Sustainable Farming Practices From Alajuela, Costa Rica

A report from Linda and Niko Panszczyk's Rainbow Mountain Farm.

| January/February 1977

Five years...already! It seems like just yesterday that Niko (my husband) and I decided to get "back to the land."

We bought our homestead — an abandoned 18 acre farm in the mountains of Costa Rica — in 1971. Having never farmed or built a house before, we were — at that time — full of all the usual dreams and misconceptions about country life that city folks normally have. Nonetheless, we were resolved to prove to ourselves that we could make it on the land (that is, become self-sufficient). We gave ourselves five years to achieve that goal.

Reaching the Goal of Sustainable Farming

Our most immediate concerns—upon moving to the farm — were, of course, food and shelter. Thus, while Niko was busy building the house, I put in our first garden. What a disaster! Our total yield was three potatoes...rather puny ones, at that! Thank goodness the house went much better.

When Niko had finished our new dwelling, he started on a barn (which ended up being much larger than the house). While he was at it, he also built a pigpen, chicken-house, rabbit cages (with a worm pit underneath), a small greenhouse, and a woodshed with a carport.

Next came the planting of our fruit trees: 125 peach, 100 banana, 25 apple, 12 avocado, 12 lime, 12 fig, 6 plum, 6 orange, and 4 nectarine, along with some local varieties. (Ever heard of a tomato tree?)

From the day we put the orchard in, our mouths watered as we daydreamed about scrumptious fruit salads and jams and jellies and pies. We knew, however, that many of our trees would not begin to bear for — to tide us over — we put in about a half acre of strawberries. (In the past six years we've probably eaten — and bartered with — strawberries in just about every way you can imagine, and then some!)

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