Friday, 24 July 2009

tour of the farm, part one: the upper farm

Our farm sits about 300 meters from the ocean, as the crow flies, by road it's about 400 meters. The lower farm is level and rises back into the hills which dip and rise to create perfect pockets of rich soil and mulch filled runoff for the upper farm. The name Island Farm is the original name and was given because the land is bordered by creeks. The borders have been extended beyond those creeks in some places, but the name, Finca la Isla, remains.

Much of the upper farm is forest. When this land was first settled the workable land was cleared and converted to pasture or cacao plantation. The parts which are steeper or difficult to access are primary rainforest. The pasture was abandoned many years ago and is reverting beautifully to secondary forest. You can tell it's going well by the quality of the upper canopy trees. The cacao was abandoned when the blight came about 30 years ago. Cacao is an understory tree and so the big forest trees were never cut: hence it's a fairly simple process for the forest to return. On first sight it all looks like jungle: hanging vines as thick as my arm, roots running rampant in some places as high as my thigh, animals, insects, birds and reptiles everywhere should one be still enough to see and hear them. But to someone more familiar it is possible to tell what was original forest, what was pasture and what was plantation by the types and forms of the trees present.

Within the upper farm lies growing areas for salak, greens, vanilla and fruit orchard. Another slope is dotted with black pepper. The farm plants are interspersed with forest which makes for a very beautiful farm. The forest trees act as windbreak, create micro-climate, help with pest control by supplying habitat and diversion for beneficial insects and animals as well as pests. Their falling leaves, fruits and branches become compost and mulch, and when a big tree falls it creates more space and light for possible new farm plants, or forest trees. Our farm plants are mixed together though we do tend to group species, hence the vanilla is separated from the salak by edible ferns, katuk, passion fruit, curry tree and several citrus, and separating two salak areas are more fruit trees, yampi and several great mushrooming stumps. Only the vanilla is in rows, everything else is planted at will.


  1. I love the description of your upper farm! It sounds so delightfully "as Nature intended". The picture of the forest trees taking over is fascinating. As is the variety of plants you grow.
    Curry tree? Is that the same as the curry leaf plant? I'm intrigued why you would be growing it.... I cant picture much demand for curry leaves in Costa Rica.
    Your farm reminds me of the spice plantations in Kerala.

  2. Hello Sunita,
    thanks for stopping by, I'm glad you enjoyed the upper farm! It is very much 'as Nature intended', I'll have to post more pictures.
    No, you're right there is no demand for curry leaves in Costa Rica, I know of precisely one restaurant that barely even comes close to selling good Indian food :( We use the leaves in our own cooking:) I don't believe it is the same plant. Our tree is Murraya koenigii, and I think the curry leaf plant is Helichrysum italicum, which is a small annual. Is that the one? Ours is a very handsome little tree, I'll post a photo, it has white flowers and black-red berries.
    I'm intrigued by the spice plantations in Kerala, it sounds terribly exotic . . .

  3. I was referring to the Murraya koenigii too. We use so much of it in our everyday cooking.
    You could always talk about its medicinal properties to market it ... helps fight diabetes and best of all, prevents gray hair! ;D
    I must post about the spice plantations one day. They're fascinating!
    no, I take that back ... Kerala is fascinating and the plantations are mind-boggling.

  4. Grey hair huh? Yes, there'd be a market alright, interesting. Looking forward to you post on Kerala . . .


thanks for sharing!