A Lesson in Human Coexistence with Tropical Creatures, Weather, and Plants
Although richly rewarding, the Mighty Rivers Eco-farm project has not been an easy pull. When we settled here the farm was overgrown in brush amid macadamia nut trees. The nuts turned out to be unprofitable for the elevation in which our farm is located. Our first exploration of the farm grounds ended in our guard dog Monte being seriously hurt in a machete accident. The buildings were unsuitable to live in and were improved while occupied. Our first milk cow purchased locally was the envy of the region, selected for good pedigrees and superior milk quality. To our dismay, Canela succumbed to bat bites and anaplasmosis within a few weeks.
We faced challenge after challenge with climate, pests, bad roads, snakes, fast growing weeds and plant diseases. We suffered loss after loss in adapting to changes in human diet, culture, language, and dearth of sensible advice in areas of vet care, human medical care, and business in general. Not to mention the painful lack of telephone communication from our remote location.
Although a beauty to behold, the jungle is most unkind to humans and domestic animals. In its natural, unmodified state, the tropical jungle, like a snake swallows its prey, will slowly but surely consume any human being attempting to dwell therein. As Costa Rican settler Darryl Cole-Christensen wrote in his book A Place in the Rain Forest, the first rule of survival is to allow some sunshine to penetrate the jungle canopy. Enough ground must be cleared to plant food and build a domocile spared of the dense, wet, darkness of wood and vegetation. Since we were geared to tamper with nature as little as possible, we contacted Christensen at the college he founded called Finca Loma Linda. We sought advice from tropical gardeners such as Tico Times contributor Ed Bernhardt, as well as many native Costa Rican farmers who had learned self-sustainability from their grandparents. We consulted plant and animal nutritionists from Earth University, who spent endless hours at our farm demonstrating ecologically friendly farming methods. We also gleaned information from Catie and their large campus library for information on tree planting and soil improvement.
Amid unrelenting nay-saying from native Costa Rican farmers, we imported cattle and horses from upstate New York, and transplanted them to Mighty Rivers Eco-farm. Amazingly, not one animal was lost in the process. We built our herd from this stock, and a mixture of heartier, native animals. We hired pasture designers to help us create a practical feed program for the animals.
Proper research, patience, learning by trial and error, and attentiveness to signals from nature have been key factors of the successful growth of the Mighty Rivers Eco-farm. We have become part of a landscape that attracts a million visitors annually from all over the world. More importantly, we’re learning how to tame and capture this awesome work of God’s creation, and turn it into something meaningful for humankind to live in, and enjoy. As responsible stewards of the land, we pledge to keep it beautiful.
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