Frequently Asked Questions
+ Where is Río Muchacho Located?
The entrance to Río Muchacho is 10 km north of Canoa on the San Vicente-Jama Road on the mid coast of Ecuador. From the entrance from the main road, it is 8 km of unpaved road to the organic farm; this road is passable by car most of the year, but during the rainy season the last 2 km may become impassable. On these occasions, horses or walking are the main forms of transport. With the last earthquake the situation nowadays is all about reconstruction in all the areas around so you can watch all the sustainable arquitecture that we made. Our cabañas resisted very well the earthquake and the economy in Canoa is been reactivated each day with the visit of tourists from all parts of the world so you can be sure that you have adecuated insfraestructure for your staying
+ How Do I Get to Río Muchacho?
The meeting place for travel to the farm is at the office in Canoa, usually 9am. The office is located just off the main street, on the second side-street to the left before the beach (address Avenida 30 de Noviembre y Calle Javier Santos, Telephone 05 261 6384 091479849). Once at the office you will need to complete a registration form with contact information, and you will receive a brief introduction of the farm. From Canoa, you will be met by a pickup transport which will take you directly to the farm, approximately a 20-30 minute ride. NOTE : Río Muchacho is the name of the farm (Río Muchacho Finca Orgánica), the river, and also the community. According to the locals, the river was given that name because it can be very unpredictable in the rainy season, like a young boy or “muchacho“.
For more information, please visit our How To Get Here page.
+ How Do I get to Bahía/Canoa?
Please see How to Get Here for information.
+ What is the Objective of Río Muchacho Organic Farm?
Farming practices in the Río Muchacho area (as in most parts of the world) are largely conventional and unsustainable. Destructive clearing, burning, mono-cropping and the use of chemicals are common practices, which impoverish the soil. Corporate food production has estranged us from food production, something that not so long ago was part of our everyday lives. Río Muchacho Organic Farm was the same until 1987 when work began to convert it to a non-polluting sustainable system.
Río Muchacho now has an important role in demonstrating alternatives like biogas, solar power, composting systems, worm culture, water recycling, reforestation and forage systems, permaculture/ organic farming techniques and environmental tourism. There is more experience in organic farming in the Andes and in temperate climates in general, but there is little on the coast (with the exception of a couple of large banana plantations).
Río Muchacho provides a place for people to experience and learn about food production, to connect with the earth and practice sustainable living. The farm now receives many community and student groups who come to learn about these alternatives.
Río Muchacho is a seed Centre (one of the seed centers of the Ecuadorian Seed Savers Network). The aim is for the farm to produce its own seed, to share and exchange seed with others. The farm also works to grow heritage seeds, rare and endangered, promote wild vegetables and traditional medicine.
Ecotourism is another practiced activity; In 2002-2003 the farm was chosen to participate in an ecotourism certification pilot project, and became one of the first 12 projects that successfully completed this program in Ecuador. Tourists also learn about the processes on the farm and enjoy activities associated with the local environment and Montubio Culture.
+ What is the Starting Time for Tours?
Please arrive to our office in Canoa no later than 9H00. We will have an organized ride for you directly to the farm.
+ What Should I Bring?
- Water Bottle (Metal ones are tougher have a longer re-usable lifespan)
- Work clothing you don’t mind getting dirty/ stained – Light cotton is best. Also remember to bring long pants & sleeves
- Nicer clothing for fiestas and going out in Canoa (Also bathing suits for the beach in Canoa)
- A small padlock for room/locker
- Biodegradable clothing detergent (Or you can pay a small fee to have clothing cleaned)
- Body/ Hair soap – Glycerine soaps are biodegradable
- Sun hat and sunscreen
- Good books
- Basic first aid kit, along with any specific medications or supplies you might need
- Cream for soothing itchy bites, as scratching may infect the bite
- Mosquito net if preferred
At the moment we are trying to create a library at our school, and asking friends and family if they want to donate a book (Bilingual or in Spanish) would be greatly appreciated! We are in need of beginners reading books and thin large print paperbacks. Donations for the school are also welcome and some people are even so kind to do fund-raising before coming. Wish list: laptops for the school – second- (or even third-) hand is fine, as long as they are working well.
