Coffee= Life (Monteverde)

Our visit to Life Monteverde was an amazing experience.  I did not realize how hard farmers work and how passionate they are about their jobs.  I really enjoyed the whole experience today especially because we were able to leave our own imprint on the farm by planting a tree.  I was also happy that we learned about not only coffee but those who make the coffee as well.

Tico farmers work extremely hard.  I learned that a typical work day starts at 5am and ends around 4pm.  The workers will take a break for lunch, but other than that they work in the fields the rest of the time, especially during harvest season.   When their work day is over, they will cook dinner for the night and lunch for the next day.  This was an eye-opening experience for me, because I did not realize how much work goes into a farm.  After speaking with a few of the farmers, I learned that they work all day long and when they are not working, a lot of them think about how to improve the farm.  I was impressed by how dedicated all of the farmers at Life Monteverde are to make the farm the best it can be, and I was amazed by the amount of passion that the farmers expressed when talking about the farm.  This, along with the amount of time farmers work each day, made me appreciate everything farmers do.  Also, working on a large plantation with a lot of workers, such as at Café Britt or Doka, is different than working on a small family owned farm.  At Café Britt or Doka, the workers specialize in a certain area.  However, at Life Monteverde the farmers work in multiple areas.  For example, one farmer was in charge of growing beans, planting in the fields, and separating the beans, while another was in charge of cooking and in charge of pruning the trees.  I find it fascinating how knowledgeable everyone at Life Monteverde is and how sustainably efficient they are on the farm.  After listening to the way the farmers talked about Life Monteverde today, I determined that farming is more than just a job for these individuals, it is a way of life.  Personally I do not think I could be a farmer, but I respect everyone who can be and is one.   

Tico farmers face many challenges, both in the field and in their personal lives.  As I mentioned before the work day is normally eleven hours of tiring work, so it must be a difficult task to work this much every day and raise a family.  I do not see this as a big problem for farmers at Life Monteverde (because it is a family farm so the whole family is always around) but it might be for those working at a larger company, like Café Britt.  Another challenge that farmers face is motivating younger generations to take over the family farm.  An individual at Life Monteverde today mentioned that technology is drawing the younger generation away from farming, so it is a challenge to show them the importance the farm has to the family.  Tico farmers also have to adjust to the unpredictable weather.  Weather patterns have become very random in the last few years and have caused the seasons to become more extreme.  With the dry season being drier than ever and the wet season being wetter than ever, the farmers have had to innovate their farming methods to ensure they produce high quality and quantity of coffee.  Tourism is another challenge that farmers face.  I learned at Life Monteverde that since tourism has become very popular in Monteverde, many farmers have forgotten about their farm to focus on this growing trend.  This not only affects the farm that is being abandoned, but it also damages nearby farms.  Although Tico farmers face many challenges, they all seem to love their jobs and are able to overcome the obstacles in their way. 

There are many aspects of farming that make Tico farmers happy.  I was impressed and surprised by the answer we received to the question “why do you like farming?”  Sergio (I am not sure on the spelling of his name) said that doctors, lawyers, and architects are all great professions, but the public uses each of them once, maybe twice a year.  However, people drink coffee or eat chicken, pork, or vegetables 3-6 times a day.  Knowing that his work on the farm impacts people multiple times a day puts a smile on Sergio’s face.  Sergio is definitely not the only one who feels this way, as others on the farm today relayed the same message and I am sure coffee farmers around the country feel the same way.  Also, farmers feel a sense of pride and pleasure when they are able to successfully take on the tradition of passing the farm down through the family. 

The Tico culture is generally happier and more relaxed than that in the United States.  Although the coffee industry may be one of the more stressful businesses in Costa Rica, I would not change a lot about it.  The farmers generally seem content with their work and enjoy seeing how their work contributes to the final product.  The only change I would try to make would be shorter work days, but this would be very difficult because of the amount of tasks that need to be completed in one day.  As for Life Monteverde, I would suggest using the land they contracted from their neighbor for a mix between coffee plants and forest, rather than just forest.  Also, it seems very inefficient to have facilities 10 miles apart from each other because it will add transportation costs.  I would try to change this system even though it would be hard because the beans dry much faster at the facility 10 miles away.

The visit to Life Monteverde made me truly appreciate the amount of work that farmers do.  From now on, every time I drink a cup of coffee I will think back to this day and be grateful for the hard work that was put in to make the cup of coffee!

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