a wild cotton plant with a historical significance.

In the initial phase of the project, the selected fiber species included flax, cotton, corn, bamboo, banana, agave, as well as other considerations like ‘capim dourado’ from Brazil, prickly pear, and pineapple. Promising results were observed during the initial sowing of flax; however, when the seedlings were transplanted into the soil, the harsh environmental conditions (such as extreme heat and intermittent downpours) proved to be too challenging, resulting in the failure of the test plots. Further testing with flax will continue every quarter, as its growing period is typically around 3 to 4 months, depending on the conditions.

During the test phase, cotton shrubs were found to be susceptible to pests. As part of future experiments, cotton will be incorporated into companion planting in open soil to assess whether combining it with other species can enhance its resilience. The growth period for cotton is approximately 5 months.

Corn, which grows quickly from seed, requires ample direct sunlight. For testing purposes, corn stalks are being sourced from other farms and will be an integral component of companion planting. The growth period for corn stalks is around 6 weeks.

Bamboo has been planted from cuttings and is currently growing in containers at the project headquarters. Additionally, bamboo has been harvested from gardens to provide materials for experiments. The time it takes for bamboo to reach the desired thickness can vary from months to years.

Bananas are sourced from discarded fruit waste at Hòfi Cas Còrá, diverting them from the waste stream for use in the experimental phase. Bananas generally take about 10 months to be ready for harvest.

Agave species are abundant in nature and gardens on the island. As these plants have slow growth, the decision was made to collect leaves for experiments and begin mapping the locations of suitable species.

Although other species like pineapple were considered earlier, they are not actively being researched at present. However, they have been planted and documented at other farms to provide materials for experimentation at a later stage.

  1. Dyes

The island has a rich history of using natural sources for vibrant colors. Divi divi pods (Ceasalpinia coriaria) were traditionally used to make ink, dushi kabei (Maclura tinctoria) provided textile dyes, and indigo (Indigofera tinctoria) and logwood (Haematoxylum brasiletto) were utilized for coloring both textiles and paper. Different parts of plants, such as flowers, bark, or fruit, were used depending on the species.

For the current project, several species have been considered and planted for dye production, including sorrel (Hibiscus sabdariffa), butterfly pea (Clitorea ternata), henna (Lawsonia inermis), indigo (Indigofera tinctoria and Indigofera suffruticosa), among others.

Sorrel, also known as Flor de Jamaica, thrives in the local climate and can be used in its entirety. The red flowers are used for dye production, while the plant also offers fibers. It typically takes 4 to 5 months for sorrel to reach maturity.

Butterfly pea is a climbing vine that develops blue flowers within approximately 100 days.

Henna, an imported plant that grows naturally on the island, takes around 3 years to mature. It can be harvested twice a year once fully grown, and the leaves yield a brown/orange color for dyeing.

At present, all these dye-producing species are being cultivated in containers at Hòfi Cas Còrá.

Indigo has been planted using seeds sourced from outside the island, but unfortunately, the seedlings did not survive. To increase the chances of successful growth, seeds were obtained from the local wild nature (mondi) and planted in various locations. Under favorable conditions, indigo plants can be ready for harvest within 3 to 4 months.

Second Half of 2023

During the remaining months of the year, our focus will be on harvesting the first materials grown from scratch and initiating a plot in the open soil. Simultaneously, we will continue to gather materials and seeds from nature, expanding our collection for future experiments and research.

Written by Cindy Eman