San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Organic Farmers Showcase Wares

ROLLING in crates and baskets of fresh fruits, vegetables, coffee and other agricultural products, Costa Rican organic food producers, with the assistance of the Costa Rican Organic Agriculture Movement (MAOCO), staged the second annual Agroecology Fair Aug. 21 at the National Museum in San José to kick off Agroecology Week.Shoppers at the festival harvested the abundant yield of Costa Rican organic farm production as mountains of chemical-free, natural products, along with a wealth of information about health and the benefits and challenges of organic farming, were presented throughout the day.“We are here to offer healthy products and to grow those products in a way that protects the environment,” said Carlos Mora, a farmer who, with his family, has been producing organic fruits, vegetables and flowers for the past 12 years.THE motto of this year’s event, which involved approximately 100 producers of agricultural products, was “For my family and my country, I support organic agriculture.”“One of our goals is to help these farmers share their products with the people and to instill more consumer confidence in the organic food market,” said Mauren Lizano, a co-organizer of the event. Among the many challenges of organic food production is the competition provided by large-scale non-organic producers.“We have smaller volume in relation to other food production companies,” Lizano said. “It is also very difficult to produce our products on a year-round basis.”MAOCO is currently assisting organic farmers in the production of plastic greenhouses to provide non-chemical protection against insects, diseases and adverse weather conditions, so that harvests can continue throughout the year and farmers can consistently support their families, according to Lizano.The group also works with several nongovernmental organizations to offer training courses with the goal of increasing knowledge and available technology among organic farmers.TO help educate people on the benefits of organic farming, MAOCO offered free activities at the fair, including a nutritionist speaking about the benefits of vitamins and minerals for the human body, personal testimonials by organic food-producing families, video forums about the differences between organic and non-organic farming, and a free concert featuring musicians from all over Costa Rica.“Growing natural food is important because it helps the earth so that we can have a better harvest and maintain the natural quality of our food,” said Carlos Herrera, 26, a San José musician who performed at the festival.The week also featured organic festivals in the Caribbean-slope towns of Turrialba, Guayabo and Guápiles; in San Isidro de Pérez Zeledón, near the Pacific port city of Puntarenas; and in the coffee town of San Ramón, northwest of San José.MAOCO co-sponsors an organic product fair at the El Trueque fairground in the southern San José district of Paso Ancho every Saturday from 6 a.m. to noon.

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