Que dia! After 12 hours of travelling from Indianapolis to Costa Rica, I’m finally here at the campus of CATIE (Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center). When our delayed flight finally landed in San Jose at 3 p.m., we jumped in a CATIE van and began winding our way (two hours) up the mountain. The sigbts of the capital city–home to more than 1 million people–swirled around us as we breezed through, conversing with our driver in Spanish, on our way  to his hometown (Turrialba), a much more rural destination. We passed breathtaking agricultural vistas. The white flowering potato plants and perfectly straight rows of cabbage beside fields of zanahorias (carrots), maiz (corn) and tomates. Our driver pointed out a “mini veggie” farm that exports its products globally and also stocks in the local grocery stores. He explained how a watermelon-like fruit is cut into four sections, each piece mashed, and combined with pure sugar cane, to create one of the most popular Semana Santa (Holy Week) treats. Fresh fruits and veggies are sold from roaside stands and out of the backs of trucks. Climbing higher, the mountainsides were covered with sculptured terraces of sugar cane, banana, and coffee. We stopped at a roadside restaurant where pollo was being roasted in an outdoor rotisseries and, once unpacked, headed for dinner to meet Dr. Tamara Benjamin (a research scientist at CATIE) and her family for dinner. She explained that typical Costa Rica fare is “arroz (rice) con…” different kinds of meat. I ordered arroz con camarones (shrimp) and fried plantains (similar to Nicaraguan tostones). Yummy! Tomorrow the real work begins as we meet with the Junta Directiva (Board of Directors) and discuss the MAP (the marketing action plan) we’re going to try to accomplish with each of the organic farm cooperative’s three product lines. Our ultimate goal: Faciliatate the group’s decision-making process and put some basic rules/regulations for the operation of the farm cooperative on paper. Previous Extensionistas have equipped them with information. We’re here to help them finalize their operational plans. Tamaaa says our visit is well-timed! They’ve had some recent sales successes and they’re fired up to work together on some of their operational issues to strengthen their capacity as an organization. Deseanos suerte! Wish us luck! Hasta pronto!

 

–Melinda

Advertisements