Who is behind the Ventana Verde project?
This project is 100% financed by Ventana Azul Hostel in Las Palmas. We decided to invest a big part of our money we earned in the last 10 years with the hostel into a project with ecologic and sustainable values. In order to build up the ecological garden and the fruit forest we decided to cooperate with someone born on the island to support the local community.
We also cooperate with the local government which supports us in the reforestation program. Moreover, we share many values with our partners from Feel Surfcamp, who already planted more than 1000 trees during their reforestation project “The Surfers Forest”.
Furthermore we teamed up with the amazing team from MundoCreativo who are organizing cleaning trips for our guests all over the island. And finally we are also planning to cooperate with the guys from Climboo, our favorite company dedicated to outdoor sports on Gran Canaria.
How would you like to connect the Ventana Verde with your Ventana Azul Hostel at Las Canteras Beach?
As I already mentioned we could start this project thanks to the more than 10,000 guests from over 100 countries that visited our hostel in the last 10 years! We are aware that in order to keep our business booming, we need people who take a flight and that's not really good for our planet. This fact is our main motivation to compensate for some of the indirect damage done to our planet through our activity which sits at the heart of capitalism. There is no reason not to be honest to oneself.
Our idea would be to organize weekly visits using public transport to the finca with the help of our friends from Climboo Outdoor activities. During these visits our guests can pick some of our organic food (with our avocados as protagonists), get some explanations about ecologic agriculture, permaculture, fruit forests, the local history of the valley and plant a tree as a part of the Surfers Forest Project created by Jordi from Feel Surfcamp.
We are already separating the kitchen waste at La Ventana Azul Hostel to bring it to the finca in order to feed our worms which then help us to create more fertile soil. That's actually one of the main goals of this project. To connect the urban with rural areas and generate a mutual benefit from this renewed connection.
After the visit at the finca the visitor can try one of the fantastic hikes through the jungle valley of Azuaje. Apart from that, our hostel guests can stay there overnight, but the minimum stay will be 5 nights in order to avoid too much traffic of people in this quiet valley. We would also prefer to have guests who really want to connect with this special place and not just rush through.
This project is less focused on money and profit. I believe that in the year 2022, with mankind facing many huge challenges, a company can't just focus on earning money and happy clients anymore. We also need other species to be happy, not just the humans. All of us, no matter if an individual or company, have the responsibility to protect all kinds of lives on planet earth.
What can you tell us about the location of this project? Why did you choose the valley of Azuaje?
It took me around 4 years to find the right property. I have been torturing many real estate agents and friends (special sorry to Jordi from Feel Surfcamp) with dozens of properties I have been looking at. Finally I decided on this finca for the following reasons: The house was in very good conditions with the license for touristic use - this would make our project financially sustainable from the very first moment.
Moreover, it was important for me to be close to Las Palmas - the 25 min drive to the valley of Azuaje is rather acceptable even if you go there every day. Furthermore I was searching for a property with a minimum of 2000m2 fertile land and as close as possible to the sea. And that was maybe the hardest point to find. The closer to the sea, the milder the climate and the easier to reach - but it also gets more expensive! We wanted to be able to grow all kinds of tropical fruits. You would be surprised how many different climates we have on this small island!
Then finally water was a big issue because it's a scarce resource on an island. The valley of azuaje is one of the very few places on Gran Canaria that offers free flowing sweet water all year around. And the best part is that we own a part of this water - so water is free for us!
Which are the main topics/goals of this project?
Maybe this short sentence sums up all our efforts: support life, diversity and abundance in all its forms. If we really think about how crazy it is that planet earth is still the only planet full of life and with perfect living conditions, then we must understand how important it is to do our part to sustain and support life for future generations.
For us the key points of this project are sustainability, independence, an ecological approach and art. We are producing our own solar energy at Ventana Verde and also own a part of the sweetwater of the valley of Azuaje. With these facts as a basis, our aim is to get as independent as possible from the system. That means we want to create not only more and healthier food but also diversify our production. We believe that these 3 values also overlap mostly. If you manage to make your production sustainable, you will also increase your independence. By choosing the ecological path we also again try to use as many local resources as possible again and as a consequence we will be more independent and sustainable over time.
For example there is an invasive plant called “caña” (similar to bamboo but not as thick) that is taking away the living space of local plants like palm, fig or dragon trees. (Basically because it sucks up all he water and takes away the light from other plants) It is hard work to get rid of it and we are trying to achieve this by cutting the caña down constantly and with the help of our crusher convert it into a material that covers and protects our soil from the sometimes harsh sun or dry periods and finally also turn it more fertile. Under this cover all these little animals can live and fill the soil with life and abundance.
What about art? Any specific plans on that?
In order to deepen and strenghten our message we will connect nature and art at La Ventana Verde. We are already cooperating with the local artist Miguel Panadero who created our wonderful logo. But there will be space for more artists who can leave their footprint at the finca. The topic of this art should also be connected with the main topics of this project: nature, sustainability, the vulnerability of life of all forms, recycling and capitalism. We are interested in art that challenges the observer and reinforces the most urgent message to mankind: cooperate, love and especially evolve in our way of living. As we are speaking, we are collecting fleetwood and plastic waste from the beaches close to our finca.
We hope that one day an artist can use these materials in order to create something special. I find it very interesting how the Atlantic ocean spits out this plastic waste that once had a purpose in human society - unfortunately very often a single use purpose. The ocean is teaching me that nothing we use just disappears, its all connected and it all comes back to us. The carelessness, all the hurrying, all the selfishness - we actually harm ourselves with this lack of awareness.
