Peter Julius Csere grew up in the Northeastern United States, and, from a young age, always had an interest in growing his own food. After earning a university degree in jazz piano performance, he worked for several years in Connecticut as a professional pianist and teacher. The cold and expensive life soon lost its appeal, and Peter joined Robert Fulop in Florida at the “Banana Sanctuary” project—a five-acre polyculture farm. After eight months of learning the ropes of tropical living and farming, Peter departed the U.S. for Ecuador, where he, along with his friends Jason Kvestad and Jay Kaiser [a.k.a. Jay Yogi], formed the growing community of raw vegans: Terra Frutis.
Not to be content with just one success, Peter went on to spearhead the nearby “Fruit Haven” project and continues to organize, consult and do “boots on the ground” work for additional raw vegan communities. Visit the Terra Frutis website and connect with Terra Frutis on Facebook and YouTube. Visit the FruitHaven EcoVillage website and connect with it on Facebook and YouTube.
Brian’s note: I began 10 sentences with targeted words, presented in boldface below, that serve as conversation starters and asked Peter to complete the thoughts in this condensed “interview.”
I discovered a raw food diet about six years ago when trying to improve my health and overcome the typical Western ailments.
I felt a calling to move to the tropics and live this natural lifestyle for humans in the fullest way that I could.
While leading a fruit-based lifestyle, the next most logical thing to do seems very apparent to me. It just makes sense to be growing the fruit that I eat so I know it was produced using permaculture methods in a polyculture food forest and is rich in minerals and bio-energy and low in synthetic chemicals.
In a Nutshell: Peter Csere
Here’s a snapshot of Peter Csere’s favorites:
- Fruit: Rollinia! Obviously. It tastes like lemon meringue pie filling. I’ve planted lots of rollinia trees around my house, and they only take two-and-a-half years to produce fruit.
- Exercise: Calisthenics/bodyweight exercise. It just seems so natural. But using garden tools and tending to the land is a close second.
- Book: I would have to say The Mucusless Diet Healing System by Professor Arnold Ehret. It’s really an eye-opener on so many levels.
- Film: There is a great documentary of the Eastern Sycamore Fig called The Queen of Trees. This is a fruit that, due to its range in eastern Africa, may have been important in the evolution of humans.
- Album: Here’s an obscure one—“Timeless” by John Abercrombie.
- Place on earth: Terra Frutis in Ecuador! A place of friends, fruit, happiness, understanding and community.
- Thing to do: I was going to say “planting fruit trees” but then realized that eating the fruit is even more fun—so I suppose my favorite thing to do is “Eating the fruit that grew from the fruit trees that I also planted.”
My views on health, fitness, raw food, nutrition and many things have changed so much—even in just the past six years pursuing a raw food diet. I continually research, read, learn and try to improve and change my mindset as I encounter new information and experiences. What a great movement to be a part of. We are relearning human physiology on multiple levels.
I chose to come to Terra Frutis because it seemed to be a very promising opportunity to help start a fruit forest and community of like-minded people. It turned out I was right!
Wow, are we growing and expanding! More people are coming, more trees are being planted, more old cow pasture is being restored to forests of fruit trees and local companion species to provide food for humans in a sustainable manner. I want this to become a worldwide movement where, all over the tropics and subtropics, people are forming communities, changing spent farmland into permaculture food forests and celebrating life rather than destroying it and making excuses.
During my time in South America, I’ve had amazing adventures and I’ve had terrible struggles. I’ve gotten dengue fever, food poisoning, intestinal parasites, had close encounters with snakes and spiders, broken my foot and impaled my foot. I’ve also tasted some of the freshest, sweetest, most delicious fruits of the Amazon, amassed heaps of knowledge about permaculture and fruit-growing, become fluent in Spanish, helped guide Terra Frutis to become a functioning, successful community of raw vegans, organized a successful group purchase of another farmland for the same purpose, planted hundreds of tropical fruit trees, taught English lessons, made many friends in the local community and seen hundreds of unique, beautiful varieties of butterflies and birds. I’ve gone on deep jungle hikes and seen species of animal and plant that look downright extraterrestrial. I’ve gone on boat rides in motorcanoes, I’ve explained to probably 200 different people how to get here on a bus from Quito or Cuenca, and I’ve even tried to explain to confused natives what a durian is.
Sometimes people ask me if I’ll ever return to the Babylonian lifestyle of a 9-to-5 job in a cold climate and super-high living expenses. I don’t think so. Once you learn how to live, you never want to go back to being a zombie.
Spending time on and working on the land, I really feel like I am doing the most I could possibly be doing to help repair our planet. Every fruit tree I plant is a few square meters less cow pasture and a few square meters more topsoil that will be conserved. It’s more oxygen and less carbon dioxide—a greener planet, with sustainable fruit production. There are many other tasks that compete for my time—answering emails from prospective community members, researching growing methods for various tropical fruits, planning and managing projects, financial accounting, going to hardware stores, spending days waiting in government offices for paperwork … . And I still enjoy doing all these things because I know they are a necessary part of the success of permaculture projects such as these. Working on the land, however, is really the most fulfilling activity. There is an unexplainable sense of accomplishment seeing my eggfruit tree give new growth or watching the Mysore raspberry go from a cutting to a huge bush.
One of the things I’ve learned about survival in this crazy world is the importance of taking care of yourself before taking care of others. The logic being this: How can one expect to have the energy and ability to take care of others if one is not healthy, pure, clean, energetic and rested oneself? Self-sacrifice is always temporary—it is by definition not sustainable. If you are sacrificing yourself to help others, how long will you be able to help others for and what will the quality of assistance be? Either the duration or quality will suffer or both. The historical figure Gautama (“The Buddha”) teaches a similar concept in telling the story of his wife trying to help poor people. In actuality, to be “selfish”—to take care of yourself so that you have the ability to provide astounding duration and quality of care for others and the world you live in—is the utmost selfless act. Give up tasks that you don’t have time for, delegate to others what you cannot do well, take rests, breaks and vacations. Manage yourself wisely and take the utmost care of your fleshy vessel.
View a Gallery of Images from Terra Frutis
I most enjoy when new people move down here (to Ecuador) and are in awe of all the tropical fruits growing right in front of them. “You mean that’s a rollinia tree?” Yes, and we have hundreds. Exciting, right? They are used to the one or two apple trees in grandma’s back yard and a grocery store full of waxed, chemical-sprayed fruit with an “organic” label slapped on it. Watching others be inspired by the abundance of nature is very enjoyable and in turn renews my own inspiration to continue doing what I am doing.
I envision a worldwide network of replicable, decentralized, autonomous and self-sufficient communities in the tropical and subtropical regions of our planet. People will join together and restore spent farmland into thriving paradises of fruit and natural living. They will practice their trades and use their individual skills, whether that is legal contract-writing, building houses, making clothes or permaculture design consulting. They will form free economies and trade relationships, establish voluntary organizations, build roads and schools and even plant quadruple-grafted durian trees.
It is not a pipe dream; it is happening today, right now, as we speak. We are growing in numbers and no one can stop us. Join the revolution!
Discover Peter Csere’s Top 5 Tips for Getting to the Tropics!
Hungry for more? Check out Peter’s Mango Salad recipe!