On the Expedition
Discover the impact of your consumer choices first hand while helping coffee farmers and scientists create coffee farms that are better for the environment and their communities.
You’ll work side-by-side with local farmers and researchers at Coope Tarrazú, a farming cooperative located in the small town of San Marcos de Tarrazú in central Costa Rica. Coope Tarrazú has about 2,600 members; it is the largest employer in the area and a central part of the local community.
As the invited guests of the farmers—whose families have often been growing coffee in the region for generations—you’ll work with researchers to collect data on soil conditions, shade tree coverage, erosion, resistance to pests (not all teams), plant yield, and many other aspects of coffee plant production. You’ll use GIS technology to map the biodiversity in the region and help determine the factors that affect farms’ sustainability. This data will be shared with the farmers of the cooperative, about 20% of whom are women, who are committed to maintaining and improving their record of environmentally-friendly and economically-just growing practices.
While on the expedition, you’ll have the opportunity to visit and conduct research on many different coffee farms, interact extensively with local farmers, visit a local coffee processing plant owned by the cooperative, participate in an official coffee tasting, learn about issues affecting fair trade and organic coffees, and sometimes revel in the very best of homemade Costa Rican cuisine.
Earthwatch Team Facilitator
An Earthwatch Teen Team Facilitator will join your team to provide additional guidance, supervision, and activity organization for the expedition. Your facilitator will be there to help from the time you step off the plane for the team rendezvous to the end of the expedition. He or she will encourage team spirit by planning events such as team building exercises, presentations, and recreational and cultural activities. If you have any questions or problems during your expedition, such as issues with another student volunteer, homesickness, or an emergency back at home, you should feel comfortable talking to your facilitator. You should also follow the advice and expectations set by your facilitator regarding safety and personal conduct. All Teen Team Facilitators have experience teaching and leading groups of teenagers and are familiar with the team dynamics necessary to make each expedition a success. Remember, your facilitator is there for you! (Teen: Facilitator ratio: ~6:1)
Meals and Accommodations
You’ll stay at the Cabinas de Cecilia in the quiet, rural town of Santa Maria. The town center has various restaurants, small shops and an Internet café, and is about 15 minutes’ walk from the cabins. The cabins are rustic but comfortable and each has its own décor and layout, with a combination of single, double bedrooms, or triple bedrooms. Each cabin has a bathroom with a toilet, sink, and shower. There is a common area where volunteers may gather; this area is partially enclosed to allow guests to enjoy the breezes and surrounding gardens while staying out of the rain. Cecilia’s offers breakfast on site. For a small additional fee, volunteers may request laundry services.
On a typical day, breakfast will be provided at the accommodations, and a packed lunch—often prepared by members of the local community-- will be taken to the field; the team will eat dinner together at a local restaurant. On days when fieldwork starts earlier, light breakfasts and snacks will be taken to the field and lunches will either be brought to the field by the community partners or eaten at local restaurants. Volunteers may also be invited to have dinner at farmers’ homes throughout the expedition.
A staple of Costa Rican cuisine is rice and beans. In general, meals often include starches (rice, potatoes, plantains, etc.) with meat (chicken, beef, pork, seafood). While vegetarians may find meatless meals, these meals will likely be heavy on starches and may be cooked with or near animal products (e.g. cooked in the same pan as the meat dishes or with some animal fat).
About the Research Area
Costa Rica is a peaceful, beautiful, and politically stable nation. The dominant language is Spanish and most Costa Ricans do not speak English, though some younger people may be able to as it is now being taught in schools. The Pacific side of Costa Rica (where the study area is located) has a distinct wet season (late April to December) and dry season (late December-April).
The overall climate and high altitude combine to create perfect growing conditions for coffee. The country has an incredibly high diversity of plants and animals, as well as habitats, including tropical dry forests, lowland wet forests, montane rainforests and alpine vegetation. Common Costa Rican animals include peccaries, coatis, sloths, monkeys, toucans, parrots, countless insect species, ocelots, jaguars, leatherback and other types of turtles, hundreds of bird species and much more—volunteers should not expect to see all of these in the Tarrazú region, so may wish to make plans to enjoy Costa Rica’s biodiversity before or after the expedition. Visitors from all over the globe are drawn to this natural paradise, which receives approximately 1.5 million visitors annually.