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The Dreamcatcher, a bed-and-breakfast in Puerto Rico’s capital city of San Juan, has launched a voluntourism program to help those affected by Hurricane Maria — specifically, local organic farmers hit hard by the storm. Participating guests will have the option to enjoy an immersive, feel-good farm experience while dining on some of the best vegetarian cuisine in the Caribbean.
Prior to Hurricane Maria, Estancia Verde Luz, an organic farm in Puerto Rico’s countryside about an hour’s drive from the city, had long supplied The Dreamcatcher’s kitchen with superlative produce. The Dreamcatcher’s voluntourism efforts are intended to help rebuild Estancia Verde Luz: Besides donating money, guests of the B&B can help at the farm in a variety of ways, from plant propagation to the rebuilding of farm structures. They’ll also learn about organic farming.
Additionally, 10 percent of guest stays at The Dreamcatcher will benefit Estancia Verde Luz and other local farms.
“We've had an abundance of inquiries from past and new guests asking how they can help,” said Sylvia De Marco, co-owner of The Dreamcatcher. “It was this outpouring of support that inspired us to create a program to help guests give back to the island and showcase Puerto Rico’s beautiful land and natural agriculture, which is very much part of The Dreamcatcher’s ethos.”
The property also launched a farm-to-table dinner series last month, using produce from a variety of local farms and highlighting local chefs. Farmers may even join the dinners, adding another layer of authenticity and education to the experience.
Attending guests are presented with a keepsake of bundled herbs and produce seeds to use in their own gardens at home.
“The bundles are made with herbs and spices from the dinner, such as cinnamon sticks with flat cilantro or tulsi (holy basil),” De Marco said. “Sometimes we include the edible flowers we use at dinner, while the seeds may be tomato seeds, eggplant seeds or pumpkin seeds.”
Chef Natalia Vallejo of Puerto Rico restaurant Finca oversaw the initial dinners last month and will continue to helm dinners every Saturday and Sunday through March. Vallejo was born in San Juan and enjoyed a childhood surrounded by the visual arts as well as cooking. This accounts for Vallejo’s passion for designing dishes that are a delight for the eye as well as the palate. Her professional career as a chef has taken her to Argentina, Spain and Chile, then back to Puerto Rico to reconnect with her culinary roots and to forge relationships with organic farmers on the island. Additional host chefs at the B&B’s dinner series will be announced over the coming months.
The Dreamcatcher is located in San Juan’s Ocean Park neighborhood, close to the beach as well as the Condado neighborhood. Nine guestrooms and three suites are available; most have a private or semi-private terrace incorporating lots of local plants and look out on the central courtyard gardens. However, agents should note that some guestrooms have private bathrooms while others share facilities with one or two other rooms.
All guests have access to a communal kitchen with assigned shelf space. None of the rooms have televisions, but there is free Wi-Fi access throughout the property. The Dreamcatcher’s kitchen is open daily for breakfast, brunch and lunch, with food cooked by chef Paulina Escanes. Guests can expect lots of vegetarian items, as well as an array of homemade tarts and pastries and housemade drinks including kombucha and juices.