At the heart of every cup of coffee lies the farmer. Today we got to see firsthand what this looks like at Life Monteverde, a farm owned by 12 main families with four branches. A few days ago, we attended a lecture by Guiermo, one of the two main brothers that lead it where we received background information on the farm, today we got to see it in action.
The life of a Tico farmer means working day in and day out. They must work to provide for their animals, harvest their crops, and build relationships with their workers. Farming goes much beyond simply coffee or whatever that farms export may be. Life Monteverde focuses on coffee but they alternate these pieces of land with forests to sustain their coffee farming. At Life Monteverde they maintain a sustainable farm by powering everything with what they already have. For example, they have goats and pigs whose job is simply to poop so that it can be used in their bio digester, in which the methane gas is collected and used to power the stoves in the kitchen. They have chickens who lay eggs and are used for their meat to provide meals for the families and workers on the farm. They use crop rotation to keep the soil healthy while growing all kinds of food to be eaten on the farm. Having food on the farm means they do not need to import it, which reduces carbon emissions, contributing to Costa Rica’s carbon neutral goal. Lastly, on their farm they grow coffee and produce it from start to finish in Monteverde for the residents there. Depending on the time of year they juggle at least a piece of each of these tasks daily.
Being a famer in Costa Rica comes with its own unique set of struggles. At Life Monteverde they are not officially organic certified but they try very hard to be as ecofriendly as possible. One of the main concerns with this is the effects of rain water coming from farms higher up on the mountain who may use pesticides. So, while Life Monteverde may not use them on their crops and tries to limit their use in the coffee industry, the vegetables they grow for themselves may still be cross contaminated through the water. Another challenge they face is the lack of trees in certain areas. Many farmers cut down trees to make grazing areas for cattle or now to be tourist attractions which has left gaps in the natural bridges between farms that some animals depend on for migration. Because of this Tico farmers get very happy about education programs, especially for the younger generations. Ticos take it upon themselves to share their knowledge with the surrounding farms to have an overall successful community. I think this mentality differs from a lot of business’s in the United States where business’s see it as more of a competition so they keep their secrets to success to themselves. I appreciate the Tico mentality especially within farming because there is only one Earth and everyone shares in it equally, so it is just as much your responsibility to educate your neighbors as it is to educate yourself.