Project FAQs

Project FAQs

Why should we come to you?
If you are interested in learning about sustainable living, want a break where you can feel that you have actually done something and feel rested, if you want to eat great food, meet like-minded people, learn some Spanish, feel the sun on your back and the soil beneath your feet, have an input to the future of a project, avoid the cold winters, help support the local economy, then come and see us.

Having visited and researched many of the ‘competition’ of eco-lodges and hotels in Mexico, we feel that there is nowhere offering anything near this level of opportunities to learn, nor sporting such complete environmental credentials. Please check for yourself and let us know if you agree (or even if you don’t)!

Some key questions you should ask your hosts therefore (of which we freely publish the answers here) are:

  • Do you make profit? – Most hosts use volunteers to reduce their overheads and therefore make more money. They are doing regular repetitive farming jobs (a lot of farming is repetitive). We are organic and have no product to sell and we reinvest any profits we may make in the future. We think ‘using’ volunteers to increase profit is inherently not in the spirit of volunteering. We are sure there are some great hosts out there… so don’t assume. ASK!
  • Are you generating your own power? Yes!
  • What do you offer the volunteers to eat? Many hosts give just beans and rice to their volunteers (particularly in developing countries). We have a full range of food including eggs, fresh fruit and vegetables (organic and from site where possible) and a low volume of meat and fish. You will not be fed, you will be involved in the cooking!
  • What will I learn during my stay with you? At Lodgecol you will learn about many things that you can take with you, things that you can see working in action as the beginnings at least, of a (complete) life more ordinary – not just one small part of a production machine.  Expect to  learn about composting toilets, solar power, organic planting, raised beds, managing of chickens and bees, planting harvesting, weeding, mulching, composting etc etc. We are not selling a mass market product (albeit organic). We are not selling anything so everything we do is small volume and done by hand, meaning a higher variety of work. The work will clearly be seasonal (eg a lot of weeding is needed in the rainy season). The longer your stay, obviously the more varied your work will be.

Feel free to drop us an email with any questions. We would love to see you!
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What does it cost to stay?
From 2014 we are going to charge volunteers to contribute towards costs for food of $5 per person per day. Please see the next question.
Still unsure? Please see our recommendations!
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Why do you now charge volunteers?
We provide a great volunteer experience in a truly unique surrounding (see our reviews and return volunteers). We are heavily oversubscribed (we have far more applicants than work available for them). We take our time to get to know our volunteers, introduce you to locals, the local surroundings, we welcome you in our home and manage what we are doing so that you can get out if you work a day off too, have volunteer bike(s) amongst many other things. You are not ‘just’ unpaid labour.

We fundamentally don’t think it is a good idea to charge volunteers; we don’t believe it is in the ethos of volunteering. However, we have some extraordinary circumstances: We are a not-for-profit – we do not commercialise products or services to the open market. We do not profit from the work of volunteers. All the work is funded purely from our savings, which are obviously limited and therefore this is not a sustainable practice. The hired local labour (with which you are competing from a ‘business’ perspective) is very cheap.

Local labour is about $8 per day of 10 hours and labourers need no accommodation and no food. (Volunteers have 3 meals, accommodation and work typically 6 hours a day). The locals also do not need attention in the form of a web site or emails or collecting from Valladolid etc. They also will work in the sun without complaint, doing extremely hard and / or repetitive work that most volunteers will not survive. They do not need to learn anything or have much explained to them. They know the difference between weeds and plants, and those that have other properties. They instinctively understand and largely work in harmony with the natural resources around us (for instance they can go find and make a pick axe handle with just a machete). This means that without charging volunteers to cover some of our basic costs, it is cheaper and more efficient to simply not host them, which would be a shame.

The cheapest and nearest accommodation locally (hostels in Valladolid, such as Candelaria or 5 Calles) cost around $9+ per night in a shared dormitory. We are not competing with hostels but we do include all or your food.

We have hosted more than 50 volunteers since we began in December 2011. Almost all of the volunteers have been an extraordinary asset to our project. However, it still takes some time to be truly useful on site, which is why we have a minimum stay of 2 weeks. We feel at this point we are just about ‘breaking even’. We have had some volunteers that for whatever reason leave after a short time and this costs us time, money, effort and leaves us needing to employ somebody anyway. Worse, it displaces another volunteer who could have stayed and learnt with us.

