Farming and restoration at the Hornopiren Farm: A chat with Héctor and Nancy Oyarzún

For almost eleven years, Hector and Nancy Oyarzun have managed the picturesque and productive Hornopiren farm, part of the Pumalin Project.  This farm lies only 60 miles (100 km) south of Puerto Montt by the Carretera Austral (the Southern Highway) making it more accessible than the other farms of the Pumalin Project.  Dramatic views of the Hornopiren Volcano, the centerpiece of the nearby Hornopiren National Park, make this farm also one of the most beautiful.

Hector and Nancy began their work at Hornopiren shortly after Doug and Kris acquired the property.  They had their work cut out for them: the farm was a textbook example of poor management practices, bearing the scars of poor forestry and agricultural practices, as well as illegal dumping and timber processing.  After over a decade of restoration work, Hector, Nancy, and those working alongside them have transformed Hornopirén into a healthy and beautiful farm once again.

The vast majority of its 855 acres (346 hectares) remain uncultivated Valdivian temperate rainforest, providing prime habitat for rare wildlife such as the pudú, the world’s smallest deer.  Herds of cattle and sheep graze on restored pastures. The organic greenhouses, vegetable garden and berry plantation use an innovative composting system to provide nutrients to plants.  Organic honey production rounds out the farm’s diverse productive activities.

Hector and Nancy took a break to answer a few questions about working at Hornopiren and their experience there.

Q: Where are you from?

A: We are both from Osorno, a city north of Puerto Montt, and grew up farming there.

Q: What has led you to stay so long at Hornopiren?

A:  Hornopiren is a very peaceful, beautiful, well-organized farm.  It’s a pleasure to spend time here, and we’re very happy with our work.  This is the biggest challenge we’ve ever taken on, but also the most satisfying

Q: What are the challenges of managing this farm?

A:  The restoration process was long and challenging, and we often had to experiment to figure out the best technique, since this type of restoration work has not been done before in this region.  Over the years, we’ve shifted our balance of sheep and cattle, trying to figure out which livestock makes the most sense ecologically and economically.  We work every day to farm with nature, but that can be a difficult, complicated project.

Q:  What is your favorite part of your work day?

A:  When we return to the farm on Monday morning, to figure out the challenges and lessons of the next week of work!

Q: In your experience, what is unique about working as part of the Pumalin Project?

A:  Doug is a great leader and boss: he believes in us and trusts us based on our track record here, and gives us the opportunity to do what we love most—working on a farm, close to nature and wildlife.  We receive great advice from him and Carlos Zambrano (manager of Pumalin Park and Project), but also have the space to work independently.  We really feel that we are part of a big family of motivated, like-minded people.

Hornopiren features a restored wooden farmhouse, build decades ago in the regional style, maintenance and equipment sheds, and fixed-up interior farm roads.

The mighty Hornopiren volcano provides a grand background for berry plantations.

Fences and walkways are constructed in the traditional local style.

Hector and Nancy sell many of the vegetables they produce at the local market in the town of Hornopiren.

All cattle are raised organically and entirely on pastures.

The farm produces a wide variety of berries: blueberry, raspberry, gooseberry, murta, and sarsaparilla.

Additional supervision by dog!

 

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