Today, we visited Café de Monteverde. They were extremely family-oriented and cared more about their environmental and societal sustainability efforts than their economic sustainability. The farm was founded by Guillermo’s father. He is now a co-owner of the farm. Guillermo’s daughter was our tour guide today. She lives an entirely different life than what she did while growing up in Costa Rica. She lives in NYC now. Even though she lives far away and disconnected from the rural life, she said that she would make the move back here in a heartbeat rather than sell the farm to someone outside of the family. If that doesn’t show you how family-oriented they are, then nothing will.
Their growing, harvesting, roasting, and farming methods were eco-friendly. Guillermo’s daughter explained that the one-time investment to create sustainable equipment pays for itself in the long-run. They had a waste biodigester bag that reused the animal’s waste to create cooking power for 3-4 hours. Also, they used gravity to move/filter water throughout the farm. When planting different crops, they rotate them in order to keep healthy soil and prevent widespread disease. 50% of their land is filled with forest. This helps protect crops from diseases spread by wind, their leaves create a natural fertilizer, they absorb moisture in the ground to prevent fungi, and provide shade to prevent weeds from growing. The preservation of the forest isn’t only environmentally conscious, it helps sustain society as well. The forest serves as a natural water filter and harvests biodiversity. By planting native trees and preserving them, these Ticos are encouraging native species to thrive and pests to stay away from crops.
With all of these environmentally conscious efforts, you would think that a corporation like Café Britt or Starbucks would want to get involved in some way. Guillermo’s daughter admitted that they have gotten offers from large corporations before, but they refuse to accept them. Again, the economic aspect isn’t what they are focused on. They don’t want to mass produce to maximize their profits. They are content with supporting local coffee producers and consumers without maximizing production and revenues.
Besides preservation and environmental sustainability, Café de Monteverde believes that education is a top priority. They converse with their neighboring farmers and coffee producers and educate them on new eco-friendly harvesting/growing methods. They believe that it is their duty to share information with others in order to create a better environment for their society, and Costa Rica as a whole. Guillermo’s daughter commented on the tourism that is flooding into Monteverde and how it is negatively affecting the area. Monteverde has become saturated with “touristy” hotels, restaurants, adventure parks, tours, etc. She simply explained that Monteverde doesn’t need any more of these touristy places. The area needs people to clean up after their messes, use innovative eco-friendly technology, and start actually caring about the impact that they are making on the environment. She said that most of the owners of these places are not from Costa Rica. Therefore, it is hard to motivate them. But, Café de Monteverde remains extremely persistent in educating the other community members around them. I have to admit, I learned a lot today.
Along with these efforts are challenges. Café de Monteverde has pine trees that line some of their pathways and crops. When pine needles fall on the ground, they create an extremely acidic environment, restricting anything from growing. Today, we planted avocado trees along the wind buffer line. Avocado trees are native trees and will encourage native species of animals to remain in Monteverde. When their leaves fall, it will create a natural fertilizer (saving Café de Monteverde money). Another challenge is their neighbors. Like I said before, they make education a priority. Many of the farm owners surrounding them are owned by an older generation. They are more likely to stick to their own methods of farming, no matter what. Even if you prove to them that it is harmful for the environment, they are still less likely to make the investments to make a change. However, Guillermo’s daughter sees hope in the younger generation. They seem more open to change and more passionate about sustainability. All in all, everyone has seen the negative changes that have been occurring in Monteverde in just a few years.
What makes them happy? Family. Like I said earlier, they are entirely dedicated to keeping the farm a family business. Also, they like to support their small local coffee farmers by sourcing from them. They would rather focus on minimizing their ecological footprint than maximizing their profits. Seeing growth and progress towards a more sustainable environment is what makes them happy and is what makes the hard work of farming worth it. One of the employees explained that you may need a doctor a few times a year, a lawyer maybe once a year, but you need a farmer every single day. Today, I gained a new perspective on how much hard work went into agriculture. I now have a whole new appreciation for the work that farmers do every single day from sunrise to sunset. If I was in their shoes, I don’t think I would change a thing. They seem pretty content in their position in the market right now. They don’t aspire to be a huge corporation. That being said, I think they are doing all of the right things to remain where they are and not “commercialize” themselves. Guillermo’s daughter mentioned plans of creating a NYC Café de Monteverde store and I think that’s an excellent idea that they should pursue. I would love to be able to enjoy a cup of Café de Monteverde honey process medium roast in Estados Unidos.