On the Farm at Finca Luna Nueva

Finca Luna Nueva

The connectivity of life is easy to contemplate at New Chapter’s Finca Luna Nueva in Costa Rica. Nestled in the primary rainforest, Finca Luna Nueva is a 200 acre biodynamic organic farm and sustainable eco-lodge.

Biodynamic farming has its origins in the 1920s where farmers along with Rudolf Steiner developed fundamental principles linking the farm-organism to the larger cosmos. An organic biodynamic farm incorporates dynamic forces in nature, such as the cycles of the moon, into its farming methods.

Biodynamics also emphasizes a holistic approach to agriculture, where the interrelationships of the soil, plants and animals are taken into account in developing a self-sustaining farming system. With that said, the farm tour at Finca Luna Nueva was a real treat. To see a productive farm, set in a wildly biodiverse natural habitat as opposed to rows upon rows of monoculture, was like catching a glimpse through the window of time into another world of possibilities for our future.

Pig at Finca Luna NuevaPreserving species habitat and biodiversity, Finca Luna Nueva is working with the Children’s Eternal Rainforest to connect 182 acres of adjacent secondary forest to the 50,000 acres that are already a part of the Children’s Children’s Eternal Rainforest Conservation area. Biological or habitat corridors like these are important in the rainforest to rejoin ecosystems; restoring a connection that was broken due to human development. These kind of projects are going on throughout Costa Rica to restore the habitat destroyed by the deforestation of the past.

One of the most significant projects at Finca Luna Nueva is the Semillas Sagradas or Sacred Seeds Sanctuary. Home to around 300 neo-tropical medicinal plants, the Sacred Seed Sanctuary not only preserves these medicinal herbs, but also the traditions of the Central American indigenous people.

According to New Chapter CEO, Tom Newmark, we are losing rainforest at a rate of an acre/second and somewhere between 50-200 species on planet earth go extinct every day. Parallel to these extinctions, is the extinction of language and culture where someplace around the world a language dies every two weeks. Much to the peril of all humanity, indigenous people are seeing their historic connections severed.

Steven runs the Finca Luna Nueva farm and lodg...

Steven shows us vanilla seed pods.

The Sacred Seed Sanctuary project brings together the wisdom of the ethnobotanists along with the shamans and abuelas to preserve this sacred knowledge for humanity. Steven Farrell, who runs the operations at Finca Luna Nueva, told me that it can take up to six years to establish a plant in the Sacred Seed garden. For many neo-tropical medicinals, there are no written records. To establish a plant from the jungle to the Sanctuary often involved studying it to determine its botany and how it could be reproduced. Also, finding the precise location in the garden where the plant can survive takes time. Often plants are moved around to find the most optimal conditions for the species to flourish.

There is so much natural ancient wisdom to absorb at Finca Luna Nueva. The farm creates a sustainable vision for the future of humanity into a model we should all try to emulate.

Pura Vida!

Sacred Seeds – Finca Luna Nueva from Ashley Glenn on Vimeo.


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Biodiversity on a Fair Trade Coffee Farm in Costa Rica

On a recent visicoffee berriest to Monteverde, Costa Rica, I met Victor, a small coffee farmer and member of the  Coopesanta Elena. Made up of 75 small coffee producers, the cooperative members are committed to growing their crops in harmony with nature.

Victor’s farm is in fact teeming with biodiversity. From sloths hanging out in trees to a baby hummingbird nest in the middle of  a row of arabica coffee plants, the farm feels alive and in-sync with the larger ecosystem around it.

Stingless honeybees come to pollinate the crops and nest in a decomposing log. Victor’s farm also is home to a multitude of tree species, banana plants, vegetable crops and wildflowers. Grass-fed dairy cows keep the weeds in check by rotating around the farm. These cows also provide Victor with extra fertilizer for his soil.

The coffee berries are even hand picked at harvest time to ensure that only the best coffee goes to market. Although it may seem labor-intensive, hand picking also increases the farm’s crop yield as not all berries mature at the same time. It would be impossible for a machine to separate the ripe from the unripe, leaving a lot of waste behind.

Victor describes his coffee farm.Everything in Victor’s farm adds to the overall well-being of the eco-system. He even has an old tree, 30 feet or larger, in the center of a row of his coffee that is giving too much shade to all the plants around. Since preserving the habitat is so important, Victor leaves it standing and deals with the lower yield in that section of his farm.

