The Costa Rica Proficiency and Stars Travel Seminar empowers FFA leaders by providing them with a global perspective. Through this experience, participants from across the country gain knowledge by visiting farms and agribusinesses. Participants eligible include all American Star Award finalists and one national finalist from each proficiency area. The 2013 experience takes attendees throughout Costa Rica from June 12-20. Each day, different participants report back home with a blog post about their experiences
Hello from Costa Rica, day uno!
Of course, today was our first day in this neat little country, and we have seen so much already. We had an early start in Miami, from which we hurried to the airport on buses divided in our organized teams, checked in, made our way through security slowly but surely, and it wasn’t long before we were in the air.
Before we knew it, we were descending into a mountainous, green, and mysterious little country we have all been excited to see since October. Of course, one of the first things I personally noticed is the language. Hopefully we can remember at least some simple phrases from those high school Spanish classes we took years ago. Many of us are having quite an amusing time translating and attempting to speak with the ticos (“Costa Ricans”).
After arriving at our hotel, we were off with our tour guides, Jenny and Gustavo, as they showed us around the general areas of San Jose. We then stopped at what they called a typical middle class marketplace, a whirlwind of interesting sights! There were, of course, food shops full of raw meats, fruits that hardly any of us had seen, and cereal–yay Fruit Loops! One of our group members even experienced bargaining–how interesting!
More adventures to come for the next week! Pura vida!
-Team Gringos (Chad Berning, Jessica Lehman, Rachael Arkfeld, Drake Boyce, Justin Cochran, Austin Davis, Abby Flanders, Rachel Noe, Jake Ohlde, Trey Ruland and Jakob Wilson)
An early morning wake-up call for participants greeted them before a day at the La Paz Waterfall Gardens. Cascades of five magnificent waterfalls flow their a rain and cloud forest. Later they traveled to La Paz for lunch and then on to a Dole banana farm. Participants spent the night in Sarapiqui.
We started the day in San Jose at the Tryp Hotel. After an hour and a half long bus ride, we arrived at La Paz Waterfall Garden. We explored exhibits of birds, butterflies, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals of all sorts from the rainforest.
After a delicious Costa Rican style lunch (which was most of our’s favorite meal so far) we hiked to the waterfalls. The views were spectacular, even as the cloud forest rolled in!
Next we boarded the buses once more and traveled through hairpin turns and narrow passes to arrive at a Dole banana plantation. One thing you might not know is that bananas do not grow on trees! They are actually the worlds largest herb! We were lucky enough to witness the whole process, from harvest to packaging! We then presented Carlos, the engineer for Dole who gave us the tour, with a gift of appreciation on behalf of the FFA.
We then loaded the buses once more and traveled to the La Quinta Hotel, where we are currently. The dinner buffet was amazing, as all meals have been. Now we’re just socializing before bed. Maybe we’ll get enough sleep to go bird watching at 6 am?
On their third in Costa Rica, the FFA members visited the Finca Corsicana pineapple plantation owned by Collins Street Bakery in Texas. The tour promised pineapple sweeter and riper than the participants had ever tasted. Later in the afternoon, the group enjoyed some recreation in the form of white water rafting on (and probably in) the Sarapiqui River. After a change of clothes and lunch, the group headed to the Arenal Volcano area.
We woke up for a fine breakfast at six o’ clock and prepared to tackle the day’s planned activities. We packed onto our buses and headed off to the Collin Street Bakery Pineapple Plantation.
We arrived at a beautiful building complete with ornamental pineapple plants and metal work resembling the fruit. Once we unloaded, we learned that the plantation had been established by the owner of the original Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, Texas. We were told that the owner originally began the operation in Costa Rica to provide the candied golden pineapple for his fruit cakes.
Our guide, Roy, took us through the processing plant where he provided us with pineapple which he sliced before our eyes. He then proceeded to explain four methods for identifying the ideal organic pineapple in the supermarket. He told us that one should seek a pineapple without a very sweet smell, is very firm, has hints of yellow at the bottom with a green top, and can be supported by one of the leaves at the bottom of the crown.
