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Costa Rica Update #8: Las Fincas

Posted by kevinwolz on July 14, 2011

After meeting my friend Chelsey in the middle of San José, we began our several-bus-long journey to the first farm on our list. Upon arrival, we immediately met a great group of volunteers from all over the world and the awesome young Tico owner. The farm is a family farm that doesn’t sell anything to the public; everything is used for the family and volunteers. A huge variety of crops are grown in both mono- and polycultures: every tropical fruit you can think of, your basic garden annuals, and then some special crops like sugar cane (for sugar), Jatropha (for biodiesel), and a variety of tropical hardwoods (for lumber). As far as the working situation goes, the basic setup was this: Get up and have breakfast at 7am to be ready to work at 8am. Work a variety of farms jobs for 3-5 hours. Help cook lunch and eat around noon. Have the afternoon/evening to do as you please. Go to bed early in the volunteer bunk house (12 bunks with mosquito nets, two showers, and outhouse…all under roof but not enclosed).

Jobs included anything from hand-weeding gardens or machete-weeding tree crops to constructing or painting new buildings. By far, however, my favorite task was harvesting bananas and plantains from the many “trees” around the farm. It required lots of machete action and large bunches of tasty fruit falling into your arms. Afternoon activities included hikes to swim at waterfalls deep in the forest, walking down the road to tour other local farms, hanging out with the Tico owners to learn more about their life, and just exploring the farm more deeply on your own. Despite the countless new crops and novel tropical agriculture, I was slightly disappointed by the seeming lack of a system or plan to the farm. I was really hoping to experience some intense and mature Permaculture-type tropical system, but that just wasn’t the case here. This may have something to do with the fact that the farm is a Tico farm that is more focused on maintaining old traditions and just feeding themselves. Perhaps a longer stay would have revealed more. Nevertheless, my eyes have definitely been opened to the opportunities that different climates can provide.

After four days at the first farm, we figured that we had absorbed just about as much as we could in a short stay and decided to head out to Farm #2 . This farm, however, was a good five buses away…more than we wanted to endure in one day. So, we decided to spend part of the weekend in Dominical, a laid back Pacific beach town, as a half-way point. Despite the horrible hotel room (think ceiling fans held up by strings and wood trim attached with band-aids…not our most successful travel decision), we were right on a beautiful beach. Consequently, we got to spend some quality time in the sun and waves, not to mention watch an incredible sunrise over an ocean storm.

From there, the three of us (Chelsey and I were now traveling with one of the volunteers we had met at the first farm.) headed on to the second farm, which we were told had great food and “the best shower in Costa Rica,” something that I was desperately in need of. Upon arrival, however, we had mixed feelings. While there was quite a bit to observe and learn on the farm, the owner didn’t really have any work for us to do and ended up being a creepy old man. The shower and food were good enough to keep us there two nights, but then we decided to head out pretty quickly.

Since a few unfortunate emails the night before had signaled that Farm #3 was also a flop (for completely different reasons), we quickly found ourselves in quite a jam. However, luck would have it that the hippie-FBI-most-wanted-farm-worker-lady told us about another really cool farm down the road. Not exactly trusting her judgement, and wanting to prevent another farm flop, we headed on a quick reconnaissance mission and, after successful results, decided to pack our bags for Finca Amrta…Farm #3b.

Finca Amrta was AMAZING…more or less exactly the type of farm/experience we had been envisioning from the start. We have now been at here for two days (although our travel companion left yesterday for Panama) and plan to stay for about a week. I’ll describe this farm and subsequent plans (still in the works) in my next post. Pictures will also have to wait until I get back to my computer in a month.

I’m really loving the more rural Costa Rican experience as a contrast to what I did for the first six weeks here. I’m learning a lot and seeing so many new things. Can’t wait to see what’s next…Pura Vida!

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4 Responses to “Costa Rica Update #8: Las Fincas”

  1. Joan said

    Kevin, Sorry to hear about the disappointing farms but at least you had the afternoons free.
    Glad to hear that Farm 3b turned out to be what you were looking to see. You had some awesome experiences, however…..machete harvesting!!! Wonderful beaches and sunrises!
    And more surprises to come…hope they’re good ones! Looking forward to more pictures.
    GB

  2. Joan said

    well kevin it sounds like yr on track to save the earth for kaitlin and brett!!!!!!! way to go!!!!! hope you have better luck at yr next farm adventure!!!!!!! love aunt linda

  3. onestraw said

    First off – I am 100% in agreement with Joan… I needs me some crops that I can harvest by swinging a short sword. Second DANG SUCKA are you having an amazing experience! When you get back you need to book so WI time and we will have some great IPA and eat some biochar stove cooked meals while you fill in the rest of the details. Should have the modular rocket stove running by then too. Keep learning – this shit is life altering.

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