Organic Farm Life in the Mystic Tropics of Costa Rica

Updated - August, 1997. Welcome to our Free Organic Agriculture and Costa Rica Living Home Page.

Our family has been living and working here in Costa Rica for the last 10 + years. This site includes information regarding farming organically in the tropics and our work with Growers in the US and Latin America, soil science and information on organics in Costa Rica and the Tropics. Given these experiences at farming in the tropics, we have become very aware of metal toxicities in both plants, animals and humans. We also have some links for some of our favorite travel spots as well as information sources for what we feel is the best of Costa Rica. Our health links, medicinal herb information and links, are given in an effort to further assist in a more wholesome and healthy lifestyle. Please note the information on metal toxicities and take note that this affects everyone, if you have silver fillings in your mouth, BEWARE, and read on..

We live in the Central Valley, near the Juan Santamaria International Airport, thus we must travel to get to most of the growers that we work with. The organic bananas are on the east Coast, the organic pineapple on the west coast, and organic citrus (oranges) in the northwest (near the Nicaraguan) border. Thus, we get to travel quite a bit every week

Just this afternoon, I (Michael) was returning from the Organic banana plantings and I stopped at the top of the Braulio Carrillo, which is the overpass between the Central Valley and the Atlantic. It is a familiar spot that I visit, where I often am able to watch cloud birthing and rapid raincloud passage from the hot Atlantic tropic (east) side of the country, passing up to the Central Valley and creating the many varied microclimates on the way. Today, I was able to very see deep down into the river valley below in the Braulio Carrillo, unincumbered by the normal cloud cover. The sun was bright and the greenish purple hue of the trees below was breathtaking. The viney, almost moss like mass that joins the trees, casts a darker almost shadow like backdrop for the canyon below. The hillsides are a solid, multilayered biological mass, that even under the strongest storms, sustains the vertical slopes. Only in the deforested areas do landslides from the heavy rains carve out larger and larger bites of the mountainside.

A view of the Braulio Carrillo forest.

My family and I have been living and working here in Costa Rica for the last ten years. Ivy (my wife) and Robert (brother) and myself (Michael), have been busy here converted over 3,000 acres to Organic Agriculture. Some of the organic results, like the Talamanca and Bri-Bri region, have been disasterous. Large "organic" international companies such as Hipp (Germany) along with commercial "conventional" companies such as Chiquita Brands and Gerber babyfood, have come in and have driven up prices to the point where the locals that have had longstanding forests, have clear cut their forests to plant abandoned banana plantations, where nothing is done to replenish what is being taken from the soil, only later be sold as organic. In many certification agencies, this "abandoned agriculture" of bananas is illegal. Certification agencies have arrived that give little attention to these disasterous "abanadoned" management techniques. Literally hundreds of little growers are now farming with terrible slash and burn technologies to plant cacao (chocolate for Newmans Own) and bananas (for babyfood). When we first started this ten years ago, this was not our intention. It was known from many similar models in the Dominican Republic what would happen if the growers were allowed to produce unrestricted, without a set of buyers guidelines, that the locals would not conserve their resources, only exploit them. As fast as they can. This has been demonstrated over and over historically..

On the other hand, there are success stories, many growers that work with us are actually replanting native tree species on a large scale on watershed and overcropped lands. There must be a short term as well as long term plan for managing tropic soils, any soil for that matter. Medicinal herbs and other shade loving crops are tenderly nurtured in the shade of many tree species and are now actually beginning to great promise to many of our growers that have been working test patches over the last 3 years.

For growers that are looking for specific information, pagedown to the bottom of this homepage and email us and we try and help. We will reply ASAP. Try and ask specific questions, making sure to describe growing conditions, specific problem and complete symptoms. I have two full time people now helping out in disease and insect diagnosis and recommendations. All of course, Organic.

This is photo of some of the amazing fish diversity off the west coast.

Our lifes work is dedicated to producing the best qualtity Organic fruits and vegetables in the most sustainable and economic fashion possible. It is our belief that for the plantet to have a chance, Organic methods must be found that work on Large scale farms. If producing organically cannot be done in an economic fashion on both the small and LARGE scale, then it is not a viable alternative for the planet.

Some of our organic crops include lettuce, fresh herbs, tropical fruits (banana, pineapple, mango and papaya) as well as some medicinal plants and herbs. We are now forming an Organic CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) on a much larger farm where we can start supplying families as well as our current hotel and resort clients here in Costa Rica.

We practice alternative medicine and believe whole heartedly that man is often his worst enemy when it comes to alleopathic (conventional) medicine. Visit these great sights on alternative medicine. Any of you out there have silver fillings? See these sites on MercuryToxicity and guess where it came from? Are Autoimmune diseases caused by mercury toxicity? More on mercury Toxicity? Did you know silver fillings are treated as hazardous waste when the dentist has to dispose of the silver/amalgram filling once it has been removed from your mouth? What is the real story at the center of all this controversy?