Charging volunteers a nominal fee to cover food costs (and not to make profit) also excludes volunteers that may otherwise wish to use our project as a ‘free ride’ (we have had some!). We open our home, our hearts and our minds to our volunteers. It may seem unusual to charge for free labour in the developing world, but if you look around, you will find it is a common practice in developing countries to charge a small fee.

We therefore charge a nominal $5 a day per person (which equates for ease, in Mexican Pesos – to around MXP900 for 2 weeks) to cover some of our costs, which is PAYABLE ON ARRIVAL AND NOT REFUNDABLE. The food we provide is far more than rice and beans offered at some other volunteers’ farms and we feel that full stomachs makes happy volunteers.

There may be an opportunity for a committed volunteer who stay more than a month to take on more responsibility and have this charge waived for following months (by becoming a volunteer co-ordinator).

It has not been a comfortable decision, but we thank you for your understanding. If you still aren’t happy, then we genuinely understand and wish you luck with your search for a free stay elsewhere.

Do you take bookings?
We are not a hotel, we do not charge for your stay. We try and take bookings on good will. You will be taking the place of someone else who could have helped us and learned a great deal if you cancel at short notice. We accept that volunteers are often travelling and that this can change plans. In the same way we honour your ‘booking’ without a fee, please give us the same respect by giving us at least a 2 weeks’ notice if you can’t make it. This will allow us to offer your place to someone else. If you are changing by a day or so, this won’t be a problem, but you will need to find your own way here if we have previously arranged to collect you.

If you are vague about your attendance, please don’t ask for a space as we and the other volunteers would rather that you don’t!
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How is this project funded?
This is a project which is privately funded and we do not have shareholders. All profits will be reinvested.
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Is Lodgecol for me?
Please read the ‘info’ page. If you are the sort of person who has a screaming hissy fit because a bug is drinking your beer then it probably isn’t. If you are the sort who fishes out the bug and then asks him to spit it out as there is no such thing as free beer….then it probably is for you!

We want happy volunteers so believe it is paramount to be honest. It is a truly amazing place with a unique learning experience. It can be very hot, it is almost always hard work but it is very rewarding. If you are expecting a personal course on permaculture or soap making, please look in a town near you and be ready to get your wallet out to pay $1000’s. You will learn a lot here by actually doing, guided by us and can stay for free. The return for us is that you work hard and diligently and hopefully you will have some input of new ideas too. We can direct you to some great books which we have which additionally support the theory from composting toilets to building an off grid power system, many of the things we have done already or are doing plus a lot of things we are yet to try.  If we can align your work with your skills and interests then that is great, but we need doing what needs to be done which is why we are looking for volunteers and not paying students. We have had great feedback from our volunteers and constantly try and improve the experience with us too!

