When I (Ligia) was growing up, my family learned the hard way to be more mindful about what we put in our bodies. After my dad’s health problems, organic food became very important for our family. Although, of course, it can be quite challenging to eat EVERYTHING organic.
However, Rodrigo and I try to be more mindful about what we eat. We try to learn about the producers of the food we buy. About a year ago, we, along with my parents, joined an association of organic farmers’ families.
At those meetings, we met a family that has an interesting project producing organic coffee. They have a farm with 35 hectares (86 acres) of land, called Finca Edgar Fernandez, surrounded by peace, nature, and life.
Fernández Family – Piedades Sur, San Ramón
Let me introduce you to Edgar Fernández, his wife Maria Elia, and his two children: Viviana and Richard (They are in their 20’s, so not children anymore :).
Together, they have been hard at work, growing coffee their entire lives, as it has been a tradition of the family for generations.
From an early age, he (I like calling him Don Edgar or Mr. Edgar in English) grew up as an agriculture farmer and didn’t have the opportunity to finish school.
Hard work and consistency have been the best words to describe him.
In his earlier years, Don Edgar produced coffee in the traditional way using a lot of pesticides.
Coffee farmers thought in the past that producing organic was nearly impossible. Mainly because of fungus diseases like “Ojo de Gallo” and “Roya”.
However, Don Edgar decided to get more knowledge through a program from the Coffee Institute of Costa Rica, and learn how to create systems and produce organic coffee.
Finca Edgar Fernandez – Costa Rican Organic Coffee Producers
After Don Edgar adopted organic practices for producing coffee, the approach turned him and his family into an example to others. Eventually, it led to them being taken by Nesspreso to Switzerland in 2013!
In 2006, they became part of a program of sustainability for families and small farmers, who evaluated farms and reviewed the way they do things.
After this process, they received support and more information to improve the practices of the sustainable program. They also explained how thankful they are for the training in accountability to see if they were generating income or loss from their coffee production.
Then, in 2012, they got the news that an important visitor was interested in learning about the way they produce coffee and their sustainable lifestyle. Well, he turned out to be George Clooney!!!
For them, it was such an honor to have him there and to share their practices with him.
My favorite part of the story is when the school soccer field was used as the landing space for Clooney´s helicopter. Maria Elia laughs, saying that everyone was in shock seeing the helicopter and ran out of the house in their pajamas.
She didn’t realize who he was until 15 minutes later when her son told her!
Why did they decide on this lifestyle?
When you walk around the property, you find more than just the organic coffee. You will see all different varieties of organic fruits and vegetables growing that the family produces.
They have a Biodigester to produce their own gas, and their tap water is all connected to a cycle that gets filtered and recycled for their gardens.
Don Edgar says they always had the desire to learn and live in harmony with the environment.
Here I’ve quoted some words from him that have stuck in my head:
“We are administrators of the natural resources that God provided to us, such as food and good quality of life… if we don’t take care of nature, we lose more because nature works in this way: if you take care of her (nature) she will take care of you. I protect it and she always gave enough to live a good life. I don’t need much in life.” – Edgar Fernandez
Hearing his deep understanding of nature and his passion for producing sustainably and responsibly for our planet is truly inspiring.
The Fernandez family’s organic coffee production also led to an exciting new undertaking: tourism. They began receiving requests to provide tours for people who are interested in learning more about Costa Rican organic coffee production.
They started the tour program back in 2006, and since then, many people from Europe and other countries around the world have come to learn the process behind the organic coffee bean.
So this year, Explore Tikizia decided to organize a group of volunteers and friends to let them try out a different kind of coffee tour.
We had a great time! It feels more like visiting a family house than a super fancy tour, but still, we learned a lot.
The family would love to get more visitors so they can keep investing in their organic farm, using the extra income they make from the tours.
They are learning more every day, and we are willing to create a partnership with them to promote more this kind of tour.
Things you can see on the farm:
- Biogas: The family produces their own gas to cook. They send the feces from 2 pigs through a system that later gets decomposed by bacteria, and then the gas from it is sent to the kitchen.
- Organic compost: To make a better use of the kitchen scraps, they produce their own compost with a Japanese technique that is called Bokashi. The fermentation process is anaerobic. That means it is kept in a container that locks out air during the process. The micro-organisms break down the constituents of the food waste until they are effectively pickled.
- Organic crops: They have a small greenhouse where they produce lettuce, onions, carrots and other vegetables without chemicals for their own consumption.
When they produce more than what they need, they will share with their neighbors, trying to keep the value of cooperation.
- Bio – Garden: They learned how to do a better job with the tap water from their house. In the tour, you can learn about the system they use to treat their water. They even have fish in their water, which is cleaned by plants that provide oxygen to the water.
- Trapiche: The most recent investment of the family has been building a “trapiche.” The closest translation is “sugar mill.” They are trying to maintain the organic traditions for the production of sugar. For this part of the tour, some preparation will be required, and the minimum group must have 15 or more people.
On the tour, you will learn the whole coffee production process from the bean stage to the warm cup in your hand. You’ll also learn about common diseases the plants face and other interesting information.
- The tour doesn’t have a lot of facilities like the biggest coffee tours in the country, but what makes this tour unique is they are a small producer with a big network. They produce the quality of a coffee like Nespresso but have decided to produce organically. Your money will go straight to support the family!
All prices are per-person. You can pay in $ or colones to the currency exchange. No credit cards, only cash.
- Solo Coffee Tour: $10
- Coffee Tour + “Gallo” (tortillas with cheese): $15
- The Coffee Tour + Lunch: $20
- Coffee Tour + Lunch + “Trapiche”(Sugar mill): $30 *Minimum 15 people
The coffee tour takes around 2 hours, but they are flexible if people want to stay longer and learn more.
Where? El Carmen, Piedades Sur, San Ramón de Alajuela
How to get there?
By Car: If you are coming from San José:
- Get to downtown San Ramón (from the entrance drive on the main road until behind the church)
- ⇐ Turn left and keep driving to San Pedro area
- ⇑Pass the University of Costa Rica until you reach another intersection
- ⇒Take a right— You are driving to Piedades Sur area, so you can follow the signs until you get to the small center of Piedades Sur
- ⇐Turn left at the high school of Piedades Sur
- ⇑ Drive two more kilometers until you see a bridge
- ⇒Turn to right on a small unpaved street and continue for about 2 kilometers
- At the right hand is the house and the property of “Finca Edgar Fernandez”
Or you can keep it simple by following Waze or Google Maps 😉
By bus: If you’re coming from San José, take the bus to San Ramón to the bus stop called “Parada de Puntarenas” or “Empresarios Unidos.” The ride takes an hour and a half, depending on traffic.
Once you are in San Ramon, the local bus stop is just less than a block away. From there, the bus leaves to Piedades Sur.
The high school is the last stop on the bus, which is where you get off. You can arrange in advance to be picked up there by one member of the family or take a taxi from there. There are “informal taxis,” according to María Elia, which people from the community use frequently.
Private transportation: As locals ourselves, we can help you to arrange this. We have contacts who can definitely help you get there without the process of figuring out Costa Rican addresses and routes.
Maria Elia Fernandez (Don Edgar’s wife)
Note: She only speaks Spanish, but her daughter speaks fluent English. We can help you to set up the visit in case you need help.
Phone: 2445- 8337
Facebook: Finca Edgar Fernandez