If Chelsa Muña closes her eyes and imagines the future of farming on Guåhan, it is radically beautiful. She told us, “What I hope to see are just thousands of little farms, where people realize they can grow thousands of pounds of produce on a quarter acre, a half acre, or even an eighth of an acre.” In this vision, she doesn’t see endless rows of a single crop, but a diversity of fruit trees and vegetable plants arranged in circles, spirals, and figure eights, all of it in harmony with nature.
A self-taught farmer, Chelsa is inspired by Masanobu Fukuoka’s One Straw Revolution where she read about how to farm in harmony with nature, and how to work with the island’s ecology to grow fruits and vegetables using the plants’ natural relations with each other. This made an impact on her because it aligned so much with how CHamoru culture emphasizes powerful relations with the land. “CHamoru culture is about living in harmony with nature and those around you.”
One of the key elements is growing a diversity of flora and fauna. At her home in Talofofo, she grows breadfruit, passionfruit, achote, Malabar spinach, Tongan spinach, upo squash, hot peppers, turmeric, dill, and so much more. She also raises chickens, ducks, and has two carabaos that clear land and provide natural fertilizer. Chelsa said, “When you have a diversity existing on your property, then nature takes care of itself. You have less pests, less invasive species, less sickness that can impact your produce and whatever you’re growing because the diversity strengthens everything around.”
As director of the Department of Agriculture, Chelsa wants to make the agency a resource to encourage and support new farmers to grow diverse foods naturally by providing technical assistance, infrastructural support, as well as programs to teach new farmers. She also sees how supporting local agriculture can help build the local economy and other facets of the island’s community such as schools and roads. “It all comes back to you if you’re buying from your local farmer.”
When asked what her advice would be to an aspiring farmer, she said “It’s absolutely not as hard as you think it has to be. The idea that the farmer has to wake up at the crack of dawn to work all day in the sun, it’s just not true.” Not an early riser herself, Chelsa has learned to train her chickens to lay later in the day, and she focuses on growing trees that continuously give fruit without much effort. With creativity and just a little bit of effort, a new farmer can make their farming dreams come true.