Yesterday was the first day of our first orange harvest, cosecha de naranjas. We have probably, I have never counted them, but probably over 100 orange trees. Most of them are on top of the hill that is our farm and have been taken over by 7 years of neglect, returning it to some sort of jungle - an orange jungle with bananas and plantains and coffee that pop out at you as you liberate them with your machete from intrusive vines and trees that turn into vines (or vines that turn into trees). I don’t really know what to do with our oranges. We have so many. I pick them while they are still a little green. There are tons of bugs, fungi, squirrels, birds, and poachers that will get them if I wait too long. I made orange juice yesterday. It was awesome. We have this metal pump-looking citrus juicer, that isn’t very efficient for high quantity juicing, but I made enough to give the Mendez family a big bottle of it.
They asked me if I am going to sell oranges. Tal vez, I said. Maybe I will sell it to Victor, William and Flor´s son-in-law. He is a verdurero who sells vegetables down in the low lands and on the Panamanian border in Ciudad Neilly, Paso Canoas, Laurel, La Cuesta, etc (all formerly United Fruit Company towns). He buys most of his vegetables and fruit from Cartago and Alajuela, the major large-scale agricultural centers of Costa Rica just outside of San Jose. These vegetables travel 8 hours on a truck to get here up in the mountains, where then Victor pays a high price, loads them up in his truck, and he drives 1-3 hours down the mountain to sell thm. Oddly, most of the vegetables he buys from San Jose are grown here as well, and he could buy them from the farmers here for much cheaper. So why doesn’t he just buy them from the local farmers? or why don’t the local farmers just sell locally anyways? why would I have to sell my oranges some where at least 1 hour away?
The people here are accustomed to this reliance on the large-scale producers because there is consistency. Ok, that makes sense. So the small scale farmers who live in this region can sell to some verdureros, but at prices half as much as the verdureros will pay the Cartageros. The farmers here just sell there products as a minimal supplement to the corporate-run agriculture of San Jose. So everytime I have this conversation with local farmers, I get sorta upset in my gringo-seeking-freer-fair-trade and I say so then why don’t we just start our own market here in Aguabuena…. We can sell our oranges. We can show off our seedlings and motivate people about reforestation. It would be beautiful. But then Julie tells me that the people here wouldn’t like it. They are too accustomed to going to house to house for what they want. Calos Porras for milk, William Mendez for chayote or cilantro, etc. But then Humberto Zuñiga and his association ASOCOPRODE (Association de Productores) are very excited about the idea of a feria, kinda like a local farmers market. Anyways I am pushing for the feria, we will see what happens. And most likely things are going to change when TLC (tratado de libre commercio), the Costa Rican side of CAFTA is ratified, although most people here think that this future looks grim.