I recently went to Costa Rica on a Rainforest Alliance press trip to learn more about sustainable agriculture methods. I had the opportunity to speak with farmers and farm managers. It was so interesting to see how adopting sustainable agriculture practices has affected their farms. I also got to find out why they chose to become certified. It was a wonderful experience and I am happy to be able to share it with you. I visited many examples of sustainable agriculture farms and this post will share my experience at a passion fruit farm in Costa Rica.
Sustainable Agriculture Examples: Passion Fruit Farming in Costa Rica
What does sustainable agriculture mean exactly? The general idea behind sustainable agriculture is that of using practices that produce products over the long term without degrading the environment or social fabric of the area. In application, it can mean slightly different things to different people. That is why certification programs, such as Rainforest Alliance Certification, have been developed using sustainability standards, such as those developed by the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN). This makes it easy for people to chose sustainable agriculture that is held to standards. Looking for the Rainforest Alliance Certification Seal with the green frog makes it easy to spot sustainable agriculture on your grocery store aisles.
This sustainable agriculture example is focused on one farm in Costa Rica. If you want more sustainable agriculture examples, check the end of this post.
Verde Tica Passion Fruit Farm Smallholders
This particular passion fruit farming visit was extremely interesting because it was to see a group of smallholder farmers. This means that each farmer (and his family) owns about 10 acres. Many of these small farms were given to the families by the Costa Rican government as a way to help those in need. Most of the farms produce a variety of produce- passionfruit, rice, corn, plantains, and cocoa. These farmers are currently working on achieving Rainforest Alliance Certification with the assistance of Chiquita.
Sustainable Agricultural Methods Training
My press group arrived at a training meeting being run by a Chiquita representative. He was teaching the farmers about safe pesticide handling. This is one small piece of the social aspect of Rainforest Alliance Certification. These farmers are already using pesticides on their crops. Now they can apply the safety practices they learn to all of their crops, not just the passionfruit that Chiquita will be buying from them.
The representative from Chiquita said that they are interested in buying their fruit from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms because the farms must adhere to standards. In this way, Chiquita can know that the crops they are buying are not over exposed to agrochemicals. It also ensures that the farmers are complying complying with fair social practices.
Chiquita offers these small shareholders two year contracts with a fixed price, training, plantlets, and pick up of product. It is in Chiquita’s interest to help these farmers learn how to grow passionfruit in a way that is sustainable (environmentally, economically, and socially) so that they can continue to have a passionfruit supply. The relationship between Chiquita and the small shareholders is win-win. The Rainforest Alliance Certification helps make sure that the standards are those that will promote sustainability.
Passion Fruit Farming In Costa Rica
After the workshop, we were able to go back to one of the new passionfruit farmers’ acreage. There were two generations of farmers tending the family land. They were so proud to show us their farm. The younger generation was all smiles and even snapped some photos of my group which made me laugh. Us taking pictures of each other seemed funny to me somehow.
The passionfruit occupied about .5 of their acres. They were growing plantains, cocoa, green coconuts, beans, pineapple, and some papayas as well. The passionfruit only take 6 months to go from plantlets to producing crops. The passionfruits themselves fall to the ground when they are ready. Passionfruit have a really beautiful flower and the fruit is very exotic to taste.
The farmers showed us around. They generously used a machete to hack open several green coconuts so we could drink out of them. They were very excited to share some passionfruits with us and they were delicious! It was a wonderful experience to see their farm and share their excitement.
If you love the rainforest and are excited about the work the Rainforest Alliance is doing to spread sustainable practices, you may want to check out their Kids’s Corner. It has free, fun resources to share with your children the love of nature and knowledge to go with it.
I hope you enjoyed these sustainable agriculture examples as it refers to a specific type of farming so you can get a feel for the true impact it has. Do you have any questions about passion fruit farming?