A few days ago Arnay, the General Manager of Chan Chich Lodge, posted a snapshot of the sightings board just outside the reception area, where guests share what they have seen on any given day while trekking with guides, or trekking solo. 2016 was not exceptional for Chan Chich, but it was another year of exceptional opportunity to witness the abundance that comes with committed conservation.
The big cats made their presence known day after day after day. The entire food chain on which they depend was right there with them, well balanced in the 30,000 acres of forest that Chan Chich protects, surrounded by an additional nearly half million acres that other private conservation-minded land-owners protect in northwest Belize.
2017 will be a year for another kind of food chain. The 3,000 acres of agriculture that have also been a part of Chan Chich’s neighborhood watch for nearly three decades will take more prominence in our planning and actions. We will lay it all out here in these pages as we go along, so join us as the story unfolds. Chan Chich started farm to table before the phrase existed, and we take inspiration from some of the more recent thought/action leaders of this evolved concept.
Michael Pollan gets credit for first bringing our attention to the model of agriculture that we want to see more of, and which we have the opportunity to support more at Gallon Jug, the agricultural land at Chan Chich. Using that land in a manner that takes advantage of every opportunity to be more productive, while enriching the soil, so that more will grow in the future–this is key to where we are going.
Dan Barber, more than most chefs, has inspired our thinking when it comes to the value chain economics of farm to table–especially for restaurants stranded in big cities. Finding, nurturing and rewarding farmers who provide inputs that deserve to be protected for the future. Market forces, in the form of visionary chef meets willing patrons, are key to this model.
Dozens of other inspirations have helped us prepare, most importantly the guests who come and taste the food, understand the relationship between the farm and the conservation mission, and encourage our resolve. We look forward to more of that in 2017 and beyond. Next month we will make the first big step forward when our new chef arrives, and he is, like us, inclined to follow Dan Barber’s lead. Stay tuned.