Meet the man who saw it coming, the Bocas Legend: Malcolm Henderson.
Even if the world is coming to an end or not, the earth’s reserve of hospitality for human kind is drying up. She doesn’t care how you rate her on TripAdvisor, she’s fully booked anyway. Our mailboxes, FB feeds and news sources are inundated with information on the fast paced changesof our planet, a constant reminder of the impending devastation man kind will face, as messy guests.
People are reacting to the fear and inconvenience of having to change the way they live in a spectrum of ways. Internally : Acceptance vs. Denial , Externally: Active movement and involvement vs. passive apathy. While there is a surge of entities feeding off this fear, there is a bloom of people banding together, uniting for change and breaking through the Red Tape hurdles of greed and corruption. Climate Strikers, Scientists, Survivalists, Homesteaders, Minimalists, Organic and Permaculture Farmers…Vegans! The choices we make everyday ultimately tally the score; as a Vegan/Urban Farmer friend of ours always says :
“if you really want to stick it to the man…grow your own food.”
Unfortunately there are no tenant laws to take to the court of the Universe, and those who wallow in fossil fuel filth will not be held more accountable than those who take to the streets in protest, as the earth’s eco-systems unravel. The darkest… ever looming question is: Is it too late?
Rewind 23 years and meet Malcolm Henderson, an entrepreneur from England. The year is 1997 and Malcolm is ” running flat out on the treadmill of success in the business of dealing in Art, and risking [his] health while chasing ever more dollars”. To catch his breath, Malcolm takes a trip to visit the Bribri Tribe on the the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, but the road from San Jose heading south washes out. Instead of heading back to San Jose, to hang around the hotel pool, Malcolm takes a leap of faith… into the wild and off the radar. We interview him to find out why he never turned back, why he side-stepped society, what gave him the conviction to follow his gut and persevere the un-paved path of sustainable living.
” Plans changed and I flew to Bocas Del Toro, an instinct told me that this was where I should live out the rest of my life. Sitting next to an environmental scientist, I noticed he was studying a graph that ran an almost straight line across three quarters of the bottom of the page and then abruptly took off in an almost vertical ascent. I asked him to explain and he told me his prognosis of doom: human waste would poison civilization. I decided then to find a property which had all the essentials for growing ones own food and in doing so provide a haven for my grandchildren.”
When i asked Malcolm about his grandchildren he responded ” who seem to understand me more than my sons do”. It’s true that the new generation is fighting a battle their ancestors picked for them. It makes you wonder where they would be today, if more people went Malcolm’s way in the 90’s. Will our children have the opportunity to wonder the same thought in 20 years from now?
“When I arrived in Bocas in 1997 I spoke of Global Warming and was ridiculed. I would hear people saying “Watch out here comes Global Warming Malcolm”. Biology and History are two genres which when combined teach us why upsetting the the precise interdependence of all the elements of our planet has brought civilizations to an end. Whether on a whole planet scale of evolution- over stepping the no return line and leading to devolution, or on a local level- such as occur today along the Tigris and Euphrates in Iraq and in Rain forests of Amazon Basin, History always repeats itself. Sadly, humankind doesn’t learn from it. Until recently, few showed concern preferring to believe advances in science will find the magic bullet to solve the problem and put Mother Nature together again. As with Humpty Dumpty she is close to being impossible to put together again.”
In 1997 internet was not available off the rural coast of Bocas Del Toro. Everything Malcolm has learned has been self taught, trial and error and lots of reading. For most of us who have been brought up in cities and suburbs, it’s hard to create change in our daily lives even with all the information at our fingertips. Even with the big picture in mind, how can we un-teach ourselves wasteful habits, un-learn the conveniences of single use plastics, and remember to turn the tap off while we brush our teeth? How do the facts that water is precious, and that food takes time and energy to produce ethically, effect your day to day routine? Are we going to wait until we are forced to come up with the answers to these questions? Or will we take a resolute leap like Malcolm did?
Malcolm Henderson’s checklist for survival:
“If you have an assured source of pure water, sunshine, a continual source of new top soil and the ability to make your own in- house-toxic-free-fertilizer, you have all you need to grow an abundance of plant foods. Add to that Rain Forest trees converting carbon into clean air and your chances of survival are much better than the chances of the elite buying residency and land on the South Island of New Zealand. The Tropics are not subject to the viciousness of climate change as are the Northern and Southern Hemispheres and if protected from hurricanes and shielded by outer islands from the full force of a Tsunami you can have a better chance to survive. I firmly believe that some animals including humans and plants will survive whatever could come from the continued burning of fossil fuels. These plants and animals will eventually repopulate the planet as it cools down after the end of the Industrial Revolution”
If the puzzle of survival ever plays in your mind, the list of necessities outlined above may sound all too familiar to you. The search for the perfect piece of land is critical when striving to be self sufficient. What was it about Finca Traquila that checked every box, inspired Malcolm to leave his life in the UK, and plant his roots in Panama?
