I recently traveled to Costa Rica and had the opportunity to visit the Finca Köbö farm. This little piece of paradise is situated on the Osa Peninsula, on the pacific coast of Costa Rica. In this first post I will talk about the more general aspects of what I learned, and in the second post I will share my experience regarding their wonderful chocolate tour. So stay with me on this journey to Costa Rica.
After a long drive over sinuous, bumpy and less bumpy roads we finally arrived. We were warmly welcomed by Alex and Jutta, who own and take care of this absolutely stunning peace of land: hectares of plants, trees, flowers, everything so well taken care of. Alex and Jutta have created their own dream, a small plantation where sustainable agriculture and the conservation of the Rainforest can coexist.
Alex and Jutta not only grow and make organic chocolate but also cultivate over 30 species (depending on the season) of organic fruits and vegetables, such as bananas, starfruits, pineapples, maracuyas, tuber, papayas, coffee, citrus fruits, herbs, cinnamon, ginger, cashews, and cane sugar. Alex is very enthusiastic and knowledgeable. You can feel the passion and his devotion when he is talking about his work. His farm is a small family business that does not export its production. They make a point of doing things differently and in better harmony with nature: their fruits and vegetables are mostly heirloom varieties, there is no monoculture, the trees and plants are all mixed up in a giant garden, everything is reused, and nature and the animals surrounding the farm in the rainforest are respected. While guiding us through his plantation, Alex taught us a lot of things, but there are two facts I want to mention in particular.
First, having a plantation on the boarder of the rain forest can be problematic for farmers, as the animals living in the forest (such as monkeys) love to eat the farmers crop. Unfortunately, most farmers resort to killing the animals to tackle this problem. As a vegan and being sensitive to animal rights I was happy to hear about Alex’s different approach: purposefully planting a strip of tasty crop on the boarder of the rain forest keeps the animals from going further into the plantation. Also, he mentioned that by not having a monoculture approach, even if monkeys come and eat a bit of one produce there remain other things to harvest.
The second thing I would like to recount is why Alex prefers heirloom species over hybrid varieties. Hybrid fruits and vegetables are cultivated in order to make them look perfect and more appealing for the consumer, but disregard to what happens to the taste; have you never noticed that those pretty looking fruits and vegetables from your local supermarket do not really taste all that intense? Heirloom fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, might not look perfect, maybe even downright ugly or seemingly in a bad shape, but they are grown to taste good! And, as Alex explained, a heirloom fruit does not look perfect because its natural immune system is active against insects and illnesses, and the scars are the result of this immune activity. This means in turn that they are much more resistant than a hybrid variety and require no pesticides.
A major part of the tour covered the chocolate production, as described at length in the second part.
In the end, as we got back to the main area (an open air dining room), a beautifully presented table with chocolate fondue, exotic fruits ( bananas, star fruits, watermelon and pineapple) and chocolate cake was waiting for us. What better conclusion of the tour than a tasting of the chocolate and these delicious and fresh fruits. The chocolate fondue and the cake were amazing, deep chocolate flavor, not too sweet, just perfect.
Visiting Jutta and Alex on their Farm was the highlight of my trip to Costa Rica. I learned a lot, not only about agriculture and chocolate making, but also about human values. They made their dream come true on a little piece of paradise. The main message was about learning from nature and respecting it. Be happy and passionate about what you do!
If you ever go to Costa Rica, visiting Finca Köbö is definitely worth it. They welcome a lot of students and families wanting to learn about agriculture and nature. They also offer lodging and meals.