Once Roy shared that knowledge with us,as well as three more pineapples, he brought us into the shipping area where he taught us how the shipping process is performed.
After we left the shipping area, we got to have even more pineapple, and got to go on a tractor ride through the plantation. While in the fields, Roy told us that the pineapples are fertilized with blood and bone meal and treated with a variety of natural pyrethrum to control insects. We learned that the plantation also utilizes a plastic mulch to supress weeds and prevent erosion.
We learned that pineapple plants will not produce a fruit unless put under stress, as a means of survival, or through exposure to ethylene, which the plantation mixed with water and then disperses through a sprayer system.
Once we returned to the main building of the plantation, we were treated to delicious fruit cake, piña coladas served in hollowed out pineapples, and, of course, more pineapple. After the delicious snack, we thanked Roy and got onto the bus to go white water rafting.
Once we arrived at the rafting area and got out equipment, our guide led us across a narrow path along to the water’s edge. Once everyone was collected at a small cliff overlooking the water, we plunged straight in. We followed the current to our rafts where our individual rafting guides began to instruct us.
Several times, groups would would get close to each other and the guides would shout “Open fire!” Each group would proceed to splash water towards the group closest to them. With the help of the splash battles and smashing into massive stone walls, everyone had the adrenaline pumping.
Our very kowledgeable guides not only kept (most of) us in the rafts, but they also did an excellent job of pointing out plenty of the beautiful local wildlife.
Once we arrived at the end of our rafting venture and changed our drenched clothing, we enjoyed a fantastic burrito bar lunch.
After our meal, we got onto the bus for a two hour period of rest before arriving at the Ecotermenales Fortuna hot springs. Upon our arrival we changed into our bathing suits and enjoyed two hours of relaxation in luxurious pools with temperatures ranging from steaming hot to refreshingly cold.
After we changed back into dry clothes, we sat down to a delicious dinner with a choice of chicken cooked in a creamy white sauce, a brandy marinated beef, or tender tilapia for main dish. For dessert we enjoyed a rice pudding with sweet raising and crisp shreds of coconut.
Following dinner, we made our way to Hotel Arenal Manoa. Once we got off the bus we made our way to a fabulous village style community with spacious rooms and personal porches. At 11:30, we retired to our rooms and got some well earned rest.
-Team Pineapple Banana Sloths (Lawrence Marquette, Ron Zelle, Katie Dreier, Zachary Ferrie, Amanda Koch, Isaac Lewis, Connor Rose, Taylor Runyan, Jacob Schindler, Garrit Sproull, Hannah Treptow, and Travis Wallinger.)
Sunday was the fourth day in Costa Rica, and the teams needed a good night’s rest after an active start to the trip. By 8 a.m. local time, though, they were back on the road bound for the Arenal Hanging Bridges that go through the heart of the rain forest. Later a visit to Senor Don Juan’s farm with livestock and a biogestor was in store. To round out the day, the group headed to Costa Rica’s Central Highlands to check in and visit the Los Angeles Private Cloud Forest Biological Reserve.
Today we visited the Arenal Hanging Bridges and Don Juan’s organic farm. The hanging bridges are a tourist project to provide an astounding view of the rainforest in a natural element. There are six bridges at various altitudes that you have the opportunity to cross. The bridges gave way to a great view of the Arenal volcano.
After departing from the bridges we boarded the busses and headed to Don Juan’s farm. Don Juan began this farm to teach the community and tourists about organic farming. It houses over 30 different plants on only two acres. He can provide 80 percent of the needs for 80 people off of the crops that they grow on those two acres alone. We were also served a delicious lunch in Don Juan’s rustic kitchen.
Following lunch we boarded the buses again and began our journey to Villa Blanca Cloud Forest Hotel. It was a long ride with lots of twists and turns, but it was well worth the trip. Our rooms are in individual buildings and we are on the same level as the clouds.
- Team Rainforest Raiders (David Gibbens, Jamie Martin, Candace Barnes, Alex Braun, Austin Crissman, Andy Edson, Sloan Griggs, Dylan McGill, Ashley Orr, Cody Walker, Justin Zahradka)
Check back for more updates! Pura vida!