Get Your Hands Dirty

As a kid, one of my favorite activities was visiting my Grandpa’s family farm in St. Mary’s, Ohio. I think my Grandpa is proud to call himself a “farmer boy.” These visits gave me a sense of appreciation for all of the hard work that goes into the agriculture industry, as well as the simpler life that many farmers live. I had the same takeaways from my time at Life Monteverde.

The day of a modern Tico farmer is a constant balancing act of trying to maintain efficient production while also limiting or even reversing the impact that it has on Monteverde’s natural forests. It is not an easy mission to achieve. These farmers also have to work on retaining the partnerships that they have with other local businesses that are rapidly transitioning into the tourism industry. Because of this, the few agriculturists that remain in Monteverde must outsource more and more to other towns and countries. Another problem that all farmers deal with is the use of, or the lack of using pesticides. At Life Monteverde, they have a problem with the farms at higher elevations than them using pesticides, and those pesticides seeping down into Life Monteverde’s soil. A lot of farmers want to be pesticide-free so they can use an “organic” brand, but it becomes increasing difficult with the influx of crop threats due to climate change.

Aside from dealing with these challenges, a Tico farmer’s lifestyle consists of early mornings, interacting with the pickers, checking the crop, lots of problem management, and some good pico de gallo (at least at Life Monteverde).

One of the employees at Life Monteverde told us that farming makes him happy because he feels as though it impacts people’s lives more regularly than any other industry. Everything on the plate in a restaurant, or in the aisle at the supermarket comes from somewhere. At Life Monteverde in particular, it makes them happy to know that they are helping to keep Monteverde true to its roots (literally and figuratively). With tourism taking over the town, it is important to the owners of Life Monteverde to provide a long-term sustainable source of GDP.

It is easy to convince tourists that local coffee farming is good and that saving the cloud forest is important. Stressing the severity of these things comes harder when dealing with locals. It is more attractive to enter the tourist industry and see immediate payoffs, rather than investing in agriculture that yields more future returns. If I were one of the owners of Life Monteverde, I would work harder to incentivize locals to fill these spots and venture into these businesses. A best-case scenario would be the infiltration of coffee into tourism, similarly to what Life Monteverde did with our group today. I think that Life Monteverde should try to partner with other local farms to collaborate with these endeavors.

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