Students Spend Spring Break in Costa Rica

An organic farm in Costa Rica
An organic farm in Costa Rica.

A group of 18 CALS students spent their spring break learning about different approaches to agriculture and immersing themselves in another culture, including its people, natural environment and languages. They did that through extended visits to farms and producers of pineapple, highland fruit, coffee, sugar cane, bamboo, cacao, spices, rice, mango and a tour of a national irrigation system. This travel course has been running for more than 25 years.

“Being able to see the beautiful volcanoes, waterfalls, plants, animals, culture and soils of Costa Rica with other Iowa State students allowed me to make many awesome new friends and connections and rewarded me with a new perspective and experience,” said Sage Coffman, a senior in agronomy and environmental science.

“For a lot of us, doing agriculture totally organically was thought of as only possible in a perfect world, so it was epic to realize, wow, here’s the best bread I have ever tasted, and it’s grown from naturally and sustainably grown wheat,” said Marialuna Schreiner Cintrón, a freshman in agronomy.

Coffman echoed that sentiment saying, “My favorite part of the trip was being immersed in a different culture and communicating with farmers and agricultural workers from a different background. My favorite visit was to an organic vegetable farm managed by Juan Jose. Señor Jose was very passionate, showing us his operation and being engaged in our many questions.” Coffman had even worked on writing out questions in Spanish.

Students also spent a day visiting a volcano to hike and to bathe in mud baths, thermal pools and beneath a waterfall. Another day was spent at the beach, where a few students awakened early to explore tide pools as the sun rose and the entire group gathered again in the evening to watch the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.

Many of the students made a connection with Gaby Ureña, who has long accompanied ISU trips as an in-country guide and whose extended family in Santa Maria de Dota made the group feel at home, offering a tortilla workshop, a garden tour, a home-cooked meal, and even a competitive game of soccer.

Agronomy students on the trip included Sage Coffman, Sean Fitzpatrick, Marialuna Schreiner Cintron, Elizabeth Severson, Allison Sloan, Zachary Utley, and Kayla White. Agronomy professor Amber Anderson and Greenlee School of Journalism Teaching Professor Brenda Witherspoon accompanied the group.

pineapple farm
The group visiting a pineapple farm.
Pineapple processing facility.
The group visiting a pineapple processing facility.











In photo at top: The CALS group at Volcano National Park.

By Brenda Witherspoon, Teaching Professor, Greenlee School of Journalism

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