Today we got the amazing opportunity to visit Life Monteverde, a farm in Monteverde that grows coffee as well as promotes sustainability. We were given a tour by the daughter of one of the 12 primary owners, and she showed us their vegetable gardens, barn, forest, and coffee fields. Life Monteverde has a unique system in which they operate their farm. They use the food they produce in their vegetable garden to help feed their workers, and they have an open central kitchen where workers all eat together and help to cook the meals. Additionally, the manure from their goats and pigs is used in compost piles for fertilizers as well as in a biodigestor that collects methane to use in cooking. The forest helps them to protect their crops from the wind, bugs, and disease by acting as a wind break and a more attractive food source for the bugs compared to the crops.
Sustainability is their largest goal and they attempt to promote the education of their community about sustainable practices. A challenge that faces their farm is the use of pesticides on farms as well as farms who don’t properly clean their water above them on the mountain. Life Monteverde (LMV) tries to use as few pesticides as possible, instead using natural methods like banana trees and separating their coffee fields by lines of forests to prevent pests from destroying their crops. The pesticides used on the other farms can pollute the runoff water through LMV and requires them to have multiple natural cleansing ponds in the drainage and irrigation systems. These take out a majority of the toxins and the farm says that they clean the water well enough to be used to water the vegetables that they grow and eat. Another challenge they face is the growing tourism industry in the Monteverde area. As increasingly more farmers and ranchers convert to tourist attractions, they abandon their old fields, increasing erosion onto other lands and hurting the vibrant ecosystem. LMV acknowledges the amount of money it has brought to the area but they are still skeptical of the long-term success of such an industry as more and more people try to compete with each other for tourists’ money.
The people who live and work at the farm are very happy with what they have created, a farm that supports local education, sustainable practices, and still profit. A coffee tour guide said that he is proud of the fact that he can help out around the farm. Lawyers, doctors, and architects are all valued professions yet people use them infrequently throughout the year. Farmers however, are used multiple times every day by anyone who eats food and are necessary for life. Our tour guide, the daughter of Guillermo who gave us a presentation two days ago, said that she loves the farm because it is what she grew up doing and has so many fond memories here. The farm is where she said she learned more from her father talking about life than she learned at college, because there are so many life lessons and opportunities to grow from at a farm. The wife of one of the original families who work on the farm said farming is what her parents did and working outside in the field is more comfortable for her than being stuck inside and working in the house. Overall, the people at LMV are happiest when they know they are making a difference in the world and especially in their local community. When the water leaves their property cleaner than it entered, when they slowly expand the forest line up the mountain, when the stove runs for 3-4 hours each day on their biogenerator’s methane; these are all victories for LMV and reasons they take pride and joy in their work. They also try to reach out to local farms and ranches and teach them about sustainable practices. However, older generations are much more hesitant than the younger generations to try them out because why should they change their 30-40 year old habits now, since they have been working this whole time.
I loved visiting this farm and am amazed at how much dedication and thought they put into making everything as sustainable as possible and still manage a healthy profit. One thing I would change though is to put more effort into marketing themselves. Their coffee bags don’t mention anything about what they do or how they are committed to preserving and expanding the beautiful natural resources of Costa Rica. They could add additional product value by showing off their sustainable facts or the techniques they use that aren’t common practice on the much larger plantations like at Doka or Britt. Right now, they have a large partnership with coffee companies in Montana and Austin, Texas, yet I could see room for much more expansion into the US if they market their sustainability more. Sustainability is such a buzzword and a niche of the market that is growing rapidly, and I believe that Monteverde could be very successful at joining that field.