Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Meeting the Farmers of Cerro Verde

Farmers from Cerro Verdo.  Photo: Coleman Smith
Saturday we sauntered down the dusty road near Guiones Beach in Nosara to the weekend open market. We caught up with our new friend Mainor a local organic farmer and his friends. His farm, or finca, called Cerro Verde, is located about 30 km southwest of Nicoya, Guanacaste, Costa Rica.  Mainor said he was part of the Asociacion de Agricultores Organicos de Cerro Verdo.  His booth, nestled back in a hedge of hibiscus, was one of only a few where indigenous farmers were selling local produce. Most vendors at the Saturday market were North Americans, Germans and Italians selling a variety of homemade breads and confections as well as imported clothing and jewelry. Other local indigenous "ticos" were offering coconuts as a source of refreshing water, tamales, hand-crafted furniture and carved wooden sculpture.  

Mainor introduced us to the fruto dorado or Golden Fruit, also known as the breadnut tree or Ojoche.  The  nutrient-dense seed of the Brosimum species served as a survival food for the ancient Mayans, and is also valued for the beauty of the wood, used in furniture making.

As we moved through a patchwork conversation with Mainor (he spoke only Spanish), we felt connected  through our common experiences with and appreciation for organic farming, a loving care for the land, and our understanding of permaculture (see previous post). After the market, Mainor walked with us back to Casa de la Rosada to see the raised bed organic food production of our local host and to talk seed exchange and farming needs in the tropics. 

Reporting from Nosara, Costa Rica: Clare Hanrahan & Coleman Smith of newsouthnetwork@gmail.com

Contact Asociacion de Agricultores Organicos de Cerro Verdo:  organicoselcerro@hotmail.com

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Pura Vida: Perma-Surfing in Nosara

Its dry season in Nosara, Costa Rica, and Jay Culberth is up at dawn most mornings to water his vegetable beds at Casa de Rosada. Jay is a Georgia native who comes from a long line of nurserymen and a farming environment. He is also a student and practioner of Permaculture. His father, uncle and brother are all nurserymen in Thomasville, Georgia, where Jay's grandfather was a Methodist preacher. Jay first came to Nosara two years ago, drawn by the Pacific waves here that are "most consistent for surfing," he said, allowing ample opportunity to improve one's skills and "to shred,"  as he put it. 
Jay harvesting basil and other greens for ensalada
But its in the garden where his family gift of the green thumb shows.  Jay has turned the hot, dusty soil surrounding the Santa Fe style hill-top casita, where he and his partner Sarah  live, into an oasis of edible plants intermixed with tropical ornamentals, including a large Reina de la Noche, a small tree known for its use inducing visions.

Sarah is an excellent cook for Nosara's surfing school, Surf Simply, and makes good use of the organic produce from Jay's garden in her delicious menus.

Sarah in her Costa Rica cocina
We are here in Costa Rica as guests of Monica Tilhou, an Asheville friend and Sarah's lively and generous mom. Monica is an eight-year resident of Nosara, with many friends among the local "Tico" families and residents.Sara and Jay live at Casa de Rosada.  

While Monica, Clare, Sarah, and Jay all speak Spanish, Coleman's 12th grade Spanish hardly suffices;  he relies on the others for translation, which is often. There is the Tico Times, though. It's the first English language newspaper in Costa Rica; going a long way to bridge the cultural and socio-economic differences between the local indigenous peoples and the gringos, an affluent American/European/Mediterranean mix of touristas and expatriates.

We're helping Monica with home renovation projects and repairs in exchange for an enjoyable and timely respite from years of community organizing. A special aspect of our visit has been the opportunity to meet and visit with many of the native-born "Ticos" who have lived here for generations.

Despite the overwhelming presence and impact of North American tourists and year-round residents that fill the restaurants, beaches and bars, that special feeling of "pura vida" continues to blow through it all, like the soft Pacific breeze carrying the scents of the season.

Reporting and photos by: Clare Hanrahan & Coleman Smith reporting from Casa de Rosada, 300 meters north of the Mini-Super in Costa Rica.

Contact:  newsouthnetwork@gmail.com