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Where are you located?
We are 30kms from Valladolid in Central Yucatan, SE Mexico – which itself is approximately 2 hours by bus  from both Cancun (Quintana Roo) and the Yucatan state capital, Merida. We are 10kms from a village called Yalcoba on the eastern side of Valladolid.
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Why Mexico?
The climate makes for good growing conditions for products year-round on which we rely. The high sun levels will provide great radiation for solar hot water, solar cooking and photovoltaics for generating electricity (the last of which probably wouldn’t make financial sense in Northern USA/Europe without the use of feed-in tariffs). We don’t need heating here year round which would be a major energy consumer and carbon emitter. We believe that with careful building design and some improved tolerance, we wont need A/C either. We are confident that in the future we could apply what we learn to more severe climates. Finally, the land and labour are more affordable, which means we are able to grow “organically”, support the local economy and not have to treat it as a cold hard business where we are at the beck and call of shareholders or bank managers. A life more ordinary?
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Why Yucatan?
We spent a lot of time looking around most parts of Mexico to find the best site. We felt Yucatan has great weather, great soil which would allow us to grow our own food, great access for international visitors via Cancun, the highest level of security in Mexico and good infrastructure. We wanted to be situated somewhere where we could cool off from the heat and have water for crops. Since Yucatan doesn’t have rivers, this means a cenote! Yucatan has great colonial cities, vast national parks and huge amounts of Mayan history. It is a short drive from the Caribbean with truly astonishing places such as as Tulum less than a couple of hours’ drive. They are far, far away in concept from the package holiday hi-rise of Cancun with amazing untouched beaches which you can still stroll on your own. We also needed enough agricultural land to produce our own food, which meant that the more touristic locations were prohibitively expensive for the space we require.
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How do I get to you?
We have a page devoted to this here
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What about carbon emissions of travelling?
We strongly advise arriving by public or shared transport as far as you can manage to minimise your carbon footprint. There are details on how to do this here.
We also hope that you will take ideas with you that will lower your’s, your friends’ and your family’s footprints forever. Hopefully, they will in turn pass some of these ideas on. Although we cannot measure these positive results, we believe that this will have a net benefit. We also recognise that there are inherent carbon implications in most travel and we are going to launch an offsetting scheme where we plant trees with your donations that you can actually see for yourself, rather than sponsoring something in a distant land that may or may not happen and may have happened anyway. We are also using a biochar scheme which buries carbon back into the soil whilst improving it, making our project negative in carbon.
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Do I need insurance to stay with you?
We are a not for profit organisation and cannot cover any illness or accident cover, however caused. We try our best to have as safe surroundings as possible, but ultimately, this is a farm in the Mexican jungle with the associated risks from machetes to snakes and tropical illnesses etc. We would highly recommend insurance for working holidays or as a minimum some form of savings for return transportation or doctors / hospitalization. We will of course do our best to support you in the unlikely event of an incident. However, we cannot be held in any way responsible and your acceptance of this term and condition is a prerequisite to our accepting you to work here. See this page from one of our volunteer sites for more information regarding insurance.
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Are you ‘organic’?
We are in that we agree and follow organic principles – we do not use pesticides, herbicides, hormones etc. However, if you think about it, you can have organic battery chickens! We prefer to have a more holistic and fairer approach to all. We also have more emphasis on food in season, locally derived and ethically procuced. You can clearly have organic food, picked weeks ago and flown across the world with huge carbon emissions. Obtaining certification to become ‘organic’ is prohibitively expensive and throttles supply, increasing prices and keeping great food from the mouths of many. We support the regulation of organic that would stop unscrupulous people making money from food which isn’t – in supermarkets for instance. We have something better, something where we can show you how it is made, how far (short) it has travelled, how quickly it arrives on your table (since you picked it and carried it there) and that we haven’t used anything to produce it except soil, sun and water. We therefore believe we have a superior product at an affordable price – we just haven’t bought the ‘label’!
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Why are you not 100% self sufficient?
We believe that human development is a great thing and we can achieve more together than we can as the sum of individuals. We have no wish to move back to the caves! Certain things we cannot easily make ourselves (such as clothing) or add too much value to be without (such as the computer or internet) or are beyond price, such as health care. We have no desire to cut ourselves off from the world. We just believe we can all be part of it whilst doing a lot less to damage. We minimise our consumption in everything we do…we reduce, reuse, and recycle. We grow our own food and produce our own energy, minimise our transport and trash amongst other things.  Effectively we plan on trading services we can supply such as a great destination, education and somewhere to stay (things that most people can’t ‘grow’ themselves), in return for money which we exchange for the things we can’t grow ourselves…

Finally, it is not possible to have a farm which instantly produces, it takes time, financial investment and a lot of hard work to transform into producing what we need. We anticipate buying in food and energy to start with, and as the systems get in place, reducing this as far as humanly possible, continuously improving.
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How long have you been open?
We have been planning the project and looking for land since July 2009 and bought the land in August 2011. We moved to the site at the start of February 2012… we are going to be busy. The project is now in a state of sustainable expansion!
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What inspired you?
We (Lodgecol) strongly believe we all need to be taking better care of the world in which we live. We (humanity) do not have a back up plan! The more we learn about the environment, the more passionate we become about caring for it. We wanted to live in a great place and offer an alternative to others to come and learn (and teach us) something too.

Can I charge things like phones or cameras?
Yes, we have a solar system in the main cabana sufficient for charging small electrical items, especially in the day when we have sun!

Do you have internet and how can I contact home when I’m there?
No, we dont have internet on site, the local town Yalcoba (9km/5miles) has satellite internet at cheap rates and sponsored by the government and we go there most days – It is very slow and not suitable for say uploading pictures or Skype at MXP 6 per hour. There is also a new private service in Yalcoba which uses new computers and a great connection at MXP 10 per hour.  The city of Valladolid (29km/20 miles) has proper internet cafes etc and you could hitch a ride by making your day off the day we go for supplies.

