choosing organic for the workers' health
After two months of living in one apartment in Costa Rica, we’ve spent the last two weeks living out of backpacks and staying in a new place every few days. Along the way we met Mr. Organic, and meeting him takes away any argument for ever buying conventional food again.


First, an apology to our readers. After two months of living in one apartment in Costa Rica, we’ve spent the last two weeks living out of backpacks and staying in a new place every few days. We had certainly intended to work and post while traveling around like that, but it turns out that it’s harder than you might think.

In the last 14 days we’ve stayed in 10 different beds, swam in the Pacific, the Atlantic, ate at the “most romantic restaurant in all of Costa Rica,” toured through raw and dense tropical jungles teeming with wildlife, shopped at organic food stores and farmers markets, and visited the rastafari/afro-caribbean culture of Costa Rica. Today is our last day in this country, surely to be a bag of mixed emotions.

In some of the locations we’ve visited we were thrilled to find healthy eating options along the way. Many times it was back to buying produce at the store and eating a meal on the streets (oh thank goodness we’re back to eating fruits).

Perhaps our favorite and most memorable experiences of our three months here came within the last four days. On Saturday we visited the Bribri Indian tribe near the border of Panama. They were having their once a month organic farmers market. Yep. You read that right. We saw signs for it the day before and knew that we had to check that out. It was a small to-do, but unforgettable simply because of the sweetness and warmth of everyone there.

Another must in that part of the Costa Rica is taking a tour of an organic chocolate farm. Need I say more? I won’t about the chocolate. Too good for words. But while there we had an opportunity to talk quite a bit with an older man who was our guide during the chocolate making process. While making the chocolate, he stressed the fact that this farm used no chemicals. He seemed to say it not out of pride, but out of joy and relief. Mind you, this guy was rough looking, clearly showing the signs of decades of hard labor and the lack of dental hygiene. His passion for organic really struck us.   We have found so few Costa Ricans who are aware of or even care about healthy eating.

After our tour through the farm was over, we tracked him down to ask why he was so passionate about organic farming. What had he seen or experienced? His answers were hard to hear and added one more element to the wisdom of choosing organic foods…one we’ve known in theory but not personally.

This new friend of ours learned how to make chocolate from his mother, a Nicaraguan Native American, and he has been working in the chocolate and banana farms since he was ten years old. Very early on he saw what the chemicals that the big companies were using were doing to the plants and the workers. It was obvious, even as a young and inexperienced worker, that this wasn’t the right way to do things.

He spoke a lot about what he had seen happen to other workers: men he had worked with are now dead, most of the others are really sick. He listed cancer, lung issues, vision difficulty, and skin problems, among others. He spoke about men who were once strong but now too weak to work and provide for their families. As far as he’s concerned, their issues came from working with the agri-chemicals, done out of necessity to earn money (and not much money at that).

I took one more bite of the chocolate that he had made for us, tasting even better now than it had before. The next time you’re at the grocery store and waver a bit in your decision to spend more money buying organic produce, remember that it’s a choice that is not only healthier for you, but healthier for the people who grew it for you, and healthier for the planet that made it all possible.

Our toothless, unkempt, organic chocolate loving Costa Rican friend will always be a strong enough reminder for me that organic is always the best way to go.

photo credit: J.W. Hamner cc


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