Summer Centered: Jake Ephron ’19 Practices Agroforestry in Belize
At the Maya Mountain Research Farm, the biology major will help build a sustainable farming structure that promotes food security and a vibrant ecosystem.
In the foothills of the Maya Mountains of southern Belize, Jake Ephron ’19 is working on a project that serves as a real-world example of how to live sustainably in a local environment. At the Maya Mountain Research Farm (MMRF) near the mostly indigenous Mayan village of San Pedro Columbia, Ephron is learning the craft of agroforestry, which uses agricultural and forestry methods to grow native crops without endangering the ecosystems of local forests. His internship is sponsored by the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship (CPGC).
Ephron, alongside members of the local indigenous population, is helping manage the demonstration farm that aims to achieve food security (access to safe, nutritious food in adequate quantities and varieties to ensure health) through the maintenance of biodiversity in the local ecosystem. His work allows him to supplement his academic interests as a biology major, environmental studies minor, and peace, justice, and human rights concentrator, while offering him the opportunity to work and learn alongside the people that MMRF supports with their research.
“I took a class on food bioethics this spring as part of my peace, justice, and human rights concentration, and I really wanted to connect the [human] aspect to my love of environmental conservation,” said Ephron, a Seattle native, lacrosse player, and member of the Committee for Environmental Responsibility. “By looking at the implementation of agroforestry this project provides a great example of how people can live sustainably within their local environment.”
As an intern with MMRF, Ephron is helping with planting and harvesting crops (like mangoes and cherries) in the morning and doing less intensive tasks during the afternoon heat, such as sorting cacao seeds for chocolate making. When he isn’t working, he has been enjoying spending time with the farm’s two other interns in an open-air dormitory, or swimming in the nearby Rio Grande (a different, smaller river than the one along the Texas-U.S. border). He has also spent time in the local village and plans to take trips to the city of Punta Gorda and the nearby Mayan ruins.
Along with the opportunity to eat abundant fresh fruit and vegetables from the farm, Ephron is enjoying the opportunity to support and learn from a vibrant, sustainable community operation.
“It's been amazing to see the agroforestry process in work,” he said. “Between the bushmen who help with the planting and the creation of a canopy and sub-canopy, there are truly a lot of interconnected parts at play in the forest.”
-Michael Weber ’19
“Summer Centered” is a series exploring our students’ Center-funded summer work.