We have VERY poor cell signal on site (although there are several positions you can make a call or text), but the signal is good in local town. You need to check with your network operator if your phone and SIM will work in Mexico if you want to do this. We would recommend buying a Mexican SIM for your phone (again, check that this will work with your operator).
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What are you contributing to the local area?
We are employing local people to help work on the farm which supports local families in an area where there are few opportunities to work. We buy local product and services from tortillas to hammocks, from welding to sewing. We plan to give away discounted surplus in return for labour which means that local people can get access to food that they otherwise would have no money for. We show locals alternative ways of doing things which will help them to have a better environment and health. We manage projects with government funding that improve the environment, employ local labour that we would be otherwise unable to do. The locals largely have poorer Spanish, less access to the internet, dont understand the government programs, so we help them with this too. We inspire the community to grow in a way which is beneficial to everyone and takes care of the planet and costs them less in doing so too – for a more sustainable future.
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What do you (or plan to) grow and keep?
(Nearly) everything we need…. Vegetables – potatoes, maize, tomatoes, chillies, peppers, cucumbers, pumpkins, squash, lettuce, pak-choi, courgettes (zucchini), marrows, beans… Fruits – bananas, mangos, plantains, papayas, lychees, oranges, lemons, limes, mandarins, grape fruits, kiwi fruit, rhubarb, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, , star fruit, puanes, guanabanas, rambutans, passion fruit (maracuya), mamay, pineapple, water melons, figs, peaches, apples, pears, plums,   … Herbs and spices – pepper, basil, coriander (cilantro), peppermint, spearmint, oregano, calendula, rosemary, thyme, camomile, vanilla, lavender, cinnamon, ginger… Nuts and beans – coconut, peanuts, pecans, chestnuts, coco (cacao), Animals – chicken, pigs, ducks, fish, goats, bees… Other -bamboo and palm for building materials, banana leaves for tamales… And more!
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Are children welcome?
The farm is an incredible place for children to learn about food and where it comes from, the environment and sustainability and we think it would leave a lifelong impression. We are flexible about working schedules, but clearly visitors need to be committed to undertake their farm duties since we are not making money from your stay! We do not offer a crèche and you must remember it is a working farm which has inherent dangers and you must take full responsibility for any dependants, although we will do our best to accommodate you where we can. We also have a cenote with deep water and a 18m drop. We don’t want a health and safety led environment which we feel would ruin what we have, but if you feel you can understand and deal with this, we would love to see you all!

Financially, we are a self funded, not-for-profit, so if the children are consuming resources and not helping with the workload (and as said elsewhere, it is extremely physical and tiring for grown adults) then an additional charge will have to be made to cover our expenses. Please get in contact with your suggestion. Part of our mission is to help educate people and we can think of no finer way than with kids. We hope you understand.
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Do you cater for vegetarians and vegans?
We have what we would describe as a low meat diet, high in fresh vegetables, fruits, rice, beans lentils pasta, and of course tortillas. Some of this food comes from our site and this is increasing as the project grows, we currently have eggs, salad vegetables, herbs, chillies, peppers and tomatoes. Soon to come are passion fruits, cucumbers, air potatoes, peanuts, many perennial vegetables. Further down the line are the fruit trees (we have planted more than 200) but obviously this takes some time. See above for more details).
We chose this diet because we believe it is is because it is healthier, more sustainable, provides more energy and ultimately cheaper too, than other food diets. We try to be inclusive with our volunteers. We share food as it is a key activity for team building and sharing ideas. It is also environmentally friendly and easier to cater for. Mexico is NOT very vegetarian friendly country at all and many restaurants have no veggie option, or think that fish, or even bacon in a carbonara is vegetarian. Dishes that would normally be veggie elsewhere often use things like pork fat. We are happy to eat vegetarian food so long as this does not cause us more work or more stress with other volunteers but we are NOT vegetarian. We accept that this is a hard one to call, but please remember, being vegetarian is your choice which we respect, not ours.  We look forward to hearing YOUR suggestions to meet YOUR needs. Thanks.

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Can we come for a shorter period of time?
Each overnight visitor is a fully integrated and required member of our team. It takes a reasonable time to become useful on the farm, where you will have learnt enough to be an asset, and for you to get the best possible experience too. For this reason, we say the minimum stay is 3 weeks, but we would prefer you to be here much longer.

We do not accept stays of less than 3 weeks.  This is because we need to communicate with you beforehand, to collect you and show you how to live here (how to use the composting toilets etc.) and then how to work and what to do. Our investment in you is high and the payback takes time for us.

