I was lucky to spend a few days living at a real sustainable farm in Monteverde , ran by a 60 year old Hermida and a few volunteers and have a real sustainable farming experience. Hermida is one of the most amazing strong willed women I have ever met , she shared her “sustainability secrets” with me . This blog was inspired by my personal experience living at a sustainable farm and seing for myself why Costa Rica is the world’s leader in sustainability .
Costa Rica is one of the world’s richest biodiversity hotspots. It teems with wildlife and a rich variety of plant life. Many eco-tourists and eco-travelers come here each year to explore. But the natural environment is not all that these eco-conscious travelers come here to see. Costa Rica is also now one of the best places in the world to learn more about, and experience, sustainable farming.
Whether you already zealously eat organic, or are new to the whole sustainability thing, one thing is for sure. Once you spend some time on an idyllic, organic Costa Rican farm – you’ll never think about farming or food in the same way again.
In Costa Rica, organic farming is not borne out of a fad. It is not a flash in the pan. They don’t do it because they get a premium for their product, or because of government grants, tax cuts or other financial support. They do it because they genuinely love our planet, its people and their land. They can’t imagine doing it any other way. Whether they have done it for generations or are part of the current rise in interest in organic farming – here in Costa Rica sustainability is not just a buzz word – it’s a way of life. People here understand that organic growing and sustainability are not just ‘nice to have’ – they are essential to our future on this planet.
What is Sustainable Farming?
Sustainable farming is agriculture that can continue for years to come. It is food production that protects resources, ecosystems and wildlife for future generations. It involves growing organically, without using any harmful pesticides or herbicides. Methods are used to care for the soil and the life within it that allows plants to grow. Nature is respected and nurtured. Farmers work in harmony with it, rather than fighting it. Farmer’s take, but they also remember to give back.
Why is it Such a Good Idea ?
Sustainable farming is not just the more eco-friendly option. It is the only option, if we want to continue to live, survive, thrive and feed ourselves on this planet. Agriculture accounts for a significant proportion of global greenhouse gas emissions, and is a major contributor to global warming.
Farming can also release other forms of pollution, and be wasteful of land, water and energy. Traditional practices such as planting just one single crop in large fields, tilling, and using pesticides and other chemicals all degrade the soil. Soil degradation is a huge risk – without fertile topsoil, we simply won’t be able to grow the food we need to survive.
Costa Rica’s Journey To Sustainable Farming
Costa Ricans know first hand what can happen when soil is degraded and natural resources are damaged or over-exploited. Agriculture in Costa Rica accounts for around 6.5% of its GDP, and 14% of people who live here rely on it for work. Farming has long been important here and small-scale farmers have been growing food sustainably here for generations. Older generations continue as they always have – working hard, tending the land, and enjoying food that has mostly travelled meters rather than miles to reach their plates.
Unfortunately, mass-produced cash crops such as bananas, cacao, coffee, and pineapple were all grown commercially in Costa Rica using lots of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Inevitably, this short-term thinking caught up with them and caused a crisis. Soil became depleted, workers were put at risk, fresh water was contaminated and forests were cut down for money-making farming schemes. The environment was damaged, people suffered, and productivity fell.
To deal with this crisis, Costa Rican authorities set about creating wholesale agricultural reform – putting sustainable agricultural practices in place – rediscovering the secrets of the ‘grandmothers’ for commercial growing too. Organic bananas, coffee and cacao are now grown commercially more than ever before. They find a market both domestically and abroad.
Organic growing has increased dramatically in the past few years, and a green agenda came to sit at the very heart of Costa Rica’s society and culture. Costa Rica is now a global leader for accomplishments and policies relating to the environment and ecology. This is a country that continues to top the league tables when it comes to the environment and green living. So it is a great place to visit if you want to know more about the important issue of sustainable food production.
Experiencing Sustainability at a Costa Rican farm
Costa Rican’s are, quite rightly, proud of the things they are doing for the environment. A visit here will show you that the environmental practices are not just for show. They come out of a true love for the land, for people, and for our planet.
If you visit Costa Rica, you can visit one of its organic farms and discover for yourself how people can live in harmony with the land, and enhance the environment rather than degrading it. There is a common saying here – ‘pura vida’. And an organic farm is a place where this idea of ‘fine living’ or ‘clean living’ is very much in evidence. It is only if you come here that you can feel, rather than just understanding, the phrase and the lifestyle it evokes.
People here are connected to the natural world in a way that many of us have lost. We should all reconnect with our world – put our hands in the soil, tend things and watch them grow and eat fresh, local, organic, healthy food. We should all live a purer, cleaner life, and make sure we are part of making this world better, rather than contributing to its destruction. An inspiring visit to a sustainable farm can be a great place to start.