In future, we are aiming to establish a residency programme for artists who focus on sustainability and care-related issues in their practices.
Ecologic is a big word everyone is using nowadays. What does it really mean in the everyday life of your project?
Being ecological for us is really the main reason to make the effort of this project. Often neighbors and friends often tell us to use some pesticides to get rid of a plague. But we want to observe, be patient and respect all forms of life. Luckily we do not depend financially on food production so we don't have the pressure to produce as fast and much as possible.
So among other things being ecological means for us to trust in the forces of nature to establish its own balance. We try not to see some herbs as “bad” but shift our perception and rethink this approach. Honestly at the beginning it was especially psychologically a bit tough to see our property getting eaten up by the herbs during the rain season but now we think we found a balance.
The herbs can be there and we are already feeding a big part of it to our chickens which are more happy now and produce bigger and more healthy eggs - and again we need to add fewer products from outside in order to feed them. Some plagues already came and went and our garden and forest are still there. We believe being ecological also means to be humble and not overestimate the power of humans.
Obviously in our property we need to invest a lot of time to shape it to our needs, but then again we are still learning when to let go. Our clear aim is also to nurture our land in order to create biodiversity and as a consequence support life on planet earth. What we do is very small and limited but we believe in the power of setting an example and actually DOING things - not only talking about them.
Which kind of plants are already growing at the finca and which other species would you like to introduce?
When we bought this property in July 2021 we already had the following plants here: avocado, tangerine, orange, lemon and fig trees. Passion fruit, potatoes, tomatoes and our beloved banana and papaya trees. Since last summer we have been (and are still) busy nurturing our soil and reorganizing the space in order to be able to introduce more species. For example next week we will receive 200 bags of manure from a local goat farm. We already planted kiwis, dragon and palm trees. But our plan is to try much more like giant bamboo, moringa tree (100% edible tree), kaki, grenadine, mango tree and much more. We are ready to experiment also to find out which kind of plants will be comfortable in our climate and really produce food.
What's your goal for the future for this project? How would you like to see it in 10 years?
We hope to be an example for others so they can visit us and learn how to create and maintain a project like that. That way, they can learn how to create their own fertile soil, how to introduce and use the leftovers of their kitchen to improve the garden. How to recycle at least a part of the plastic waste in the garden. With the help of others (yes, you can donate money for this project on our website) we would also would like to buy more land in order to start a reforestation with the wonderful endemic plants like dragon, canarian palm and laurisilva trees. With the reforestation we want to protect and keep the humid climate of this valley in order to guarantee the sweetwater for future generations. It would also be nice if we could motivate more young people to move back to this valley in order to bring back more life (in all its forms) to the countryside.
What's life like in the valley of Azuaje from a social point of view?
Well you know it's funny. Before buying a patch of land in the countryside I made a list of advantages and disadvantages. The only big disadvantage I found was the fear of being lonely there. In reality, life in the valley is pretty social. There is kind of a parallel society at Azuaje. It's like a better place, where everybody has time for each other and people are more connected with nature. The fresh pure air, the sun in our faces, animals, the smell of fertile soil. It feels a bit like coming home after many years living in the city. I guess it also helps that we are not connected to a paved road or the public electricity grid. Moreover, we have to cross 2 little creeks to arrive at our finca. These facts reinforce the feeling of being disconnected in a green bubble but still close to the city. Being there feels like being sucked up in a bubble of love where all the problems and hurrying have no space.
Every morning at 10 I usually meet one neighbor who created an impressive fruit forest in 40 years that he has been maintaining his garden there. On these occasions, more neighours from every corner of the valley come to meet and chat for one hour. This kind of “wasting” time seems wonderful to me. It's like the forces of capitalism and modern human life lose their power here. We talk about plants, about people, politics or the love and hate between Tenerife and Gran Canaria.
All this scenery under the shade of the giant avocado trees happens in the company of the dogs that also meet on these occasions and once in a while ask for some attention and love.
Every once in a while a new character from the valley pops up to say hello. Sometimes we also argue a bit - it feels very human and real. But nobody ever left one of these meetings without a warm feeling inside. And I guess it's not just the neighbors' lousy coffee.
Little by little more people get to know me and although being an “extranjero” I feel very well accepted and even loved in the valley.
What is the biggest challenge for you in this project?
Again an unexpected one. Actually I love working on this project that I still have to learn when to stop! It's about being patient and thinking about things more in the long run. I think there is a lesson behind this and through this project I also started seeing how impatient we are generally in modern life. We got used to getting and buying everything straight away. But the rhythm of nature works differently. You have to be humble and wait for the right moment for a certain kind of action to take. And learn to respect your own limits.
How do you want to achieve your goals for this project? Who is supporting you?
Right now I am working on this project with friends. But luckily I have many sources for knowledge and ideas on how to improve and which next steps to take. For example there is a huge Permaculture group on whatsapp with hundreds of members from the island. It's a nice source for support, knowledge and inspiration.
For the future I would like to prepare the project also to also welcome volunteers for a few months per year. We will need people with knowledge in Permaculture, bio-construction, gardening or just helping hands. We want to take it slow and have no rush for this step. But anyone reading this interview thinks he can help us, we are happy to get a message from you too.
Another next steps will be to apply for some subventions from the European Union - there is quite a lot of stuff organized by the Canarian Government to support these kind of projects.
Contact Ventana Verde:
Whatsapp: 0034 671 505 359