Agricultores Unidos del Centro, Utuado

Due to a gardening obsession, I was able to see an abandoned cigar factory and a lot of bats. Aka, our trip to the Agricultores Unidos del Centro (AUC) in Utuado.

I have been searching for compost for ages now, months and months and months. Why do I need compost when the island is full of great soil? Because I am just a lowly container gardener for now, a gardener that MUST plant something or she goes nutty. After watching hours and hours of videos on Puerto Rico farms and reading about the slow and steady food movement taking hold here I finally got in contact with someone who could “set me up”. This turned out to be a farmers co-op in Utuado at the AUC.

As some of you may know, maps are useless in Puerto Rico – Puerto Rico laughs at your GPS. Not only that, directions include statements such as “turn right after the cemetery, then you’ll see a big yellow building, keep going until you get to a crossroads with a broken lamp pole…”

As usual though I had convinced myself we could find the people who possessed my precious compost without asking for any help this time. After all I had my NEW map, produced by the DTOP of all people! Surely, they know what is what. Right?

So…after asking 3 people (all who said the co-op was next to “the old cigar factory”) and about 30 minutes making wrong turns we finally found it. Clearly marked at the entrance, yay!

There are several vendors at this co-op, which frankly, was a bonus because no one ever mentioned it. I was under the impression this was solely shared farm land and not an outdoor market as well. It was a pleasant surprise to say the least, they even had adorable puppies for an adoption fee.

We were given permission to check out the grounds on foot after we collected several bags of compost. The huge tree you see houses a metal hive for bees in the area, they were incredibly active so this is as close as I was willing to get. Acres upon acres of banana trees, pepper plants, all the staples of Puerto Rican agriculture.

Most of the vendors had packed up by the time our walk was done so we hurried over to the cigar factory before the gates were locked.

The cigar factory mostly houses several hundred (if not thousands) of bats now but you can evidently see this must have been one beauty in its heyday. Steve, always fascinated by architecture, wished for a few million dollars to restore it to its former glory. I had my doubts that decades of bat guano could ever really be adequately removed.

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