In the shadow of Costa Rica’s Turrialba volcano lies the town of Aquiares, situated within and among a coffee plantation in the mountains of the rainforest. I am here as a college student, 20 years old, aspiring farmer, to assist with the creation of a community garden. This garden is the responsibility of three women here. They desire to increase their earnings and promote healthy eating in the community by selling the vegetables they produce. The cultivation of their crops will be organic to promote the health of the produce, the people, and the environment here in Costa Rica. Aquiares has previously welcomed intern Alex Schmall, who conducted a survey of the population and completed a report on ways to improve the standard of living for residents of Aquiares. This garden was one of her suggestions, directly from members of the community.
I’ve been working on organic produce farms in the northeast U.S. since high school. Four years, two farms, some livestock, lots of veggies. I’ve learned an incredible amount while working in these places, and also in school. I came to Costa Rica both to teach some of what I know, and to learn more. I’ve already been able to do both. Many of the plants I’ve seen before, but Aquiares is different from Connecticut and New York. I’ve never been in a place that’s consistently sunny and hot in the morning, but has forceful rains and cooler air in the afternoon and evening. Costa Rica is famous for its biodiversity, but the weather is more intense than I’d experienced in the context of farming. My agricultural horizons are also broadening due to the immense number of native fruits that grow here. The locals are eager to have me try their comida típica, which is amazing but simple to achieve. People take great pride in their food here, and in such a close and connected community, I imagine the garden flourishing and bringing success and security to its creators.
I’ve been here for three weeks now, and I’m ready to move to Costa Rica after graduation. The people are as warm as the climate. Everyone has welcomed me with open arms, and they are gentle when correcting my Spanish and eager to learn various words in English. They are politely curious about my life in the United States, my school, and my home. They are also ready to share everything they know (which is a lot) about Costa Rica: its plants, animals, culture, everything. I’ve been on hikes in the mountainous rainforest, fishing in a river, and stargazing at an overlook. I’ve seen a multitude of birds, various snakes, beautiful, immense fields with tiny-seeming cows scattered across them…A tarantula and smaller spiders, huge, huge butterflies, a crab in a river, and the footprints of a sloth that were like tiny hands in the mud.
Aquiares has the most beauty you could cram into just one group of people in one place. I’m grateful every day to be here and at the same time it’s hard to believe I’m even really here.