Today’s adventures involved a tour of Rancho Nueva Zelandia, a sustainable farming and tourism establishment placed in between two of the volcanic mountains of the Area de Conservacion Guanacaste. The farm, pictured above from the view of one of their cabinas for overnight guests, spans acres and acres of land including primary and secondary forests as well as pastures. The farm is working with the ACG to replant some of the forests because it is adjacent to the park’s wilderness corridor connecting the two volcanoes. The pastures had been seeded with haragua, or African star grass; this non-native species creates a thick covering over the ground that makes it difficult for trees to regrow. It also burns easily and is more fire-tolerant than the native species, which are not suited for a climate where fires are frequent. The hardiness of the haragua grass can make it challenging for park employees and conservationists to implement reforestation programs. The conservation and forest regeneration happening around the farm constitute the eco-portion of our day.
The farm itself is beautiful. The owners have planted large gardens of tropical forest species around the cabinas. Muy bonita! We had the opportunity to take part in some agro-activities, like herding cattle on horseback, then roping, washing and milking said cattle. (below: Kao lassoing a cow!) We also took a look at the calf barn and chicken coops – the farm lives up to its advertising as sustainable with the use of manure as fertilizer and compost material. The worms in the compost are even used as chicken feed, and future plans involve using the heat produced by bacteria in the manure to send hot water to the guest houses!
After bringing the cows in, we took a ride out into the primary forests around the farm. The area has been owned by the same family by many years, and luckily they had the foresight to preserve some of the lands. We rode through bromeliads, lianas, ancient trees, and even a toucan. At the bottom of a short hike down a ravine, we arrived at a clear waterfall and were able to go for a swim under the falls.
As the Costa Ricans would say: Pura vida! (This is the life!)
Emma Rohleder, University of Minnesota