Today, we visited Life Monteverde Café. It’s a small plantation located in the high elevations of the cloud forest. The farm is family-owned and very focused on social, economic, and environmental sustainability. Yesterday, we talked to Don Guillermo, and today we talked to his daughter and some of the farmers on the plantation. They gave us some really thought provoking insight about what it is like to work in agriculture.
The Tico farmers are very in touch with nature and appreciative of their position in the world. At Life Monteverde Café they have a vegetable garden, a barn, a roasting facility, coffee fields, and preserved rainforest. They really try their hardest to be self sustaining; they do things like feeding the animals with home-grown plants and vegetables, fertilizing the coffee and plants with home-made pulp or manure mixes, and trying to grow plants that naturally repel insects. Everyone on the farm is very aware of the impact they make on the world. The farm isn’t completely self-sustaining—they have to buy pesticides and fertilizers—but they do their best. They also care deeply about preserving and reforesting their rainforests. The rainforests block wind from damaging the coffee, help stop the spread of funguses, give the coffee plants shade, put nutrients into the ground, act as a pharmacy, and above all provide education for tourists, students, and locals. The farmers at Life Monteverde are very appreciative of what the rain forest offers them, and so they keep much of their land as preserved rainforest and they’re working on reforesting even more land. One of the farmers said something that touched me. When I asked why everyone choose to farm, he answered something along the following: “At a few points in your life you might need a lawyer or a doctor, but everyday you will need agriculture.” Everyone eats food. Throughout my life, I’ve taken farmers for granted, so it was really humbling to finally understand how important and difficult the process of growing food actually is.
The Tico farmers at Life Monteverde Café also care a lot about their families. For many of the people we met today the farm is their roots—a symbol of love and family. The children grew up playing on the swings on the trees, running through the plantations, watching their mothers and grandmothers cook coffee in big pans. You could really feel the memories they told us about while we were on the tour today. Despite the corporate offers on the farm, they would never sell it because it’s so close to their hearts. I think the family orientation also extends to the entire community. Life Monteverde Café tries to buy coffee from other local farmers. It helps support the families so the farms don’t get sold off to outsider tourist companies and large corporations.
I don’t think I would do much differently if I were a farmer in their shoes. Life Monteverde Café is very well established locally in Monteverde and their practices are about as clean as they can possibly be. The only thing they can really improve on is marketing. And, Don Guillermo’s daughter has an excellent idea for this. I think it was kind of funny that Don Guillermo was kind of harsh on his daughter for moving to New York City—when in reality she could possibly be taking the next big step to expand the business. She wants to open up a Monteverde cloud forest coffee shop in Brooklyn. She would have a story to tell and an excellent marketing strategy with a sustainability edge. If I were one of the farmers, I would definitely pursue marketing like this.