Sure, there are many things to do when you come to Costa Rica. But visiting UGA Costa Rica offers a wide array of non-traditional tourist activities for you and your friends. This is our top five list of things to do off the beaten path. How many have you done?
1. Try the hot chocolate (Seriously, you don’t want to leave campus without trying it!)
2. Swim at the suspension bridge
3. Help out on the farm
4. Go to a community dance
5. Attend a Zumba class at the community center
One of the most requested crops by the kitchen is lettuce. Between eating it every day for lunch and dinner, we seem to go through a lot of it. Here’s a video of the process of planting a bed of lettuce, from adding composted soil to transplanting lettuce plants from trays in the greenhouse into the ground.
Marlon works on the farm every day, but today Julia came to help out as well.
Today, we follow Evan and Trevor to the stable where our cows are milked and our pigs are kept. Although we have more than 20 cows on campus, only four to six are milked daily. During the times they do not have a calf, the others remain in our pastures.
Milking begins every morning at 6:20 and again in the afternoon at about 2:30. After the short trip to the kitchen, it is heated just long enough to come to a boil. The milk is used for our very popular hot chocolate every night as well as cream for coffee, baked goods, and even to make cheese.
Thank you for reading part one of my introduction to the farm at UGA Costa Rica. Today, I’ll share a little bit about our greenhouses and other crops we grow here.
This is a better picture of our large greenhouse. The top keeps the rain out but allows sunlight to go through. As you can sort of see, we are growing lettuce in the bottom of the greenhouse, and grass up top. We are growing the grass on purpose, which is strange for a farm, but I will explain it more fully in a later post.
Here’s a look at the beds. We’ve put branches on the bottom to limit erosion. The bed featured in the photo is made up of cabbage. I know that this picture makes things look fairly chaotic, and sometimes they are, but this was from early on when we were losing the battle against the weeds. The beds look a bit more organized now.
This sign warns people that the fence is electric. It hurts if you touch it. Believe me. I’m not speculating.
One cool thing we do here is that we compost both the weeds from the garden, and food waste from the kitchen. The weeds from the garden go into large piles that look like the one above. The food waste goes into the building below. In both cases we are warm composting, which involves raising the temperature of the material being composted high enough that bacteria and small insects can break it down. The heat is generated by letting the compost sit, though it must be turned over periodically so that every part gets warm, and water must be added occasionally to help sustain the bacteria.
We plant a variety of crops, although the most common are lettuce, cabbage, and carrots. The top picture is a type of lettuce that is new to the farm, and is pretty funky looking.
To protect the lettuce and cabbage from the elements we plant it in small trays and then transplant it once it is a bit hardier.
This is about as big as we want to let it get before it goes into one of the beds. As you can see the plants are running out of real estate.
We grow a bit of sugarcane, and it makes a great snack if you cut it down and chew on the white stalk.
This is called chayote, and tastes like squash. It grows on these vines and we don’t have to do anything except go around harvesting it every couple of weeks.
Stay tuned for more updates from the farm!
My name is Evan Senie and I’m the Sustainable Agriculture Intern at UGA Costa Rica. I’ll be doing some blogging focusing on my work at the farm. The farm here at UGACR is organic, and the food produced is used to feed the volunteers, students, and tourists who stay at the facility.
We use terraced beds on the farm, due to the relatively steep grade and the fact that during the rainy season there is significant water flow down the farm.
There are many crops on the farm but the first one I’ll mention for now are the bananas. There are actually three things that grow from similar looking trees but I’ll cover them in another post. This plantation is behind the farm and we harvest these every couple of weeks.
For those of you who don’t know, this is how bananas grow. There is a large flower that hangs down and then extends upward in bunches. Once they’re ready we get to chop the entire tree down with a machete, which is awesome. If you’re not good at it (I am not good at it), it is possible to chop the tree in such a way that it crushes the bananas, rendering the entire exercise useless.
Assuming we avoid this unfortunate outcome, the bananas go into this bucket to ripen for a few days before we bring them to the kitchen.
We have to put a top on the bucket because of the monkeys and the pizotes, or coatis. The monkeys seem cute but they’re actually thieves.
To wrap up, here’s a sunset picture from the farm. It’s got a nice view out to the west over the mountains. Part two of the overview will look at some more of our crops, composting, and our chickens.
Have you ever heard of braiding onions? It’s a great, compact storage strategy for large quantities!
Check out the video below to see our agriculture intern, Laura, in action as she braids a bundle of onions together for her first time after a recent harvest on the UGA Costa Rica farm.
Laura works hard on the farm daily. She’s constantly learning new things from the local Costa Rican staff, coming up with innovative agriculture methods, and sharing her knowledge about sustainable agriculture with those passing through our campus.
Video: Kristy L. Densmore, photojournalism intern