I am trying to reserve judgment on this place. I had expected more people, a more bustling commune. Our host, let’s call her Mary, lives here with one other person, a local teenager from a farm down the road. My cynical side wonders if he’s here because she feeds him more than his family could, and then I feel guilty for thinking it. The “Eco Yoga Farm” here isn’t bad, it’s just… sad.
The heart of the farm is a spacious house with room and beds for about fifteen. It has a kitchen, library, yoga room, workshop, and dining room open to the outdoors. It borders the river, and they’ve set up a swimming hole near their canoe and water pump. A bench sits on the sandy bank, overlooking the greenish water below. Beyond the fields of sugarcane along the opposite bank, dusty brown hills dominate the landscape.

The river as seen from the farm

The river as seen from the farm


Even with the river, the land here is dry. The soil is grey and sandy, parched after two months of drought. Despite the proximity of the river, not nearly enough water is making it to the plants. The land is not producing enough food to support the two full-time residents on the farm. I wonder if our host comes from money, or manages to fund the farm’s expenses through teaching yoga classes in town. Somehow neither seems likely. The money must come from somewhere, though, because she spends her time volunteering at the community’s primary school, and says she feeds a variety of local children when they feel like dropping by.
I’m not exactly sure which religion Mary practices, but it takes up most of her time. There are morning prayers, offerings before meals, and hare krishna chants playing on the computer speakers for much of the day. The bulk of her religious practice, though, seems to revolve around food. She’s vegetarian, of course.
The food here, despite my misgivings, is good. One of the tenets of Mary’s religion is that food must never be eaten before it is purified through some kind of ritual prayer. This means that you can’t taste what you’re cooking to season it, or take a bite of pasta or rice to check if it’s cooked. To me, this is unimaginable. How does a food culture develop, how are dishes perfected, if one can’t adjust the flavour based on real-time information? Even with this limitation, Mary’s food tastes good.
The food is purified by taking a small serving of each dish and presenting it as an offering, saying some sort of prayer, and after enough time has elapsed, returning it to the pot. Once added back to the rest of the food, it passes on its purified properties to the entire dish, and it can be served. This need to purify food extends to the kitchen sink, where there are different sponges to use for dishes that held purified food versus those that contained unpurified foods. Around the kitchen, various signs in English and Spanish state the rules, with accompanying quotes that fail to clarify the reasoning behind the practices, to me at least. On the fridge is a sign imploring me to think about what I’m eating, with illustrations to match. A hamburger has a speech bubble saying “moo”, and a hotdog “oink”. There is also a drawing of a cardboard Chinese food container which says “woof”. This last strikes me as more ignorant than thought-provoking.
Both Ellen and I decided to push ourselves to the boundary of our comfort zones in coming here. We anticipated there would be some philosophical points we would disagree with. We figured there would be important aspects of our lives that wouldn’t be welcome here. I had hoped, however, that the farm would be a lively place full of passionate people living their dreams. I wanted to be caught up in people’s enthusiasm for the lifestyle, drawn in by the sense of purpose and community. Instead, I feel as if I’m a visitor at a commune of one.
Our host has set out to build a community here, all by herself, but doesn’t seem to be working at attracting the like-minded to join her. Our conversations with her are often awkward and stunted. Her questions of us require simple yes-or-no responses that are hard to expand on. Our philosophical differences and ignorance of her belief system make us uncomfortable asking her the things we really want to know for fear of seeming judgmental. The questions we do ask are answered vaguely, with stilted and halting conversation being the order of the day.
I feel as if passing judgment on this place after less than 24 hours is unfair, and yet I’m having a hard time keeping an open mind. I needed this place to be run by a crusader, an evangelist for healthy living, meditation, community-building, and inner peace. I’m torn between giving her more time to open up and asking to be taken to the next bus out.
(Side note – photos aren’t uploading – I’ll add some next time I can)

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