A mix of Agriculture and Equine Level 3 second year students embraced a lifetime opportunity trip to Costa Rica to expand and develop their personal and professional skills.
Day 1 Costa Rica:
First stop was meeting the Minister of Agriculture and visiting Nancy Nora’s organic avocado farm followed by an on-foot trek into the woodlands to discover a ‘Hen Foot’ tree whose roots are so large and imitates a shape of a hens foot (Hence the name).
A traditional lunch was provided and enjoyed after a short trek to the next natural ‘lagoon’, then followed by a talk and riding experience with a local costa Rica farmer who uses horses to herd his cattle.
Day 3 Costa Rica: Moving day! Today Sparsholt College Group Agriculture and Equine students have travelled from Esparza to the coastal town/area of Quepos. On our journey we visited the crocodile bridge and then took a boat tour to see more crocodile and wildlife including horses, an abundance of birds and even a wild racoon! The boat stopped in the mangroves for a minute of silence where we could then really hear the phenomenal noises of the area.
followed by another lovely lunch and finally we touched the volcanic sandy beaches, welcoming the Pacific Ocean. After a delicious homemade curry from our tour guide, Andy and we are super exited for the week ahead.
Day 4 Costa Rica: A Day off itinerary and we have started in Manuel Antonio national park. Taking a whale watching tour we were unfortunate by not finding whales however still enjoyed seeing dolphins, brown pelicans, and a couple of people (including myself) were spoilt with spotting a jumping stingray! Students bravely tried termites as a snack. Then afternoon was a treat with a beautiful waterfall and seeing a wild sloth mother and her baby! Truly grateful
Day 5 Costa Rica: What an amazing day we have had. Firstly, visiting an Experiment Station where crops containing higher protein content are being developed to supply seeds free to farmers, to encourage reducing the need for concentrate and lowering cattle carbon emissions.
The second visit was to a farm which produces 27 different spices and medicinal plants. It was fascinating to taste and smell the produce. We got to extract coffee beans and saw the whole process of producing chocolate. An inspiring day!
Day 6 Costa Rica: A long and interesting day for Sparsholt College Group #agriculture and #equine students today, hosted by The Ministry of Agriculture, visiting a farm using older grazing methods by the father and new methods by the son.
The son gave us a comprehensive tour discussing the cycle of the grazing by the cows and how his methods are improving the nutrient quality of the soil and in turn the pasture available to the cattle.
We were then treated to a demonstration of how the farmers extract the sugar water from their home-grown sugar cane and there was an explanation for how this is then treated and becomes block sugar
Day 7 Costa Rica: Today we have moved to Miramar, increasing our altitude, we have reached 1400m above sea level. The climate is cooler with a constant soft rain as we sit in the clouds.
There have been two farms today. The first produced coffee and products from medicinal plants on a big scale. We were driven to the plantation and talked about the size and yield of the harvest.
The second was a much smaller scale, providing coffee beans to the middle market before it was processed for sale. This farm was a fascinating, truly authentic experience where we were able to support by collecting some beans ourselves!
Day 8 Costa Rica: We’ve had such an interesting time hosted by Dona Betty at Parcela Integral Betchy. Dona Betty is an amazing woman who has made all our food and shown us her farm. We have seen her cattle and spent time milking them. The #agriculture students were in their element! Dona Betty made us a special drink which translates as ‘milk from the foot of the cow’ and was effectively moonshine with a spoon of sugar and warm milk straight from the cows udder. It was strong and delicious!
We were shown her pigs and chickens and she talked us through her edible garden.
After lunch we enjoyed the horses owned by Pius, a German Costa Rican who has retired to enjoy his horses. The #equine students enjoyed a stirrup free ride and then offered a health check on one of Pius’s lame horses. Following this they turned the horses out into the Costa Rican cloud forest.
Day 9 Costa Rica: For today’s adventure on the GAP Africa Projects Sparsholt College Group #equine and #agriculture students visited a higher altitude coffee farm in the cloud forest above Miramar. We picked coffee beans in the blazing heat and humidity gaining a real respect for how hard the pickers conditions are. Then we saw the machinery used to process the raw product to extract the bean, the drying phase and then the roasting and grinding. From this we were shown the packing process from which, the product is sold locally, nationally and exported.
A real treat to follow this was the hummingbird who joined us for lunch!
Day 10 Costa Rica: What a high we have had today! Sparsholt College Group students chose the activities today which were horse trekking in Monteverde and then a walk around the Monteverde cloud forest to view the animals, flora and fauna.
The horse trekking was a challenging terrain but made accessible to beginner and experienced riders through the care shown by Epuus riding centre. We enjoyed steep down hills, steady climbs, thick mud and several quick blasts. Most cantering or galloping western style!
The trek in Monteverde cloud forest brought us close to a caterpillar and the hummingbirds plus gigantic plants which appeared untouched since the dawn of time! What a day!
Day 11 Costa Rica: An exciting trip to the Isle of Tortuga today. Blasting out into the Pacific we were blessed to see dolphins playing around the boat and then onto the island where we had the opportunity for snorkelling. What better place to see a moray eel and amazing shoals of tropical fish!
All staff and students enjoyed the white sands and warm waters, fully relaxed and bronzed in time to start our last two working days in Costa Rica
Day 12 Costa Rica: Our final farm visit today. One, an interesting coffee producer, a product that the Costa Rica are clearly very proud of, and we think rightly so! The second was a dairy farm where we got to meet the livestock and see the cheese production. The people here work unbelievably hard in difficult conditions and we have a new respect for the work they do.