Greetings from San Jose!  We arrived here yesterday.

We conducted workshops on two days this week.  Topics were varied, but mostly dealt with financial records, pricing, and marketing.  A short postharvest presentation was also given.

Based on the feedback we have received, our work here has been very successful.  One of the APOT ladies had some very kind words for us.  As a growers association, they have had numerous opportunities for workshops and trainings.  However, according to her, ours were the most useful and best presented that they have had.  Our work with APOT culminated in the members throwing a party for us on Wednesday evening.  My understanding is that this doesn’t happen very often.

We have had the opportunity on this trip to meet and interact with several growers.  One that stands out is a gentleman named Jorge.  He lives on a mountain top (with a GREAT view) and produces coffee, bananas, and goat milk cheese.  When discussing organic agriculture and other topics that are important to him, he declares that he is “romantico”.  The literal translation is “romantic”.  However, the term conveys that he is passionate about the subject and, when discussing it, is speaking out of his convictions and from his heart.

The term romantico applies any time the APOT group discusses their farms, their love of the land, and their desire to be good stewards of that land.  Jorge, for example, told us that he switched to organic agriculture because he wanted to be a better citizen of the Earth.  Growers talk about stewardship with the same reverence as the farmer down the road who just installed a new WASCOB to control drainage and run-off.  Go to the annual banquet of any soil and water conservation district in the state and you’ll hear the same “romantic” convictions.

Although we only left yesterday, being here in San Jose gives us the chance to look at the whole project with a little bit of hindsight.  We have had some solid accomplishments in the last two weeks.  We have gotten to know the APOT growers and have visited their farms and have spoken to them individually.  We have provided the farmers’ market with solid marketing information and the means to assess and improve their business.  We have given the APOT growers the tools to keep better financial records and to better assess their financial condition.  In short, we have done what we do best.  We’ve supplied relevant information and made a difference in peoples’ lives.  As icing on the cake, through Charlie Selby’s efforts (head of Daviess County Chamber of Commerce), we are coming home with a potential export deal on the table.  Not only does this help the growers in Costa Rica, but through value added processing, could very well translate into the creation of some jobs in Indiana!

I had the opportunity to participate in the living on the land series yesterday.  I’ve got to admit, it was really cool to do a one-hour GAPs session from 2,200 miles away.  It also gave me the chance to explain what a group of educators were doing at the bottom of the continent.  As I explained the program, I could hear a conviction that wasn’t there two weeks ago.  It was a conviction that our being here, our participation on the world stage (though small in scale), and our efforts to bring to the Costa Rican Farmers the extension service that we all too often take for granted back home resulted in a win for APOT, a win for Indiana, and a win for international understanding.

In short, we have pulled off the triple win!  By engaging a different culture in another country, International Extension has MADE A DIFFERENCE.

¡Que Romantico!