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Owning and Managing a Finca (Small Farm) in Chiriqui

However urbanized you think you are, there will always be a part of you that will urge you to go back to nature. Managing a small farm is rewarding and fulfilling. In Chiriqui, it's not difficult to own a small farm, or a finca as they call it. Land is still relatively cheap in Chiriqui compared to other locations.

Careful planning would help your farming experience in Chiriqui more enjoyable and successful.

First Things First 

Make your purpose clear. The first thing you should consider when building a farm or buying a finca is what you want to do with it or what you want to get out of it. Do you want a coffee farm or a vegetable farm? Are you considering raising animals or just crops? Will you be farming for just few months or do you plan on farming long term? After considering these questions and finding your answers, then you can proceed to look for the perfect farm.

There are many available fincas for sale in Chiriqui. Prices will vary greatly depending on what infrastructure is available. Land with road access, electricity and water will fetch higher prices compared to land that is still to be developed.

When choosing a farm to buy or a location to convert into a farm, keep your purpose in mind. The vegetables you might want to plant may not be suited to the warm climate of the lowland. Farm lots in the lowland would generally be cheaper compared to the prime lands of Boquete but there are still many properties for sale around Boquete at amazingly low prices.

Tropical Farming Basics

You have identified the purpose of your farm. You have acquired a lovely piece of property suited to your purpose. Now what? Go ahead and learn the basics. Below are the most important things to consider in tropical farming.

Water Supply 

Water is one of the most important contributors in the production in the success of your farm. Luckily water supply is abundant in Chiriqui. There are a few locations though that doesn't have ample water supply. On the other side of the coin, oversupply of water could also pose a problem. And in tropical countries like Panama, this is a real problem to deal with during the rainy season.

There are ways to handle these problems. If the location you acquired does not have enough water, try the implementing the following:

  • Use irrigation – this may involve using irrigating machines like pumps to get water where you need it.

  • Conservation – you can conserve water by using methods like plowing, terracing, using pits to capture run-off, and mixing organic material with the soil to improve water retention.

  • Plant appropriate crops – planting drought resistant varieties of plants is also an option if water is scarce.

Too much water can damage crops. It can loosen the soil and can make cause your plant to be easily uprooted. Excess water can wash away nutrients from the soil, contribute to erosion, promote the growth of pesky weeds and generally make your work on the farm difficult as you have to deal with mud. The best way to deal with excessive water is an excellent drainage system. You can use the following:

  • ditches

  • furrows

  • planting mounds

Weeds

Another problem that big and small farmers have to deal with in a tropical climate is the control of weeds. Weeds compete with everything your crops need like water, sunlight, nutrients and land space thus minimizing your yield. Weeds have layers of layers of seeds already in place beneath the soil. Thus your attempts to control the weeds on the surface only exposes the dormant seeds.

The truth is it is almost impossible to fully eliminate weeds from your farm. But there are ways to control them and the earlier you take measures to control weed growth, the better. Small farms can apply weed control measures more efficiently than large farms because of the relatively small size of the area you're cultivating.

Sometimes it is practical to just let the weeds be. In situations when weeds are too few, not really competitive, or only present when your crops mature, you don't have to waste time and effort in controlling them.

Soil Quality

Apart from water supply, the quality of soil in your farm would dictate what kind of crops you can cultivate. Submitting soil samples to a lab will help but keep in mind that this is not enough. Soil testing will simply tell you what nutrients are available in the sample you sent. It won't tell you if those nutrients present in the sample is sufficiently available in the entire farm.

So how do you know which plants would match the kind of soil in your farm? What you can do is plant a small area to the crop you want to cultivate and see if the soil can support that particular plant before you plant an bigger area.

Soil quality can always be improved by adding organic materials which should be readily available in a farm setting. You will find that a compost pit will be of great help in improving the quality of soil in your farm.

Mineral fertilizers are effective in increasing yield but in the long run, using organic fertilizer is still the best in terms of sustainability and environment friendliness.

Pests and Diseases

Every plant has its pests and diseases to confront with. Pests and diseases affect production and may result in unattractive appearance of your harvests. The appearance of your harvest affects the decision of consumers to buy your products or not.

You would not want to use chemicals as they pose danger to yourself and to others. Chemicals can also contaminate your farm, and kill beneficial insects. Pests and diseases often become immune to pesticides over time.

The best method is to use disease resistant varieties as much as possible and whenever they are available. As you gain experience as a farmer, you will discover ways to control pests and diseases that are effective and friendly to the environment. Sharing knowledge with fellow farmers will help. They can teach you what methods of environment friendly pest control are effective.

Farming in Chiriqui is indeed fulfilling. Aside from self-fulfillment, you'll also feel good to know that you're doing what you can to help the world become a better place in your own little way.

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