Currently you are in a sinking boat, what are you going to do to help it stay afloat? In this situation, the world is the sinking boat and as citizens, we have the responsibility to invest in sustainable practices and help the boat (world) stay afloat. This past weekend, I had the opportunity to visit an agro-ecological farm in the southern Pacific region of Costa Rica called La Gran Vista Farm (http://www.lagranvista.com/). The mission of the farm is to create a self-sustainable farm where each element works in harmony. The focus is on organic farming, soil regeneration and conservation, pasture rehabilitation, managing free ranged poultry, cultivation of California red worms and composting. Donald, the owner of the farm was great at explaining every practice on the farm and how each element of the farm works in harmony to be self-sufficient. The farm consisted of countless types of fruits and vegetables; bamboo that was planted and used in construction on the farm; cows, chickens, pigs, and horses and beekeeping operation.
|The roof was made out of bamboo they grew, hammocks out of old rugs and recycled metal poles|
What I learned this weekend:
One of the most interesting aspects of the farm is their use of biogas. The waste from the pigs is washed with water into a filter. The methane gas from pig waste is collected and then travels to the kitchen through a pipe, and the family uses it for the stove. The kitchen used 50% propane from the biogas production and 50% wood as fuel. The natural biogas (methane) is the preferred way to cook in the morning and I got to experience cooking some gallo pinto on pig waste for breakfast.
|The farm has 2 pigs which they eat every year. These pigs waste helps power the stove in the kitchen.|
In Costa Rica and tropical areas, soil erosion is a huge issue because of all the rainfall and inappropriate farming practices. Donald, who is an agricultural engineer, started putting in place practices that would eliminate soil erosion on his farm by constructing terraces and planting soil-binding grasses. Now the farm has eliminated the problem of soil erosion and has created an example for local farmers to follow.
|Fun Fact: It takes 8 years to grow one pineapple|
The Medicinal herb plot was my favorite part of the farm. The plot had approximately 75 plants which were used in many ways from spicing food, herbal remedies, making natural shampoos, insect repellants and curing cancer. For example, Zamia is a plant that can be used for glue and acts like stitches to hold your skin together. Other plants include Cardo Santo which naturally kills bacteria when you have a cut on your skin. Donald also showed us a plant named Rosa de Jamaica which is packed full of vitamin C and can be used to make tea or even wine like they are currently doing on the farm. A tip I learned is that if you are ever sick, combine jengibre (ginger), lemon grass, and honey and you will be “singing” the next day. My two favorites were the zevia plants and the cinnamon tree. An interesting fact that I didn’t know before coming to Costa Rica is that you can eat Aloe and it is very beneficial to the digestion system. While visiting the farm, we got to sample freshly sliced aloe mixed with papaya and honey to create a sweet little snack to enjoy.
The Vegetable gardens were beautiful overflowing with a variety of tomatoes, beans, lettuce, radishes, chiles, and cilantro. A challenge in this area is to get good soil and maintain it so one thing the farm does is use California Red worms to keep the soil full of nutrients. By using a vermicomposting system, the worms are placed in a worm bin with proper bedding and waste material. They produce nutrient dense dirt that is added to the raised beds. The dirt contributes to better tasting vegetables grown in the garden (I tried the tomatoes and they were out of this world).
|California Red worms|
The meals we got this weekend consisted of delicious Costa Rican food. On Sunday morning, they asked for some extra help cooking and I gladly volunteered. I got to practice my Spanish while cutting up fresh vegetables from the garden for the gallo pinto and learned how to make coffee the Costa Rican way. The food we made for breakfast was all so fresh and consisted of: Eggs gathered from the chickens, gallo pinto made from onions, peppers and cilantro from the garden and plantains from a tree outside. Also to top the breakfast plate, La Gran Vista had homemade HOTSAUCE. My new goal for this summer is to make some of this hot sauce because they were nice enough to give me the recipe. What a great "farm to table" breakfast we got to enjoy!
|Early morning cooking|
|Fresh Coffee Creamer!|
|Fish Pond: Used as a source of protein “ Tilapia fish” are raised here. Additionally, La Finca is growing its own natural Azola algae to serve as another nutritional component to the Tilapia´s diet.|
|Always supporting each other!|
Visiting the farm was one of my favorite activities being here in Costa Rica. I learned so much about the farming process and sustainability. Not only did I learn more, Donald motivated us to help the sinking boat in anyway we can. This summer, I really want to do more gardening and create a chicken coop with at least 5 chickens. Any advice or knowledge on these subjects that anyone has would be super helpful and I would love it if you would be willing to share. Thanks again for reading! PURA VIDA