For the past 25 years I have owned and operated an exotic fruit farm in western Puerto Rico, supplying fruit to the island as well as the mainland and employing six island residents. Hurricane Maria hit my farm and so many others in Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017, wiping out half of my producing trees, and therefore my income from them. In December of 2017 I applied for help from the USDA and the PR Department of Agriculture and all these months later help finally arrived. On March 22, 2019, a year and a half after Hurricane Maria hit, I did finally receive just enough to survive into 2020 but this is a great thing and I am grateful to the USDA and the program that enabled this. I will need more help but, this gives me breathing room, enables me to buy and replant trees and start the long process of fruit tree restoration.
Reflecting this change I lowered the amount needed from $500,000 to $360,000 but still am looking at a 5 year runway since in 2018, I received no USDA help, lost a year and need time to initiate this next step.
One tree conservatively can absorb at least 35 pounds per year of carbon dioxide. Multiply by 60, the age a typical tree can reach and beyond and you can see each tree easily absorbing a ton of carbon dioxide in its lifetime. I am looking for an additional 2,500 new trees and already have over 4,000 in the ground presently. This farm will easily be absorbing thousands of tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere that otherwise would contribute to global warming.
I do not want to lose these people working for me or give up on farming in this devastated place and now we have another year, maybe more. The farm is in an area so remote, there are probably no other jobs since there are very few businesses and fewer still after Hurricane Maria. Without this job, my people would have to move away. Hundreds of thousands of people have left Puerto Rico already. Many will return but to what? I am continuing to make a minimum five year commitment to the restoration of the farm, the replanting of thousands of lost trees, the ongoing maintenance of an on-island grown food source... but I can not afford to do this anymore just from savings. Any funds donated would go towards new trees, wages, all the tasks and supplies to maintain a tree fruit farm in the middle of the jungle and I would make up the rest out of pocket.
I have never done this before, never asked for money over the last 25 years when I first created this farm, never asked people to support me but, it's now or never and it is a farm I can only restore with your help. Over the last decade I have given small tours of what this paradise came to be and many were grateful to come back over and over. I would expand this in the years ahead and share it with contributors so they could see what their gift of money grew into. Before Hurricane Maria, it was splendid expanse of colors and sounds and perfume smells of flowering trees and fruit and with your help it could be again.