Just like the past days, Day 3 did not disappoint!
We started the morning off by visiting the beautiful CATIE located in Turrialba. It is a center dedicated to research and graduate education in agricultural management, conservation and sustainable use. We had a great speaker who introduced the fundamentals of the program and gave us background on the work he has done over the years. It was very interesting to observe the differences between EARTH University and CATIE. Our speaker said that CATIE puts emphasis on research before education, and at EARTH, the program puts emphasis on education before research. The fundamentals of sustainability and agricultural practices are highly similar though.
At CATIE we went to the facility where the people grow and engineer various cacao plants. We learned about the different types of cacao fruits and which ones are more susceptible to disease. We also learned that the growers will modify a plant and generate a tree that grows multiple species of fruit. He cut out a T shaped section off the stem, then he cut a small piece(equivalent to the size of the T cut) and literally sticks the foreign bud on to the stem and wraps it in plastic. When the plant matures it will produce two types of fruit. It is like telling nature what it’s going to produce which is really cool. It is manipulating nature for our benefit but not in a malicious and detrimental way! We then were able to try the cacao seed, or the squishy substance around it, and saw the drying process that turns into coco powder used in chocolate.
We continued our journey to the Ecological farm finca monte claro. At this family owned farm we visited the farm animals and the coffee plantations. Although the season had just ended, we learned about the whole process that goes into the coffee bean. The farmers pick the red little beans from the shrubs and take them to their facility to begin the drying process. They peel the red bean to expose the seed/bean and they put them in these hot moist tents to dry them. Sometimes they dry it with the squishy mucus substance on the bean because it is easier to peel it. At the end of the tour we tried their very own brew and it is safe to say it is the best coffee I have ever had!
It was cool to see the organic coffee grown and processed because we are educated with this idea that plants require fertilizer or pesticide to successfully thrive. However, today was the perfect example showing that local and organic growing is successful and not detrimental to the ecosystem. Finca monte claro uses legumes and shade as “fertilizer” which has proven to be highly successful because it preserves the soil. We need to implement more of these biological resources in the U.S. in order to promote sustainable agriculture.