River Caught
Written by Stephen Bliss

And so it begins. Again…

Life can be hard
For the last five years of my life, I have felt like someone caught, hypothetically, in that spot in a river where the water all flows over boulders into a tumultuous swirling whirlpool. That turbulent spot where it seems more water is rushing in than out. And your body is just tossed round and round, out of your control. And while the river around you is flowing along you are stuck in this spot trying to keep your bearings on which way is up while you spin trying to catch a breath without swallowing and choking on the water, all the while hoping to break free. There comes a point when you just want to die. I’m out of that spot now.

Conscientious Observance
345About nine years ago I began an exploration of indigenous communities in Panama and Costa Rica. I wanted to observe how they were able to live primitively and continuously. We westerners most often respond to seeing these communities by assuming they are on the precipice of utter decimation. We rush in to save the day by throwing at them stuff we think they need. Excess food, cement sidewalks etc. But prior to my exploration, I was challenged by someone to not take the approach of looking for what was wrong but what was right in these communities. She reminded me that these communities have existed beyond all written history and that suggests they are doing something far more right than many societies which seem so strong but have failed. This approach changed my life.

The Lens through which we See the World
I have had the pleasure throughout the years of working with some amazing people. Dr. Paul Day was one of those people. A psychologist who moved his family to Panama to work along side me in providing basic needs consisting of three initiatives; water, smoke inhalation and food. While we developed projects in these areas for the indigenous, through his influence, we spent time focusing on the volunteers who came to help also. For them, it was a time to expand their world view. They could question the status quo of their context through a contrasting one. The goal is to first understand through what the lens we are looking. I believe this is the most beneficial process one can go through, especially given our global reach through the internet. It was through this process I came to realize that I was not coming from the most secure nation on the planet but the most vulnerable. I made a decision to become more self-sufficient and self-sustainable. I remember the feeling I had one day when I realized I needed nothing outside of what I was producing on my farm. It was the feeling of liberation.

Expanding the Knowledge
selah logoAt my first self-sustainable farm, Finca Selah, I drew the attention of agricultural engineers from various countries and was promoted by the Smithsonian Institute which brought in universities to study the farm. I would teach mostly on food production, food security, and food sovereignty. I always gave the indigenous credit for teaching me much of what I know. The system I developed was introduced to me by my late friend, Glenn Wargo. It was a closed eco-system farm. People thought I was brilliant for developing such an efficient and simple system but the reality was it was the oldest recorded system of farming ever used. That farm came and went but now I am at a new farm in Panama and developing a team to create an institute of learning.

Finca Verde
finca verde 4sAbout eight months ago I was doing a sanitation and hygiene project with our not-for-profit. A friend there told me about a guy who started a school of sustainability in Panama. He said the guy isn’t really teaching anything but people are coming who want to learn. He recommended that I start a school. As fate would have it a farm came available where I could develop this school. It is approximately 65 acres and is completely off the grid. The property has a small pond and a river bordering the property and a lot of elevation change. My goal is to develop a system of food growing terraces using the natural flow of water from the spillway of the pond.  We will also have a greenhouse where we will produce.

Facilities
Over the next few months, we will be building dorms and other facilities necessary to begin housing students and guest teachers. Our goal is to initially house 24 students in a dorm building.  The cost for this building will be approximately $125,000.00 dormsWe will also be building a Yoga platform, and a house for guest teachers.  Those costs will be $65,000.00

Staff

The staff will include;

  • director/teacher
  • guest experts in their field
  • house manager and chef
  • project manager
  • yoga instructor

Our Approach

We will be a center of learning. We will be teaching technological and applied learning methods. Covering contextual site evaluation, system selections for energy, waste treatment etc., housing planning and development to food production. Our goal is to empower people who see the need to change the destructive path we are on and equip them with the knowledge to make their own changes no matter where they may dwell.

Time Line

Our hope is to get funding in place soon so we can be ready to begin training as early as March 2018. Check out our go fund me page and please join in on this effort to change the world.