Our first field trip was very intense and fast-paced. We started the day in the rainforest of Braulio Carrillo National Park for a highly productive morning in terms of wildlife observations. We had the chance to take our traditional photo at the base of a giant Ceiba tree with some of our students.

During the hike, we discussed some of the hypotheses proposed to explain the high level of species diversity in the rainforest, and saw in action the close nutrient cycling that takes place there, reflected in the almost immediate decomposition of organic matter. Nutrients are reincorporated back to the living organic matter from the decomposing leaf litter producing something we call “leaf skeletons.” After Braulio, we spent one night in Manú, which is particularly interesting for birds, and we got to see several flocks of Chesnut-mandibled Toucans as well as of Collared Aracaris and Keel-billed Toucans.

We ended our trip at El Progreso (an integrated farm), planting and harvesting, and generally chipping in with various farm projects; different SFS groups have visited the farm and have contributed by planting over 250 tree seedlings in the last two years. The farm is better than carbon-neutral, having a positive net effect by sequestering carbon. In addition, it maintains a heterogeneous mosaic of gardens, pastures and forests in different stages of regeneration. Most of what we had for our yummy lunch that day was produced at the farm, and included exotic produce for our students.

We end our trip at the base of a Ceiba tree discussing the reality of farming in the tropics, food security, organic agriculture, and our role as consumers. El Progreso always presents a real and very compelling case of the challenges of doing agriculture next door to the tropical rainforest.