Costa Rica shines as a steward in the movement towards environmental sustainability. According to the “Environmental Performance Index of 2010,” Costa Rica is the third most sustainable country in the world, just behind Iceland and Switzerland, and ahead of Sweden and Norway.
This past summer, I explored the sustainable living practices of three farms in Ciudad Colon, a small, non-touristy town 15 miles southeast of San Jose, Costa Rica’s capitol. Through the organization Workaway, a volunteer exchange program, I was able to meet Robert Roman and volunteer on his farm for the month of July. I spent the month as a farmhand helping to plant and harvest fruits, vegetables, and herbs.
I gained first-hand knowledge of the sustainable practices of his farm and interviewed two other farmers nearby to learn the sustainable components of their farms. All three farms possess sustainable practices, some of which include using bamboo, which grows naturally on the farms for all construction purposes (i.e. benches, fencing, kitchen utensils), having a specific compost for future chicken food, having a garden compost dedicated as fertilizer for plant beds, maximizing food growth by growing it on tiers, organizing daily routines around the sunlight to limit use of electricity for lights (which meant waking up early and going to bed early), having a highly specified recycling method, controlling the flow of water after it rains and preventing erosion by carefully and systematically planning the location of the garden beds, walking to town limiting the use of cars and, of course, eating all the fruits, vegetables, herbs, and eggs produced on the farm.
However, despite implementing sustainable practices, neither of the farms are completely self-reliant. The three farmers indicated that size of the farm is the main hindrance to achieving absolute sustainability. All of the farms were less than three acres. Interestingly, when asked how they could make their farm more sustainable, all three farmers offered no explanation as to what could be done. One farmer suggested that Costa Rica isn’t as sustainable as it is portrayed to be.
All three of the farms contain sustainable aspects, but none of them are completely sustainable. While in Costa Rica, I was able to attempt surfing, climb Mt. Chirripo, and hike to a 100ft waterfall in the jungle. The Keller Family Venture Grant Program made my trip possible, and I encourage everyone to pursue funding for his or her own adventure.
Mike Rabb, Guest Writer