Life Monteverde: The Life of a Tico Farmer

Today we visited Life Monteverde, a medium to large sized beautiful coffee farm.  Through this experience we were able to learn about farming in mountainous regions and aspects of a typical farmer’s lifestyle.  Upon talking to Don Guillermo and various other members of Life Monteverde, I have found that their lifestyle is one of much stress, as they continuously have to worry about unpredictable weather.  Rain is frequent and heavy in the mountains and the coffee plants need certain conditions to grow effectively which are not always guaranteed. Additionally, the plants grow better under shade and without too much wind, neither of which is guaranteed on mountain side farms. It for this reason I understand with Don Guillermo and the members of Life Monteverde’s hate for global warming and incentive to create a more sustainable future.  Global warming only makes their already difficult job harder, adding more hot, dry days to the year while making rainfall heavier but less frequent.

Regardless of the difficulty of the trade, the members of Life Monteverde have employed several techniques to combat the conditions of the mountainous region and effectively grow their crop.  For example, they collect the waste of chicken and goats to produce their own organic fertilizer, which is high in nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous. Through the addition of nitrogen-fixing bacteria, the farmers can apply the fertilizer mix to their coffee crop, greatly increasing their productivity and ultimate yield.  They also collect rain water at a high point of the mountain so that they can use gravity to irrigate their coffee crops further down the slope of the mountain without the application of an outside power source. To prevent the erosion of soil as water is travels down the mountain side during rainfall, the farmers dig rows of ditches so that the water pools and is soaked into the soil for maximum absorption.

Still, the most amazing innovation I saw was definitely “the biodigester”: a tank which captured the methane gas which evolved from the digesting manure sediment.  Not only can the captured methane be used for cooking and as a heat source but, more importantly, the methane gas isn’t released into the air becoming one of the more harmful greenhouse gases.  The digested manure sediment can then be mixed with waste from the coffee plant and other organic material to produce the final fertilizer product. These smart technological innovations help to make Life Monteverde do what they do best: produce their delicious coffee.  By preventing the emission of greenhouse gases and preventing the runoff of fertilizers and soils, Life Monteverde is excelling at creating a modern sustainable farm.

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