Read more on chlorine and chlorine based chemicals. The National Breast Cancer Coalition and the World Health Organization, have called for the elimination of chlorine use. But since half of all commercial chemicals are chlorine based, chemical companies have an interest in keeping chlorine legal. Chlorine and chlorine chemicals have been linked to breast cancer.

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and autoimmune disorders such as scleraderma and many other "diseases" have been linked to environmental contaminants such as metal toxicities, pesticides and handy, dandy, make your life easier (and destroy your ozone) chemicals.

There are ways to cleanse the body as points out Hulda Regehr Clark, Ph.D., N.D. in her book, "The Cure for all Disease", published by the New Century Press in the U.S., one of the methods described by this wonderful Doctor which works with frequencies can be seen here.

And then of course there is this amazing, mystical, tropical wonderland we call home, Costa Rica. Most folks ask both if and why we like living here. Good question. Well, we love living in the Tropics for many different reasons, the heat, the rains, everything being green, almost all the time (dry season is pretty dry in areas). Or it could be the low cost of living. Food is not too great, lots of nasty chemicals on the food (we grow alot of our own food and work within an Organic CSA. Or it might be the huge opportunity of producing organic tropicals, bananas and pineapple for the international market. But my personal favorite reason is the little campesino, or people, they are simple and in their own way, have an uncanny sort of wisdom.

The other day I was visiting a pig farm that has been dumping their pig manure into a pile for years. One of the workers, Pedro, showed me around the runoff, where he is growing some veggies on the next lot property over. He had some very healthy melons and squash happening as well as some sweet peppers, all of which were in pretty good health and just beginning to produce. Around each plant, there was a heavy ring of well weathered white material. I asked him what was that material and what was it used for. He replied that it was the only "quimica" (chemical) that he used, and it was to kill the nematodos (nematodes - root burrowing soil insects) and higotos (white soil grubs). He said it was Cal (calicum carbonate or lime). Now for many, many years, we have been pushing growers on large applications of calcium in this part of the world for many reasons, literally in direct contradiction to local professional recommendations, but never to kill or these soil plagues.

The campesino wisdom scopes medicinal herbal remedies, planting and farming by the moon to unbelievable gravity irrigation systems for their crops. Where the farmer is weak and has problems, is on growing healthy crops and maintaining their soil and soil structure. With overy 15 feet of rain over 8 months, many lands are washed away if tilled or planted at the wrong times. Topsoil is sacred.

Like most other developing countries, Costa Rica has lost alot of its' campesinos, they have moved to the city to work at the clothing factories or micro chip factory (Intel).

You can read more about what's happening currently in Costa Rica at the La Nacion our largest Costa Rican newspaper, Spanish and English. But its' slow. The local English (Gringo - where did that word come from?) newspaper Tico Times, is required reading for knowing what is happening in Costa Rica, with special emphasis on the expatriates living here in Costa Rica.

Click on this hypertext for an instant Map of Costa Rica

Have you tried our line of Rainforest Farms Dried Tropical Fruits? We weren't selling on line as of yet, but we have begun shipping to some of you who insisted. Note the color of the fruit, the flavor is even better! We have even shipped some organic dried herbs and some organic roasted coffee at your insistance. Due to this enthusiasm, look forward in the near future for a more developed and organized site for the direct purchase from our farms to your home, our line of premium dehydrated tropical fruits, herbs and coffee, organic and conventionally grown (only when organic is not available), sold under the Rainforest Farms label. We are looking for someone to do this with us, Any takers??? Also for those of you that shop Fresh Fields, that is our pineapple and banana in those packages! Our first Organic pineapples will be hitting the shelf on the east coast this January and will be under the Pina Perfecta label, look for them! Our first containers of cleanly grown conventional ginger also just hit the consumer shelf on the east coast under the Harvest Crown box (kind of hard to find for consumers).

Gotta Love these volcanoes. At the Tabacon Resort in San Carlos, you can watch the Arenal Volcano while submersed in hot mineral volcanic springs, while listening to the rumble of the volcano. The sounds of the adjoining rainforest make this a very magical place to visit. It's one of our favorites.

This is the Arenal Volcano at night, while lounging in the hot springs.

Costa Rica Travel Sites

Here is a good all around guide of Costa Rica information and travel. Hotels and Best Restaurants in Costa Rica

My personal favorite restaurant in Costa Rica is a little Taiwanese place called Fu Lu Su, on Calle 7, between Avenida Central and Avenida 2. Try the boiled dumplings and the #42, green beans and pork in a ginger sauce... I'm making myself hungry... and no, we are not vegetarians, though we do refrain from most red meats..

