Costa Rica Update: EARTH University

Buenas Noches a todos!

Friday was our full day at EARTH University. We began our day with gallo pinto, huevos, y piña and then headed to the Organic Farm with the fourth year students. We were able to examine the differences in the variety of cacao that the farm is growing while Fernando talked about the challenges the farm faces with the organic production of each variety. EARTH University is conducting studies comparing conventional and organic agriculture, and the management of these testing plots is the fourth year students’ responsibility. Following the principles of permaculture, they showed us multiple composting systems and the Mandela system for producing food in a sustenance agriculture model. The entire farm was breathtaking, and really inspiring to see sustainable farming systems on a larger scale than what it could be at most of our homes.

Another section of the farm demonstrated many strategies for growing food with little to no access to land, soil, and space. Nyasha showed us how we can easily make hanging “sausages” that can be used to grow herbs, tomatoes, lettuce, and other small vegetables. This method is practical for a small home or an apartment. Even on the morning of a Costa Rican heat wave, we were all able to take notes and ask questions about the details of each food production technology. Lucky for us, we left inspired and ready for lunch!

Following another authentic Costa Rican lunch, we reunited with Fernando and took a bus to the university livestock farm. Our tour started by walking along a road surrounded by pasture. Fernando talked to us about why they are growing specific grasses and how this plays a part in raising livestock. We later learned that all of the beef at the university originated in the pastures we had been walking. It was super cool! How often do you get to see the source of the meat you consume? Our next stop was a visit with the pigs. We were able to witness newborn piglets sleeping next to their mother. They were so tiny and cute! Fernando told us that the livestock farm also has a biodigester.. All of the animal waste is collected when they wash out the animal pens. The methane is captured and stored in a giant plastic balloon looking operation and then the university can sell the methane to the local community for cooking. The Earth University Livestock Farm was a module for other farmers in the region as well as communities all over the world.

After learning about these extremely valuable and important ideas and seeing them with our own eyes, it was time to return to campus for relaxing. We decided to escape the heat of the day by going to the university’s pool to swim. Escorted by Fernando, we found ourselves in cool and relaxing water. Although we thought the farm had wore us out, we managed to play Marco polo and a fun shark game for a few hours! We returned to our rooms to change for dinner. We were super tired, but thankful for spending the day with such amazing and inspirational people. After yet another amazing university dinner, we said our goodbyes to Fernando and then ended our night with a final activity.

We spent our last activity discussing one of the most important environmental threats with six other EARTH students; climate change. We listened to the stories of students from all over different regions of Africa and what their grandparents are saying about these extreme weather patterns. They told us about the “butterfly affect” and how each one of our actions has bigger implications on this planet than we may know. We were able to share our own experiences with climate change and examine some of the root causes for the current state of the planet. After the panel, our sustainable summer group was able to debrief the experience and talk about the importance of making change and realizing the complexity of many environmental issues we (or our children) are facing. Everyone had the opportunity to express their agreements and disagreements regarding the dialogue and we ultimately realized that by not acting, we are becoming a part of the problem.

Overall, our time at Earth University taught us a lot about the important aspects of agriculture, animal production, and climate change. However, everyone is sure to say that this will not be the only day when we learn about new ideas in the fields of agriculture and sustainability. We cannot wait to see what the rest of the program has in store for us 🙂

– Nicole, Molly, and Asli