NOTE: If you are concerned about what to do with things that you might bring for the school/community until you come to the farm, we suggest that you send them on to our Canoa office when you arrive in Quito or Guayaquil. Reina del Camino has an excellent parcel service which will cost $3-4.
+ How Far is the Farm from a Town, Telephone & Internet?
The closest town with internet and telephone services is Canoa, 17 km from the farm. Because of the beautiful beach and good surf, Canoa is experiencing a tourism boom. Therefore, you can find many hotels and hostels, restaurants and bars, and various tour operators. There are several internet cafes and phone booths (“cabinas”) from which international calls can be made. Internet at the cafes costs around $1.25 per hour, and cabinas are generally a bit more expensive in Canoa (around $0.30 per minute for international calls) than in Bahía or larger cities. Skype is available in most internet cafes, which charges much less for international calls ($0.02 per minute to landlines and cell phones and free if calling directly to another computer with the same program).
+ What Communication is there from the farm?
We have a landline phone at the farm, which is our only connection outside of the farm. There is no internet and no fax. The easiest way of communicating with the farm from Canoa is to talk with the office, and then the office can call up to the farm. We ask that volunteers do not use the phone for personal calls unless it is short, since we only have one phone line. The phone line on the farm does not have international capability.
+ Can I Use a Cell Phone at the Farm?
Yes and no. There is no signal at the farm itself, although there is limited cellular reception on the top of the hill in front of the farm. You must have an Ecuadorian chip or international capability to receive service. This is a 15 minute walk up a steep hill, where you are able to call out the majority of the time.
+ Is Safe Drinking Water Readily Available at the Farm?
At Río Muchacho the water is filtered and all vegetables are disinfected with a very reliable product made with grapefruit seed extract. Bottled water is readily available in Ecuador, although sadly the bottles aren’t widely recycled. We highly encourage the re-use of bottles and reduction of waste by having our own constantly available supply of filtered drinking water at the farm.
Note: you should never drink the tap water, and should avoid using it to brush your teeth – this also applies to hostels in most of Ecuador.
+ Is There a Possibility of Contracting Malaria or Another Tropical Disease?
There is minimal risk of Malaria at the farm, but there are Malaria cases on the coast in general. Many people come to the farm and do not take precautions, but if you want to be completely safe (and also if you will be traveling to other parts of Ecuador) it is best to bring Malaria medication.
As you will be on a farm where there is manure, you should have a Tetanus shot before coming. Your local doctor/travel clinic will be able to provide recommendations about any other vaccines or medications you may need. Note that while the Yellow fever vaccine is no longer a requirement to enter the country, it’s a good idea if you want to do any traveling – especially in the jungle. Much of Ecuador to the east of our location is a minimal risk area for Yellow fever. There are a few cases of Dengue fever on the coast, although it is the less-serious strain of the disease (NOT the haemorrhagic Dengue). As there is no vaccine for Dengue, so avoiding mosquito bites is most important; Wearing long pants and sleeves, insect repellent, using a mosquito net when necessary, avoid being outside with exposed skin around dusk, etc. All-in-all, there are very few mosquitos at the farm.
+ What Kind of Biting Insects are There?
There are hardly any mosquitoes at the farm but can be more in Canoa. There are small sand flies in the morning and evening, and at certain times of the year there are ticks. The ticks do not carry disease, they are just simply pests.
Some measures you may take to avoid tick problems are to wear long trousers and rubber boots when working in long grass areas, and check yourself regularly. In general, there are far less biting insects at the farm than can be found in the cloud forest or in the jungle.
+ What Health Services are Available?
In Canoa there is a medical centre for minor issues, while there are doctors and clinics both in San Vicente and Bahía de Caráquez (1 hour trip). Always ask at the farm or office for help with doctors or emergency assistance. In case of serious injury, there is a helicopter and air ambulance service to Quito to the Hospital Metropolitano, an excellent hospital.
+ Is There a Quiet Spot for Meditation or Yoga?
Yes, the farm has a peaceful garden, removed from the noise and activity of the main house, which is planted with a large variety of trees, flowers and plants. It has a covered meditation/yoga platform overlooking the river.
