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By Ali Ruxin, Research Field Assistant. 

Agriculture and conservation are often at odds; at Osa Conservation we’re trying to change that. Through agroecology, we consider the entire ecosystem of our surroundings to produce food in ways that are sustainable for the environment, consumer, and producer. In practice, this means techniques like harvesting corn and then cutting and shredding the stalks to use as mulch on a bed of cherry tomatoes. It means creating bio-insecticides from chilies, papaya leaves, ginger, lemongrass, and gavilana found around the farm to control pests. And it means working with our conservation biologists to embed conservation values within our food system to conserve biodiversity of plants, animals, and foodcrops.

Intern Obed spraying his homemade bio-insecticide on a freshly planted and mulched bed, and Research Field Assistant Ali preparing another bed for planting. Photo: Carlos Víquez.

With the arrival of two Research Field Assistants Julia and Ali, an intern from Costa Rica’s EARTH University, Obed, the leadership of Costa Rican agronomist Carlos Viquez, and two local farmworkers, Huberth y Junier, with years of experience in the Osa, our farm crew is full of energy to realize this vision of agroecology.

We have nine varieties of hot chilies in production, ranging from the valuable Peruvian charapita to tri-colored jalapeños to the pleasantly sweet biquinho de Brazil. By harvesting, drying, and saving their seeds, we’ve begun a seed bank.

Research Field Assistant Julia and Farm Manager Carlos harvesting charapitas. One tiny pepper generally carries ten seeds, meaning it can produce up to ten entirely new plants when we save the seeds and replant them. Photo Andy Whitworth.

In the field, we have a living seed bank—and food bank!—with our roots and tubers collection. It currently boasts more than ten varieties of crops such yucca, sweet potatoes, turmeric, and ginger. Intercropping, or growing multiple crops next to each other, in these fields helps us to control pests and increases soil fertility.

A row of tumeric sandwiched between two varieties of yucca. Photo: Brandon Guell.

We’ve also been busy preparing and planting our greenhouses. Made on-site from local bamboo with open walls and thick, clear plastic roofs, these greenhouses protect delicate crops from the heavy rains we get in the wet tropics. We compost all of the food scraps from the station kitchen at the farm, then layer that healthy soil onto the beds. In the past two weeks, we planted 1,100 plants in our greenhouses. These plants constitute our first generation of greens, with crops such as arugula, bok choy, radish, lettuce, cucumber, sweet peppers, and basil that we’re excited to harvest in the coming weeks.

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