We Love Our Farmers! Meet Finca Ilán Ilán
We’ve told you a lot about our sodas, our flavors, and the ingredients that go in them, so now it’s time to introduce where some of our local flavors come from. Meet Finca ilan ilan! This local Puerto Rican farm is bringing us so many healthy and wonderful flavors and produce that we use in every single batch of our sodas.
On eight beautiful acres, Jorge the owner of Finca ilan ilan, farms many vegetables, fruits, and other plants, including the hibiscus we use for our sodas. This farm, or finca, as we call it on our island also produces cacao, vanilla, and other flavorful ingredients—which is why we love them so much!
Jorge is a true scientist with the soil he farms his crops in—we might even call him a master botanist. We dove into some questions about farming and soil with Jorge and he had so much information about what makes his produce grow.
Pop’D: What type of soil does PR have?
Jorge: About the soil, we have very rich and diverse land. Soil taxonomy has recognized twelve soil orders in the world: andisols, alfisols, aridisols, entisols, gelisols, vertisols, inceptisols, mollisols, oxisols, spodosols, ultisols and histosols. We do not have andisols and gelisols. Most of the island is fertile in its own way, depending on the type of produce you want to obtain. We have dramatic microclimate changes across the island. For example, at the southwest corner we have a unique dry forest which, geologically speaking, originated from another part of the planet, and in just a 20 minute drive you have a rainforest, which originated from underwater volcanoes.
Pop’D: Why do you grow so much flor de jamaica (hibiscus)?
Jorge: Hibiscus was selected because its demand is growing exponentially around the world and virtually no one harvests it here commercially. It is a hardy plant with more pros than cons, can be rotated with other crops since it is an annual plant. Also varieties can be produced very quickly. If a hurricane gets us, it has more chance of survival than most above ground fruit type plants (we plant them in July so they are quite small by september and can recover nicely from being downed).
Just so you know, Hibiscus is one of our favorite ingredients! We use it in our Hibiscus Ginger Ale — one of our fave sodas.
Pop’D: Do you grow the most hibiscus of anyone on the island?
Jorge: I have been told I am the only commercial grower they know of, by many farmers. That is going to change very quickly, I will give it a year maybe 2. Even more when big farming companies get to notice it. Producing agroecologica hibiscus is no easy task. With conventional agriculture I estimate you could get very wealthy with it with few acres. But that is just going to destroy the ecosystems and that is not our goal.
Pop’D: What advice do you have for new farmers or small farmers?
Jorge: Read A LOT! It is never enough. Learn and adapt, use new technologies wisely (the pickaxes were a new technology one time in history) Do not fight nature to get produce, work with it and it will work for you, meaning less input for more output. Also, do not obsess to grow something that you like, harvest things that people like. Please, take the environment in account when doing everything. Resources are finite and we must protect them. USDA services are very good and you should contact them. There is way more advice I could give here on site.
Pop’D: What's the best way to support local farmers?
Jorge: The best way to help local farmers is to buy from them and not engage in trying to get more for less money, (I don't know the word for it maybe you can change it haha). Also to make cooperatives between farmers is a great way to compete with big farm corporations. I strongly recommend the department of agriculture to renovate the way they reach and teach farmers.
Jorge left us with three key points about farming to take into consideration: Innovation is key. Use of new technology is a most. Continuous learning—you will never know everything of anything!
We think these points are great and can apply to anything. Thank you for all that you do, Jorge!
Want to see a Pop'd perspective of Finca Ilán Ilán? Our social content creator Mia (you might know her from reading our blog about Mia!) shot this fun video during one of our trips to the farm.
You can follow Finca Ilán Ilán on Facebook to find out more about all of the good they do for our sodas and our island!