Community Impact

Sustainable Farming in Costa Rica

from GLA's Costa Rica: Spanish Service Adventure Program

“The next few days quickly fell into routine and rhythm as we volunteered at the local town San Pedro. We continued the construction of a sidewalk for the children to walk to school instead of walking in the road, as well as the maintenance of an eco coffee farm where natural substances are used in place of things like pesticides and growth chemicals.”

-Alec Burke, GLA Student Alumnus

GLA teen volunteers work in the garden during one of our eco tours in Costa Rica

The impact of switching to organic coffee farming isn’t always clear to GLA students newly arrived in Costa Rica. After all, what does their morning cup of coffee have to do with a farming initiative thousands of miles away? The answer may seem strange.

Gray water.

Gray water is polluted H20 that is the result of non-organic coffee farming methods that have been used for many years in the Costa Rican mountains. This murky water is not drinkable and when it runs off from the highlands into the rivers, streams, and ocean waters below, it damages the health of entire ecosystems and the biodiversity dependent on them.

One student. One plant at a time. This makes a difference.

A teen volunteer with GLA takes care of a new plant out in the farm

Coffee is the cash crop in this region of Costa Rica, and converting to organic farming techniques isn’t always an easy sell to farmers. GLA student volunteers work on the farms to help show that organically farmed coffee can be just as bountiful and productive as coffee produced by the old method. This helps to support GLA's mission.

According to the National Biodiversity Institute of Costa Rica, the nation is one of 20 with the greatest biodiversity on the planet. It is something that can either be preserved, or lost forever.

As one GLA staff member put it, the change that is being brought in part by our student volunteers is to “remain economically sustainable while going environmentally sustainable.”

A cup of the organic coffee GLA students tasted near the end of their service trip

Organizations have to be convinced one conversation at a time, one example-setting project at a time. The passion, energy, and drive of GLA teen volunteers illustrates why maintaining Costa Rica’s unique biodiversity is so essential to the regions’ future.

While the GLA students help impart this change on the community, there had to be a taste of their organic coffee farming success to go with it. And free samples never hurt.

“We headed into Santa Maria for a coffee tour learning about the process from farm to cup, ending with a taste of one of the café’s delicious specialty drinks using their award-winning coffee.”

-Carlos Bill, GLA Student Alumnus

Talk about sweet success!

I want to make an impact in Costa Rica.