The Café Monteverde produced from Victor’s coffee plants and the other growers in the cooperative was the first sustainable coffee project in Costa Rica (1989).  Sixty percent of Coopesanta Elena’s coffee is exported as whole beans, while the remaining product is roasted, packaged and sold locally in Monteverde and throughout Costa Rica. The coffee is fair trade certified.


hummingbird nest in Victor's coffee plants Victor demonstrates how they pick the berries.


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Worms – Nature’s Greatest Recyclers

Ian with Worm FactoryTesting Out Our New Worm Factory

The latest addition to our garden is this composting worm bin system by The Worm Factory. We purchased ours locally at  mce_href=Donna’s Garden Gate and she even included the worms, free.

The Worm Factory Worm Composter unit comes with a helpful guide that tells you how to set it up, some interesting facts on vermicomposting, the anatomy of worms and a troubleshooting section. It also includes all the bedding that you need to get started. This makes it an ideal unit for beginners.

Although their are many different species of worms, the red wigglers are ideal for a worm compost bin. They love darkness and despise light. Some species of worm like light and will exit your worm bin if they feel there isn’t sufficient light available.

As a side note, on a recent trip to Costa Rica, I visited a fair-trade coffee grower and learned that although his farm was natural and completely sustainable, he had imported his red wigglers from California. So, make sure you get the red wiggler. A website that the guide recommends is Find Worms.com.

Adding worms to the composter

Every three months, the red wigglers in this composter can be expected to double in population.  Worms lay eggs and are incubated in cocoons. Each tray in this vermicomposter system can hold three pounds or 3,000 worms. The guide says overpopulation isn’t a concern as the worms who live in this upward migration system can travel freely between trays.

Red wigglers require moisture to breathe because they  take in oxygen through their skin and will die if they dry out. Too much moisture and the worms can drown.

The guide says the moisture should range from 60%-80% in your bin. An easy way to test moisture is to squeeze a small amount of the bedding between two fingers. You want to see a drop or two of water. It should be as wet as a wrung out sponge, damp, but not dripping wet.

Worms can eat three times their weight in a week. So one pound of worms will consume three pounds of waste and organic fiber in a week.

The Worm Factory can be housed both indoors and out. If you are keeping worms outdoors keep them in a shady area. Make sure the worm bin is protected from the rain. The optimal temperature range for your worms is from 60˚-80˚F (15˚-26˚C).

Looking forward to sharing more information with you as our project continues.

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Living Beyond Earth’s Budget & Happiness

Thanksgiving is a recognizable holiday to most Americans but can anyone remember the event that fell on September 25th of this year?

September 25th was Earth Overshoot Day and marked the day when humanity begins living beyond its ecological means.

According to the Global Footprint Network, collectively at the present time, humanity is using 1.4 planets worth of resources. Many people in western countries like the US  are using four to five planets worth of resources. Since we only have one planet, I want to pause here for a moment because living beyond our means in this context doesn’t mean just paying some interest on a credit card. It is, quite literally, taking more than our fair share. In order to be sustainable, civilization must meet current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

But even today, we have over a billion people on the planet whose basic needs are not being met. While those people need to consume more, others are literally drowning in ‘stuff’. Annie Leonard used the term “stuff-saturated”  to describe this phenomenon in her presentation to the Bioneers Conference this year.

The Environmental Protection Agency reports the United States produces approximately 220 million tons of garbage each year. That’s an average of five pounds of garbage for every man woman and child in the USA. But, guess what?  Studies show Floridians generate almost double the national average of garbage – creating nine pounds of municipal solid waste each day.

What you throw out is only part of the story. In order to get one can of garbage, approximately 70 garbage cans of waste were created upstream in manufacturing the products we throw away. Looking at this system, it becomes painfully obvious that we are trashing the planet.

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So does having all this stuff make us happy? The studies show a resounding no!  The Happy Planet Index measures happiness over resource consumption or the efficiency that a country converts natural resources into human well-being. In 2009, out of 143 countries, the US ranked 114th, ahead of just a few African nations. The happiest country on the planet this year was Costa Rica, which is a country that notably has no standing army.

Another Happiness Index was just published this month by Mainstreet.com. It found Florida ranked dead last in happiness of Americans by state. Is it a coincidence that Florida showed up as both the top producer of waste and the bottom of the Happiness Index?

Next time we will explore some alternatives to going crazy at the mall this holiday season as I pack for my holiday in Costa Rica.

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