“When I first set foot on the property, I knew I had found the place to survive Climate Change. Most of the three hundred meters of the farm’s waterfront is twelve feet above today’s tide level and from there the land rises to two hundred plus feet. The land drains perfectly. Added to this I found there were two fresh water springs which never run dry. Later a professional diviner on holiday from the US using a forked dowsing stick located a river twenty seven feet below and two men dug a well and sure enough reached the river of cold crystal clear water. In addition to the two springs and the river, a creek forms two thirds of the farm boundary and it also has never run dry.”
“To be sure your fertilizer is chemical free you must avoid adding any ”foreign” nutrients to your abono. The farm has been chemical free for eighteen years. Our grass cutting is done by our sheep and horses. We have all the nutrients needed to make excellent abono; cacao husks from our 150 cacao trees which are super food for plants; horse and sheep poop (don’t use cow poop which burns plants); rotten branches from the three hectares of forest; sea grass from shallows of the lagoon, swamp dirt rich in decayed plant matter and an endless source of topsoil washed on to our shore with every tide. The prevailing wind and tide in Laguna Tierra Oscura brings the top soil washed from the three miles of high ground on either side of the lagoon as a priceless gift to us. We spread it out on dry land and let the rain wash out most of the salt but leave some because plants need a touch of salt just as we all do. To our abono mix we add a handful of charcoal to speed the plants’s absorption of the nutrients.Our abono has been certified organic by IMO, a leading Latin America international certifier and by Panama’s MIDA.Two years ago I made the mistake of investing in an aquaponics system having been convinced by a promotion that it was the way of the future. After a year of using it with the nutrients coming from tanks of tilapia, we found plants grown in OUR ABONO mature in one third of the time for aquaponics plants to mature.”
“150- 250 hours per month make for excellent growing conditions”
“Added to all raw natural blessings, the farm is virtually free of Chitras [ no-see-ums] is thanks to the prevailing wind and absence of many mangrove bushes. The air we breath at the farm has come across twelve miles of sea and is rich in ozone and further enhanced by the conversion of the carbon content to pure air by our Rain Forest trees.”
When this opportunity presented itself to list Finca Tranquila, property of the Bocas Legend : Malcolm Henderson- a man with a David Attenborough aire, who has lived self – sufficiently off-the-grid for more than 20 years, we were of course honored. I was surprised he was so eager to share all the secrets to the farm’s success, the methods and the ingredients are basically packaged and ready to go in an easy, DIY, how-to-guide for the next Farmer who takes this paradise on. Aside from the business involved, what should not be over-looked is the wealth that is derived from life entwined with the intricacies of nature.
“The bonus I experience when at the farm is from being surrounded by Mother Nature. I feel welcomed by the Rain Forest trees and the Howler Monkeys and the small birds that live beneath the canopy. The absence of the high speed lifestyle of this age allows long periods of full concentration. By experiencing this I have become aware that the true Reality of existence lies beyond the boundaries most people conceive as Reality. It makes me aware that the only true god is Mother Nature. “
Malcolm Henderson is in the second half of his eighties, the request for him to retire from his self-sufficient lifestyle has been submitted by his caring family and doctor. If you are interested in Malcolm’s story he is now writing an auto-biography. Other books he has published include ‘ Don’t Kill the Cow too Quick, An Englishman’s adventures homesteading in Panama’, ‘Katie And Her Friends’ , ‘Granddad in the Back, A Guide to Adventurous Senior Living’, ‘ Superstitions, Pirates and Folklore of Bocas Del Toro, Panama’ and ‘Innocents Overboard’. They can all be purchased through the following Amazon link : Malcolm Henderson’s Amazon .
If you are passionate about becoming self-sufficient and living the clean life in the Tropics, make a date with us to tour Malcolm Henderson’s farm Finca Tranquila. The 10 Hectare, waterfront farm is for sale through Roots Real Estate Panama. We are committed to match-making Green Investors with unique opportunities in Panama. See our Finca Tranquila Listing for more information on this operational Permaculture farm, equipped with an incredibly knowledgeable staff, to help ease you into tranquil living.