I grew up in what would be classified as typical suburban America. We had farms around us and took the occasional school field trip to visit a farm in the area. But, by no means did I have an understanding of what went into working on a farm on a daily basis and the types of challenges that could be associated with this lifestyle. Today we visited the Life Monteverde farm and I acquired a new appreciation for this lifestyle and how much work is required to sustain a farm. I learned what their life is like, what challenges they face, and what makes them happy.
From what I witnessed today, I would say the life of a Tico farmer is about hard work, communication, and innovation. Obviously, farming is one of the most labor-intensive professions out there, but today I received some firsthand experience. We planted trees and learned just how much work had to go into planting just one tree. I then imagined this process, but on a scale of substantially higher proportion. Then, on top of that, having to plant a variety of trees and vegetables and knowing where each of them needs to go seems like a very strenuous task. Then, once each grows to proper size, determining which are ready to be picked would require much precision and focus to do so efficiently. Also, added on is the need to take care of the livestock. This entails upkeep of the pens, making sure they are fed, and transporting the manure. In general, I was on the farm for a mere couple of hours and have a newfound respect for the individuals that work at the Life Monteverde farm.
I also became aware of how important communication and innovation are to the preservation of the farm and how each of these can present challenges. For communication, I was aware that internal communication was needed for a farm to run smoothly, but I was unaware of the communication between neighboring farms that was necessary. Life Monteverde expressed that an annual meeting with all of their associates was essential to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that the season goes as planned with as little room for error as possible. Regarding the communication between farms, this is also a very crucial aspect to the farms longevity and success in a season. If farms around Life Monteverde are using pesticides or other chemicals, these will blow into their farm and contaminate their plants. Therefore, education amongst the farm community in Monteverde has become widespread in recent years. This is to hopefully make as sustainable of a group of farms as possible which will benefit everyone involved since each farm is interconnected and affects one another. With innovation, new and creative ways to continue making the farm as sustainable as possible are always being thought of, experimented with, and implemented. The ones that were mentioned on the farm today were all mind-blowing to me as I personally would not have thought of these, but in use, are practical and make the farm more sustainable. These include using old bicycle parts to cut the food for the animals, using a manure biodigester, and using the trees that were found to be bad for plants to grow as timber to build the classrooms. I have seen sustainability in action and was blown away with the practice actually coming to fruition.
On the bus ride back to Heredia, I thought about how intensive this job was and what motivated the workers to choose this profession over all others. I gathered today that the ones working on the farm really love and have a passion for what they do. They have an appreciation for the work they do and what goes into the coffee production process. Also, I feel that they understand that every single day, we all depend on agriculture and can feel the importance they are imposing on the world. Another thing that I noticed that uplifted their enjoyment was sharing their knowledge with us. I could feel the passion behind wanting to share what they know with us and teach us about their sustainable practices. These are the main things I found to give the workers of the farm their pride and joy.
If I were in the shoes of the individuals running Life Monteverde, I would not really suggest doing much differently on the growing process as it appeared to work quite well based on what we saw today. However, I would possibly consider expanding the audience their coffee can reach. I know that there are talks to open a store in New York City and this would require an investment to increase production and marketing. I feel that this would be a good investment based on the quality product they sell. I know they are just now diving into the world of marketing and selling their product to a broader audience and a lot is yet to be learned. But overall, I believe that expanding their market would be good for Life Monteverde and that is what I would do if I were making decisions.