We are planning on offering day visits with a tour and access to the cenote which will be chargeable since this would be a net loss to us. Also,in the future we will be running learning experiences or courses with shorter stays possible. Since these are a great deal of work for us to assemble, a condensed learning experience for yourself and that your input to the farm will be very low in such a short time, these stays will be chargeable. This will be one of our few income streams which provide us income with which we can trade with the outside world, but it will still be very reasonable. Competitive is not a word we would like to use as we believe there will be no equal.

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What technologies do you use?
We are currently using or planning to use: photo voltaics and wind turbines to generate electricity, recycled deep cycle batteries for power storage, low water and low energy consumption design and layout, starting with composting toilets to minimise water and energy consumption and to generate compost. We will be using  solar hot water, solar ovens, intelligent building design that needs no air conditioning, rain water and grey water harvesting and use, permaculture techniques,  recycled biofuels, biochar, companion planting… and much more. Come see for yourself!
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Why do you have composting toilets and are they safe?
Composting or dry toilets need no water. In most developed countries, toilets are flushed with drinking quality water which additionally is a huge waste of energy, use of chemicals and especially considering that many in the world have no clean water to drink. Adding water to toilet ‘waste’ increases the bulk to be processed. Dry toilets use sawdust to soak up liquids which minimises bad smells and pests. They are emptied frequently into a compost heap which is carefully decomposed over a long period of time (more than a year, and up to two years). It generates it’s own heat, which when combined with the time period destroys all pathogens and leaves only SAFE, high grade compost which we can use. They remain dry and are sheltered from the rain and do not filter into the water table.
Without dry toilets we would otherwise have to pump the water from the water table some 20m below the surface of the land. In a super efficient low energy site like ours, this would be a considerable part of our daily needs (approaching 50%) and this energy would need to be provided for with more panels, turbines and batteries. This can simply be avoided altogether by what we feel is a better system anway. Using water pumped from under the ground also lowers the water table.

Why can I not use DEET based insect repellents?
There are many excellent insect repellents which are based on natural ingredients (such as citronella) and work very well. DEET based insect repellents claim not to be hazardous to humans if the dosing is followed strictly. It is largely unproven in the actual long term damage (eg human cancers). It is known to cause problems with fish and aquatic invertebrates. Swimming in our centote would mean we are ingesting DEET and it is not cleared for consumption. Please read more for yourself, but scare stories are abundant!

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Is it safe to come to Mexico?
There are well published stories of the drug related violence in Mexico which in reality is focussed almost entirely on the border cities with the USoA and then, largely amongst interested parties (opposing gang members). I lived in Mexico City for 3 from years May 2009 and have never seen anyone even shout at someone else, let alone seen any violence. I have seen far more trouble in most US and EU cities on weekend evenings. The farm is far from the border and situated in agricultural land and the local people are even more laid back. It is in the peninsula and a quick look at a map will show you there is no reason to traffic through Yucatan as it is not on any direct transit route from South America.
As far as hard facts go, Mexico is ranked 14 out of 20 in terms of the danger present in Latin American countries (although different metrics may be used). Also, violence is greater in many US cities than in Mexico, according to the LA Times and also there is a website dedicated to this. Furthermore, Yucatan is the safest state in Mexico, year after year, more info here.
Clearly however, it is not possible to give any guarantees. I willingly ‘risked’ all to come here because I think it is more than worth while, but ultimately you have to make up your own mind.
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Do I need injections to come to Mexico?

Immunizations, shots, inoculations or vaccinations are not required to enter Mexico, The only notable disease problem reported in some locations of the country in the last few years is occasional localised dengue fever (spread by mosquitoes in certain urbanized locations with stagnant water and a history of the disease). However, it would be wise to check with your personal physician for individual recommendations. Some physicians prefer for their patients to obtain typhoid immunizations. Additionally, we would recommend that you ensure your tetanus shots are up to date.

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Why is your website only available in English?
It isn’t! There is a tab to convert to most modern languages on the top right next to the menu bar. This is an automated translation, so is not perfect – sorry. However, it means that we can concentrate on updating the main information pages and the auto-translate will therefore constantly use the latest information. This is both easier for us and more reliable for you. We may add specific language for key pages in the future if our customers need it, and when the content of the website has matured. We manually translate the blog into Spanish. In the meantime, we thank you for your patience!
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