After visiting Life Monteverde today and speaking with Don Guillermo, I’ve learned that life for a Tico farmer incorporates sustainability in everything they do. The way they eat, power their homes and run their business is all interdependent, as they reuse everything for another purpose. For example, methane from pig and goat waste is burned to create energy to power the home. Some waste is also used as a natural fertilizer for the coffee crops, along with the compost (which consists of their food waste). This is a cheaper, more natural way of living, which seems to be the theme through each element of a Tico farmer’s life.
The main challenge in a Tico farmer’s life is seeing where they can cut the amount of waste they produce, and where they can reuse and repurpose waste as well. A challenge that many farmers have faced in recent decades is inconsistent weather patterns and seasons due to climate change. Crops may not be as productive, irrigation is required, and seasonal workers are employed for longer amounts of time since the plants mature and produce fruit at inconsistent times. Something that Don Guillermo said that really stuck with me is that when he dies, he wants to feel that he made a positive difference in the world, and left the environment in better condition than before. Thus, success in sustainability efforts would make Tico farmers happy, especially when having to overcome the enormous challenges from climate change.
Engineering and technology are required in order to reach peak sustainability in a farm today. For example, bioengineering and chemical engineering principles are used when producing a successful compost, as well as when choosing an appropriate fertilizer for crops. Chemical and electrical engineering principles are needed to design a small grid that runs on methane gas (like the house). Overall, environmental engineering principles are key to have a productive, efficient Tico farm.