Piña Cool-ada


Today we went to the region of Sarapiqui to partake in two separate tours! The one was for bananas and plantains, while the other was for pineapples. Of the two, I have to be honest and say that while both were incredible, I liked the pineapple tour more. That’s only because we got to try fresh pineapple pulled right of the plant and sliced in front of us with a machete. I have never had pineapple so sweet and juicy before.

Learning about both the banana and pineapple processes drew a lot of similarities and differences to the harvesting of coffee. For instance, in all three, the product is exported to consumers in all kinds of places, and quality is insured. These are also some of the primary agricultural exports Costa Rica is known for. Also, all of the farms we went to, obviously, relied on tourism as a source of income. Lastly, all of the crops are hand planted and harvested. This requires many skilled workers. On bigger farms this is mostly done by immigrants like the Nicaraguans. On smaller farms it is often community and family members.

There are many differences, however. Coffee is harvested and exported typically before roasting. Banana has to be exported before becoming ripe. Pineapple on the other hand, is ripe as soon as it is cut, and has to undergo a more delicate shipping and handling process to ensure quality on its journey to other countries. In fact, as far as growing and processing, all of the different processes are unique.

Learning about the farms today was particularly interesting as we got to see many components of environmental science and sustainability in the certified organic farms. The farms found very unique ways to use the different moving parts of the farm in different ways to create balance. The banana plantation created special houses for the special species of bees pollinating their plants. This increased pollination and allows them to extract the expensive type of honey produced by these bees. They additionally have a garden to grown medicinal and useful plants. These could be used to cure different problems in the body, or one was citronella used to make candles and spread a mosquito repelling aroma throughout the farm. Both farms used natural manure to fertilize and avoid complete monocropping which decreases the soil nutrients.

I thought this was all particularly cool. They also seem to care for the community directly around them. It is interesting to see how on these farms, coffee, bananas, plantains, and pineapples are a way of life. They are a livelihood to be sustained rather than just a profit to be made. While all of these crops are vital to the culture and exportations of Costa Rica, it is clear that for many of these smaller farms, if all they were looking for was profits, these farms would not be the most effective way to get there. And so I feel it is reasonable that it is also about sustaining culture, community, and pride. If I was a worker, I’m not sure which farm I would want to work on. All seem to be equally taxing work, but I know I would have a family in whichever farm I went to. This family mentality was most evident at Life Monteverde so far, so that is probably where I would choose to go. They were the best at investing in the workers that came to them, as well as in the community they lived in.

Quick update: In other news we’ve been doing some fun things recently. We went to the semifinals soccer game between Alajuela and Cartago on Saturday night. The arena was full, and the energy was like none other. Also, yesterday we went to the Tortuga (turtle) Island, which required a beautiful boat ride and provided a beautiful beach to stay on. Lastly, tonight my housemate, Max, and I went for the second time to one of our host mom’s dance sessions at her gym. They’re so fun but leave us as two heaping piles of sweat. We also finally tried Pops, the local ice cream parlors, which was very delightful!

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