The best big hotel in the Central Valley is the Camino Real, the restaurants have the best and most reasonably priced food. (We sell them organic lettuces as well!)

The best seafood is at the Banco de Mariscos, on the road to Santa Barbara. They have their own fishing vessels and rush the seafood to their restaurant as well as sell to other local seafood places. Their food is reasonably priced and very Tico (local culinary influence)

Green Investment Opportunity

Green Investment Opportunity. If you've had our dried fruits or fresh organic pineapple, you may want to consider becoming a shareholder in our U.S. corporation, the U.S. Organic Fruit Co..

Organic Sites of Interest

OCIA Organic Crop Improvement Association (Organic Certification and good organic links.

Whole Foods Big Organic Supermarket chain (a public company), great links all over the place!

Ever want to know the common AND the scientific name of a Plant Disease this is the spot. For those of you wondering how to reach the famous ethnobotanist Dr.Jim Duke, we found him! And we also found his amazing ethnobotany database, a major work done at the USDA, is now available to all! It is a little tough to figure out, but you'll get it.

One of the problems farming here in Costa Rica and in Central America in general is the large amounts of soluble metals in the soils, causing large scale crop reductions of up to 50% due to these metal toxicities. The rain is acid, the fertilizers are acid, resulting in an extremely acid enviroment in which to grow. Historically, in all crops, yields go down, not up. Here in the tropics, the soils are very shallow, many times less than 2 inches deep. Utilizing chemical agriculture, the soils in this part of the world are becoming depleted at a very rapid rate. In four to five years of cultivation, most soils are only suitable for cattle. Costa Rica has the second highest rate of gastric cancer in the world, second only to Japan.

For those scientific types, the problem is due to low cation exchange capacity (the black, earthy smelling stuff has high cation exchange capacity) and fertilizers/chemicals such as Potassium Chloride and chlorine based chemicals, which triples the solubility of metals, specifically aluminum. The only chance of reversing this terrible trend is by restoring organic materials. The issue is how and at what cost? We utilize high grade humate materials that have charges of over 1,200, compared to the soils here with charges of 2 and 3. A good compost only has a charge of 50 +. Which is why composting for nutritional requirements on large farms does not work. Remineralization is economic and it works.

Many have linked Aluminum in the brain to Alzheimers disease, and then there are others (many funded by the Reynolds Foundation, yep, Reynolds Aluminum) that say there is no problem with putting aluminum in the diet. Ever wonder why Morton salt pours when it rains? Aluminum silicate.. Aluminum toxicity due to acid rain has been linked to the decline and loss of the worlds forests.

Aluminum really is in the diet in many forms, where else does it come from? Alum in bread, water treatment for packed drinks (soda, beer, reconstituted juices). The aluminum is put in to precipitate particles by sedimentation, unfortunately, then they put in chlorine (toxic) which makes the aluminum 3 X more soluble.

How can one get rid of metals in the system? Well, it really depends on which metals we are talking about. Mercury is chelated out of the system with DMPS (the word is longer than this page), aluminum is chelated out with EDTA. It is critical that you work with a good doctor that knows this type science. There is a great local doctor here in Costa Rica named Dr. Fabio Solano, who does this type work. For the price of most US physicians, one can come down and to chelation therapy and have a vacation. There is also a wonderful local dentist that does amalgram replacement. All at a fraction of the cost of US physicians, with US accreditation and training!

It is incredible the damage that ALUMINUM does to the roots of a plant when found in only slightly elevated quantities. See this gif on toxic sorghum roots, to the left high levels of aluminum toxicity, the middle set of roots has a little bit of aluminum, and the roots to the right side - no toxicity. Let the gif fully load to see the full length of the roots on the right. Imagine that this is what metal toxicities do to the brain system.

If you believe in homeopathy, the early symptoms of aluminum toxicity are, inability to make decisions, putting things off until later, forgetfulness, slowness in movement, and not wanting to take on responsibilities. When I was in Graduate school, I took one of those crazy elective courses called the "Cotton South", where it was an economic dilema, trying to explain the extremely slow growth of the South compared to the rest of the US, especially when one considers the port and rail infrastructure, superiour growing climate and "free" slave labor. Not until I began farming in the tropics (having come from New Jersey), that I started to investigate aluminum toxicity (because my leaf analysis where showing super high levels (>1,000 PPM +). Upon investigation, I found that the best work on aluminum toxicity in the world has been done at the University of Georgia!! Dr. Tan has investigated metal toxicities and demonstrated conclusively that a little aluminum in your crop can cut your harvest in more than half. And the half that is left is very poor, very sick and obviously containing very poor nutritional value. We personally believe this is a huge opportunity for us and many others that choose to invest here in Costa Rica.

Look for more on this subject in the future.

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Last Updated - August 16, 1997!

Take care and God Bless,

Michael & Ivy

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