Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Farmers Market - La Feria

While we were back in the States during Christmas, a farmers' market started in Copabuena. It had seemed like a dream of Umberto Zuniga's that was never going to take flight. When we first moved to Copabuena, I was shocked that there wasn't a market where vegetables could be sold locally. The vegetables were either sold to the big vegetable vendors or given (regalados) amongst friends. This was something that I couldn't understand. Why buy tomatoes that come from San Jose, when your neighbor grows them and sells them to San Jose?

When I was in Oakland last December, we had a meeting with Rod Fujita at Environmental Defense. We talked a little about the economics of Copabuena - a town that depends heavily on the international coffee market. He explained very eloquently exactly why there hadn't been a farmers market in Copabuena. In a town like Copabuena, agriculture serves two purposes - one to bring income via the international market (coffee, or major vegetable prduction); and two, for personal and family sustainability (food to eat). For many community members it seems like a perversion of this division to bring a market between friends and family (ie the farmers' market). It is a precious thing that they can exist outside of a market place.

So I was surprised when we returned to find the farmers' market had started. It is very small. It is going very slowly. There are no signs for the market. Most of the buying is between the producers. But it is a start. Our intern, Sofia, is doing a project investigating how the community is responding to the market and how it can be more productive.

We are selling fruit tree seedlings - papayas for 100 colones (0.20 US$), avocado and cacao for 150 colones. We are selling the trees at low cost as a way to reach out to the community. Farmers that are dedicated to reforestation can sign up for our program to receive free seedings.

While the farmers' market is very small, I believe that it is important. This town has suffered severely from the drop in coffee prices and can no longer depend solely on international markets to create sustainability. It is time for change.....and it is exciting to watch it happen.

Check out our interns' blogs to see what they are up to

Pura Vida

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