Published on October 15th, 2008 | by Naturally Larry0
Costa Rica’s Organic Agriculture
Agriculture in Costa Rica has been the recipient of negative news recently, specifically in relation to its pineapple export. We thought this would be a good time to highlight a positive story on organic farming that recently appeared in Natureair’s in flight magazine, Nature Landings.
At the beginning of the 1980s, the farmers of Costa Rica began to search for organic methods of planting and harvesting crops with the intent of benefiting from the fruits of the land without using chemicals and other harmful practices that could damage their harvest.
This is how organic agriculture began to take force, and slowly but surely it has today become a viable and productive alternative to traditional agriculture, one that aims to position itself as a means of producing quality and healthy produce that is economically feasible, respects nature and is a great ally to conservation efforts.
According to data derived from “The Costa Rican Organic Agriculture Movement,” the internal demand for organic produce increases about 20% every year, which demonstrates that efforts dedicated to promoting this type of production are bearing fruit. Furthermore, Costa Rican organic production is recognized both nationally and internationally.
In Costa Rica some 9,000 hectares are dedicated to the organic cultivation of approximately 30 different products. This rural industry also directly involves and affects more than 4,000 people. The principal organic products for export are bananas, coffee, boysenberries, orange juice and grenadines.The organization of this sector has played a major part in Costa Rica’s relative prosperity, allowing the nation to have an important leadership role in Latin America.Another important factor is the existing method of organic certification, which gives producers and buyers a guarantee of quality and confidence in being able to trust that the product acquired is not only healthy but was also produced with the utmost attention paid to responsible management of the land’s natural resources and fair treatment given to laborers.
Agro-ecological farm El Progreso: A successful case study in Costa Rica
26 years ago, following a family tradition, the Alpízar Chávez family began to harvest their farm located in the hills of Colinas of Pococí. But an innovative project came knocking on their doors in 1997, thanks to the Fundación Neotrópica, a nonprofit environmental organization that promotes the sustainable management of Costa Rica’s natural resources. Thanks to what they learned while taking part in this initiative, the Alpízar Chávez family successfully changed their method of planting crops. And thus the El Progreso agro-ecological farm was born. Mrs. Nuria, Mr. Carlos and their three children understood that planting quality produce does not require the use of agro-chemicals. Instead, they focused on using things found in nature to achieve results.
“Making the change was not easy,” said Mrs. Nuria. “It was a long process that did not come about from one day to the next. But it has been worth it, and it has taught us that it is possible to do things without causing harm to the earth or nature, while also giving us all that we need in a healthy manner. What we plant here is different; it tastes better. How could it not? This is their natural flavor.”
The products harvested include papayas, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, palms, cauliflower, lettuce, garlic and cilantro, among others. All are grown by using various methods of organic farming such as creating compost using worms that transform organic residue into fertilizer for the soil; also put to use is the organic residue of goats, chickens and cows. Another technique calls for treating the earth with calcium carbonate to eliminate the acidity of the soil to remove excess shrubbery that may then be utilized as fertilizer.
These products are part of the daily substance of this family, which not only harvests for their own consumption but also takes their fresh produce to the agricultural fair held every Saturday at the town center in Guápiles. Thanks to the success that the fair has generated, it now forms part of the Aula Verde (Green Classroom) project established by the Ministries of Agriculture (Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería) and Environment and Energy (Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía). The program aims to teach national and international students about organic agriculture.
In conjunction with other farms located in the same region, guided visits, lodging and food are offered. Contact Nature Vacations (www.naturevacations.com) for help in planning your travel itinerary into the world of Costa Rica’s organic farming.
Organic agriculture has taken on a leadership role at El Progreso agro-ecological farm and at numerous other rural tourist projects in the country. These places offer the opportunity to learn, enjoy and interact within an authentic rural lifestyle. Also on an organic note, hotels such as the El Silencio Lodge & Spa, located at Bajos del Toro, a beautiful spot of cloud forest on the outskirts of San Jose; the Hotel Arenal Kioro Suites & Spa, situated near the basin of the massive Arenal Volcano; and the Hotel Hacienda Sueño Azul, of the Sarapiquí region, all strive to offers their clients locally grown, organic produce and a complete holistic experience. At these locations, it’s easy to delight in yoga and meditation in conjunction with natural and relaxing spa treatments focused on harmonizing the mind, body and spirit. Furthermore, the Amatierra Yoga Retreat has an organic greenhouse on its own private reserve from which meals are prepared for their guests. At these hotel / resorts, you may find your self immersed within protected rainforests and allow yourself to come into personal contact with nature. Crystal clear waters are ideal for relaxation, and the personalized attention received will highlight the warmth and hospitality of the Costa Rican people. These locations believe in a philosophy of sustainability and respect for our natural resources. They strive to go green by encouraging visitors to value and contribute to conservation efforts by recycling and practicing the smart consumption of water and energy.
Where to find organic produce
Finding organic produce in the country is not difficult. Supermarkets such as Más x Menos, Hipermás and Automercado have specific sections dedicated to organic products. However, if you prefer a firsthand experience, you may visit the traditional agricultural fairs, which are easy to locate throughout the principal towns of Costa Rica:
Pérez Zeledón, inside the Feria del Agricultor Generaleño S. A. Thursday: 6AM to 9PM and Friday: 6AM to Noon.
San Ramón, Feria del Agricultor Convencional, at the Centro Agrícola Cantonal. “Tico Orgánicos S.A.” stand (adjacent to the eastern campus of the University of Costa Rica). Friday: Noon to 8PB and Saturday: 6AM to Noon.
San Isidro de Coronado, inside the Feria del Agricultor Convencional, at the Centro Agrícola de San Isidro, 50 meters west of the Ministry of Agriculture. Sunday: 6AM to Noon.
Turrialba, all alongside the Catholic church’s precinct. Saturdays: 6AM to Noon.
Guápiles, inside the Feria del Agricultor Convencional. Saturdays: 5:30AM to Noon.
Zarcero, along side the highway: “Tienda Santa Lucía,” in front of the tajo El Espino Monday to Sunday: 8AM to 5PM
San Rafael de Escazú, 800 meters north of the Centro PACO, “Comercio Alternativo S.A.”.Tuesday to Friday:10AM to 4PM. Saturday: 9AM to 3PM
Barrio El Carmen de Paso Ancho, “Centro Ferial El Trueque”; from the Catholic church of San Cayetano, 750 meters south, or from the Soda Castro, located at the Guacamaya Rotunda, 750 meters north. Saturday: 6AM to Noon.
Barrio El Carmen de Paso Ancho, “Bioproductos Oro Verde,” next to Centro Ferial El Trueque. Monday to Friday: 7:30AM to Noon.
Cartago city center; 50 meters north of the restaurant Haros on the highway to Paraiso. Verdulería “Oasis de Salud.” Monday to Friday: 8AM to 1PM/ 2PM to 7PM Saturday: 8AM to 7PM. Sunday: 9AM to 1PM
Grecia, San Luis. 1.5 km northwest of the school. “Finca San Luis.” First Sunday of every month:8AM to 1PM
Limón, in front of Playa Chiquita Lodge, 5 km south of Puerto Viejo: “Centro Cultural Ecológico Gaia.” Saturday: 10AM to Noon.