Cultivating is to continue creation
Bajo Los Arias de Acosta, Costa Rica
It’s not easy reaching Bajo Los Arias. The road is narrow and has lots of bends and steep stretches. A four-wheel-drive vehicle is required. But the sight makes it well worth the effort. Lines of mountains rise above both sides of a river canyon that can be seen at the end of a narrow valley.
Don Rafael Arias arrived from Alajuelita, a canton in the Central Valley, over two hundred years ago, so as to clear the land and plant in the mountains. Don Rafael is Felipe’s ancestor, the man of our story. So when Felipe comes to meet us he says “When I walk along these paths with my grandson I get a very special feeling just thinking that my great-great-grandfather also used to walk barefoot along these same paths”. Felipe feels connected to the land and dreams of leaving it fertile for his grandchildren. This is what drove him to become an organic farmer. “One does it more out of consideration for life – a life that was eroding because of the rupture between humankind and nature, humankind and god. We have been destroying the beautiful culture of our forebears. Their work was rustic and healthy.”
Don Felipe Arias lives with his wife María del Carmen, and on this same farm raised their descendents, two boys and two girls. Two of them still live in the house, Oscar, who works the farm with him, and Ana Lucía, who’s at high school.
The farm produces coffee, fruits, beans, sugarcane as well as cattle, pigs and chickens. One of his most prized possessions is a traditional sugarcane press or trapiche that is driven by his pair of oxen, and where he continues to make blocks of raw sugar, known as tapas de dulce, that he takes to the farmers’ market with fruits and vegetables. The sugarcane and the trapiche are what distinguish his farm.
But much as he likes to preserve traditions, Felipe also enjoys innovating. He installed a micro coffee processing-plant which enables him to supply dry coffee and invest energy in his own farm, as well as economize as transporting the processed product involves only one trip. The farm has five organic certified hectares pastures for animals and forest areas that are being recovered. Coffee covers an area of 6,000 squares metres.
His other passion is the production of microorganisms with waste. Microorganisms decompose organic matter when applied to the soil and are considered bio-fertilizers. “It is a matter working in the same way as nature, what the forest drops on the soil feeds it.” And now, after years of researching how the microorganisms reproduce, he is going to start selling them to other organizations and cooperatives. With so much experience in this field, Felipe now gives classes to university students who come to visit his project.
He is also president of AFAORCA, the pioneering organization of La Alianza in the processing and commercialization of quality coffee. And as if this were not enough, he is a member of the high school’s administrative board and another organization in Acosta.
When we ask what is the most important for him, Felipe says “Everything around us, everything here. This is the work of our great father and master. And creation continues. We are creating when we take care of the soils, in being human in this good land, from which we get our bread and butter. It is a means to find one’s self. We have become distant, abstract beings. Behind it all there are people who cultivate other values due to ignorance or ambition. Now we want an environment that is more people friendly. We understand that sowing life is a slow process requiring time and patience. Sowing is an art.”