Today, sadly, was our last day in Monteverde. It was spent visiting Life Monteverde, a local family owned farm and coffee plantation. We were broken up into tour groups and were shown around the various facilities, gardens, and growing areas. Over the course of the entire day, our guides made sure to continually stress the importance and difficulty of consistent agriculture, and by the end of it all I think we all developed a deeper appreciation for the industry.
Sustainability, the word of the trip so far (besides coffee), is only one of the challenges that Tico farmers have to deal with. One of Life Monteverde’s primary challenges is dealing with pests. As a farm committed to growing organically, and especially in a region like this, the threat of bugs is everlasting. In order to minimize the impact, the farmers employ a variety of strategies. For example, the coffee plants are strategically placed in proximity to the forest, the latter of which will “distract” many bugs. In addition, the trees act as natural shields to the plants from poisonous spores which are spread by wind. The creativity employed by everyone at the farm to deal with such a potentially fatal intruder was really amazing to see first-hand.
One might thing that working sunrise to sundown every day doesn’t sound fun. However, when we spoke with one of the farmers today, we learned that working in agriculture brings him, and many others like him, an immense amount of joy. To get us to understand why, he used an example that highlighted the importance of farming to today’s world. He said that we all can become whatever we want, doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc. In your normal life, you may need a doctor once or twice a year, you may need a lawyer once every decade, if at all, and if you can successfully maintain personal finances, you may never even need an accountant. In order to live, everyone needs farmers, not just every day, but multiple times per day. Any food that is consumed can be traced back to somewhere, and is put on your table as a result of the hard work of a farmer. This significance is what brings the farmers at Life Monteverde joy in their daily work, and also helped us appreciate our food sources much more.
I can’t exactly say what I would do differently if I was in the shoes of a Tico coffee farmer. My lack of agricultural knowledge made it hard today to see where the farm had possible areas to improve, and it also would make it hard to suggest an alternative to anything they are currently doing. Everything seemed to be running slowly, and as I mentioned earlier, they were extremely smart in dealing with pests. I think the commitment to organic farming is definitely difficult, so if quantity over quality becomes an issue for the owners of the farm than maybe I’d suggest using pesticides to ensure a safer growth period for the plants.