Not just another cliché story about a couple that fell in love with Puerto Rico and moved here to make a real difference…
We’ve introduced you to Fusion Farms and our professional operation, now let’s introduce you to the heart and soul of our organization. We are Kendell Lang and Lisa Jander, a husband-and-wife team who visited Puerto Rico, fell completely in love with the island and its people, and decided to move here. We know, it sounds cliché but our plans were quite a bit more ambitious than a retirement spent on the beach with chilled piña coladas in hand.
The first time we travelled to Puerto Rico was before Hurricane Maria, and we were awestruck by the island’s natural resources and beauty. Puerto Rico is spectacularly green and fruit trees grow everywhere. We were shocked to learn that close to 80% of the fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs consumed on the island were imported. Imported? Well, if you want apples, you have to import them! And, of course, most of the fruits and vegetables we were accustomed to in southern California and other parts of the United States cannot be grown on Puerto Rico, given its tropical climate.
Even more shocking than the realization that this fertile, tropical island imported almost all of its fresh produce was the poor quality of the fresh produce available in grocery stores. Because of the distance this produce had travelled and Puerto Rico’s strict import regulations, which oftentimes cause delays at customs, this food was already beginning to turn bad, browned at the edges, and leached of nutrients.
From bad to worse: Hurricane Maria
Our third trip to Puerto Rico was only months after Hurricane Maria. The devastation was shocking; it looked like the entire island had been placed in a cosmic blender – chewed up and spit out. Massive trees had been stripped bare and snapped in half like twigs, and there were downed power lines and poles everywhere.
We were humbled and blessed by the openness, positive outlook, and outpouring of community support Puerto Ricans displayed in the aftermath of this crisis. Even though they had so much to mourn, they chose gratitude instead; gratitude that their concrete homes remained intact, even though their roofs were irreparably damaged and personal possessions destroyed or washed away by the flood.
We couldn’t help falling in love with the island and its optimistic people. It was then that the conversations between the two of us shifted to questions about how we could be a part of Puerto Rico’s long-term recovery. We recognized the dilapidated condition of the power grid would be an ongoing battle and we also knew the language barrier would be a struggle. But we resolved to adopt the indomitable spirit of Puerto Ricans.
Our desire was to melt into Puerto Rico’s wonderful culture – not to create our own.
Some called us crazy
“You’re moving from San Diego to Puerto Rico…why!?”
“Are you nuts?”
“Isn’t crime a problem in Puerto Rico?”
“Do they even have electricity on the island?”
“Aren’t they in the path of hurricanes?”
“Does anyone there speak English?”
“Can you even drink the water?”
“What about medical insurance, international calls, and social security?
Yep, we heard it all, from misconceptions to pure myths. But while we loved San Diego, Puerto Rico pulled at our heartstrings and answered our calling in one, compelling us to take the leap. We chose Puerto Rico.
“We didn’t move to Puerto Rico to take advantage of the island; we moved to Puerto Rico to help give the island an advantage.”
Kendell’s background in biology and life-long interest in sustainable agriculture and aquaponics seeded the idea for Fusion Farms. We understood that if we were to cater to the island’s need for fresh, local produce, our facility would have to be hurricane-protected, climate controlled, bio-secure, pesticide-free, fully indoor, off-grid, sustainable, and scalable…not a small list to accomplish!
And yet, today, we stand firmly planted in Puerto Rican soil, in the first of many Fusion Farms indoor aquaponics facilities, and on the cusp of realizing our dreams of making a difference: of turning the tides of reliance on food imports and traditional farming vulnerable to the elements, and of creating jobs for Puerto Rican students, farmers, and other hard-working individuals.
Our pilot facility stands proudly with our name, Fusion Farms Puerto Rico, emblazoned across the top; our vertical racks are groaning with seedling leafy greens, herbs, and vegetables, which sell out like hotcakes; and our rainwater collection tanks and solar panels have been installed and are powering our operations in a sustainable, renewable way. There’s much to do still but that’s only because the sky is the limit.
This island has so much to give and we are working hard to give back. We hope you join us, too!