+ What Kind of Food is Served?
The food we serve is mostly from the farm and therefore organic, though some things do not grow on the coast so we have to buy them. Breakfast consists of a colourful fruit salad and a typical starchy dish often made with plantain or yucca and baked in a traditional wood oven, as well as herbal tea or coffee. Lunch in Ecuador always consists of soup and a main course of rice, which, at the farm, will come with vegetable salad and lentils or another sauce-type vegetable dish (usually pulses), and fresh fruit juice. Dinner is a different main course, as described, and herbal tea/coffee.
The food is mainly vegetarian, but sometimes with fish, shrimp, or (rarely) white meats – no red meat is served. It is a very creative combination of local food and vegetable dishes. If you are a vegetarian travelling in Ecuador you will be relieved to find a wide variety of vegetables on your plate.
We can cater for vegetarians, vegans and anyone with food allergies.
“We have told many people that the food we had at Río Muchacho was the best we had anywhere in Ecuador”
-Chris Bradshaw, USA
For more information, please see our Vegetarian Eating Guide.
+ What Kind of Work is Done with the Community?
Darío has been involved in community outreach since buying the farm in 1987, initiating many valuable activities and projects. Foremost is the Río Muchacho Environmental and Community School, coordinated by both Darío and Nicola, which they opened in 1993. The school has served to unite the community by providing a meeting place for workshops, courses, and fundraising activities, in addition to providing quality education for the children. Here they have a more creative, practical education with an emphasis on ecology and organic agriculture. Since the majority of the families in this community are farmers, learning about agriculture is essential, and the focus on organic practices helps to ensure better care of the land and river in the future.
In addition, more time is spent on art, English, sports, and environmental studies than in the government schools. The children from the school come to the farm to get hands-on experience in our non-contaminating farming methods. They also come for eco-camps where they watch educational videos and do environmental art.
We have organized workshops for adults in the community based on agriculture and alternative forms of income- such as techniques working with ageing wood, weaving banana fiber to make sun hats, etc.
Annual health days are held at the school where the local people have access to dentists, doctors, and the mobile cancer clinic.
Volunteer groups coordinated by the farm have helped a lot in the community by working in the school, renovating the church, and creating a water system (which has recently been incorporated into a larger project to build bathroom units for the families in the valley). Volunteer work in the environmental school includes everything from teaching, lesson planning, and helping with art projects, to repairs and maintenance, construction projects, or helping the children with their organic garden systems.
The farm has a fair trade store with handmade non-perishable food products and artisan goods from the community, sold at no profit to the farm. We are working with members of the community to create new products to supplement their income.
Garden competitions have been held as an incentive to grow more food and flowers, as well as making the houses and community more attractive.
After the devastating El Niño and earthquake in 1998, we created a bamboo reforestation project for the area since supplies grew very low there was very high demand.
These are just a few examples of our extensive community outreach projects; There is a folder at the farm with more information if you are interested. Also, new ideas are always welcome!
+ Is It Suitable to Bring Children to the Farm?
YES! In general, children love the experience on the farm because there are so many things that they can do and be involved in, and of course so much to learn. We offer a customized family adventure tour, including many of the activities in our 3-day tour but focused and paced according to the needs of children.
Here are some testimonials from families that visited recently:
“Bryce, Clark and I had a wonderful time at Rio Muchacho. In fact, the boys keep saying it was the highlight of our Ecuador trip, including the Galápagos. I’m sure it was the hands-on involvement with the animals and food processes that engaged them so well. We enjoyed so much meeting everyone involved at Río Muchacho. Our Spanish got a great work-out. Bryce is talking about wanting to come back longer as a volunteer some day!”
-Susan Wilson, USA
"We had such a wonderful day full of adventures and unique insights about sustainable living and life, that it’s hard to believe it all happened in just one day. We embarked on a day trip nearly a month ago, and our kids still have not stopped talking about it. I never imagined that the day’s activities would be as child friendly as they were, the ranch went above and beyond the call of duty, to ensure that the day as was memorable for our children, as it as for us. Quite honestly, we can hardly wait to return again." Entraced By Rio Muchacho