San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Back to the Land to Cut Costs

The growing petroleum crisis has everyone concerned and looking for options to deal with the out of control inflation we are now facing.

On the positive side, it’s been pleasing to observe that a growing number of my Tico neighbors are busy planting home gardens to curb the cost of living.

As a potential food crisis looks more realistic each day, Costa Ricans are beginning to mobilize to produce more food at home. It’s interesting to note that in the 1980s, Ticos did just the same thing.

During the administration of Rodrigo Carazo (1978-1982), people experienced their first encounter with runaway inflation.

For decades, the dollar exchange rate for the colón was a steady 8.65, then it suddenly jumped into the 20s and kept moving upward. As prices doubled and tripled, one of the spontaneous measures families took was to return to the land. In fact, the next president, Alberto Monge (1982-1986), used “Volvemos a la tierra” (“Return to the land”) as his campaign slogan.

During the ’90s, things improved economically, and once again home gardens declined. Costa Rica became a leading tourist destination, foreign investment moved in and globalization became the trend.

Only a few people understood the fragile dependency of our global society on petroleum-based fuels and the consequences this would have on our environment. Others knew, but turned their heads and ignored this “inconvenient truth.”

Growing food locally is one viable solution to solve the petro-quandary. When you grow food at home, you cut out all the gas consumption needed to cultivate, transport, pack and refrigerate food at the supermarket, plus your trips there.

Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon’s bestselling book, “The 100-Mile Diet,” states that most North American food today travels 1,500 to 3,000 miles from farm to plate.

It’s much the same in Costa Rica: rice from the United States, beans from China, avocados from Mexico, etc.

Fortunately, in Costa Rica, it’s easier to return to the land. This country has a beautiful climate that allows us to grow food crops all year round. It’s amazing how bountiful a home garden can be here. Ticos did just this in the old days. The markets were full of local fruits and vegetables, as well as favorite basic grains, such as rice and beans. They did a good job of sustaining themselves, and that’s really what made Costa Rica strong and independent from the beginning of its history.

So, let’s return to the land and welcome the new age of ecological living.


For more information on how you can begin an ecological garden, visit or contact Ed at


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