Photo: Erika P. Rodríguez/Open Society Foundations
Je García-Matthews, 37 — Founder, Finca Pajuil
If there’s something Je García-Matthews has never been good at, it’s staying still. During the 17 years she lived in Miami, she went from being an architecture and landscaping student to working in all kinds of arts and music events to embracing urban farming and all of its possibilities.
But even after all that time away from home, something bothered her.
“Whenever I came to visit, I always saw it was very difficult to obtain local, in-season products,” she says.
So, from Miami, she started planning what would become Finca Pajuil, a sustainable farm located in her town of Hatillo, about an hour-and-a-half from San Juan. It took her an entire year, during which she traveled back and forth between the island and the States to develop her project.
In July 2013, she returned and the farm finally opened. Over the last couple of years, not only has Finca Pajuil grown, but agriculture has had a renaissance in the island.
“This resurgence of agriculture is very important, not only for farmers, but for people that can just have their own home garden and grow their own food,” García-Matthews says. “We must re-educate people about buying local, consuming local.”
Finca Pajuil barters tinctures and medicines with other farmers or service providers. Despite the debt crisis and the current conditions in the island, García-Matthews is incredibly grateful to be home. It hasn’t been easy, but for her the experience has been worth it.
“I wouldn’t change being here right now for any other moment in time or any other place,” she says. “It’s a blessing to be back in Borinquén.”
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