Saturday, April 9, 2011

MonteVerde - Costa Rica

Near Santa Elena

The bus from San Jose was a great ride until the especially jarring last leg up to Santa Elena.  'Los caminos son muy rota,' 'the roads are very broken,' I commented to a local, who smiled with pride. He explained that community members blocked the roads from being paved back in the day, to curb the tourist flow. No problem. The cloud forests near Santa Elena and Monteverde are marvelous and inspiring, a piece of heaven on earth. They can also be very wet, so if you happen by, bring a poncho.

Nestor & Reiman

With Reiman Porras from Cafe Monteverde I visited one of the farms in the Coopesanta Elena Cooperative. The co-op is made up of 40 or so, small coffee producers and was formed in 1988. In 1989 a partnership was established with Montana Coffee Traders, an early, trail blazing, specialty coffee roaster...

One of the Nestor's biggest worries was the recent unpredictability of the weather, which was dramatically affecting his crops; rainy seasons that didn't end when they were supposed to, and dry seasons that had become dryer than ever before. 'Coffee is an exacting crop that requires an ideal mix of rain and temperature and climate change is damaging that balance.'

Coffee plants

 While he was concerned that there was more to be done, Fair Trade had delivered for Nestor and, over the years he was able to save enough to send both of his sons to study in San Jose. I wondered aloud, who would carry on the coffee growing as they pursued their careers, upon graduation. After a moment of nervous hesitation he shared his plan to build a couple more homes on the hill side for his sons to return to.

 Despite having a bad hair day I agreed to the obligatory tourist pose with a coffee picking basket. But Nestor, with his piercing eyes, rolled up sleeves and chiseled features, makes this photo. Surely, you would rather this fine fellow receive a fair slice of your coffee dollars than contributing to the profits of some faceless, planet marauding, multinational like, say, Nestlés. And their coffee sucks to boot...

Around the farm, an assortment of pets and animals roamed. The setting was a magnificent low lying area surrounded by hills, lots of tree cover,  and a random mix of coffee plants, banana plants, sugar cane and other tropical vegetation. This is what a pesticide free, organic, coffee farm looks like.

Fair Trade ensures that Nestor is paid even double, the meager amount multinationals would pay. This helps keep him in business and investing in his farm in a sustainable way. If we don't support small farmers like this, all that will be left is a cup of Maxwell House to start the day... something akin to a tragedy piled on top of a catastrophe!

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