This is the day one of the student Costa Rica field expedition led by Roger Palmer principle of GISetc and teacher of outdoor education at Bishop Dunne High School.  In the morning, the students were led on a GPS tour of the coffee plantation at the Buena Vista Hotel in the town of Alajuela.   The GPS coordinates have been provided here for you so you can follow along on your map!

10.05805º N              84.19901º W

Costa Rica’s central valley is constructed between two volcanic ranges.  Poas and Irazu Volcanoes to the north and west are within view of this destination.  San Jose’s higher  elevation between volcanoes provides several advantages to become the capital city.  Look around and list 3 of these advantages.

Looking Over Coffee Plantation to San Jose

10.05826º N              84.19844º W

You are surrounded by one of the earliest commercially traded assets for Costa Rica,  namely coffee.  As you look around, is this the only use of the land?  Are there other things grown within the fields?  Name any you see along the trail:

What value could there be in mixing species within this coffee plantation?

10.05861º N              84.19840º W

Coffee is one of the worlds most traded substances.  It is second only to oil and coal in value.  Thirteen point 2 ($13.2) billion dollars are traded annually.  As you look over the farm valley,  you can still see remnants of taller trees that used to be part of the native forest.  The practice of leaving some of the trees in the plantation is referred to as Shade Grown Coffee.  How would this shade be beneficial to farmers in these areas?

Costa Rica grows only Arabica coffee.  Where do you suppose the bean originated?  While richest in flavor and market value, it is more susceptible to disease than the robusta coffee.  Brazil grows over 1/3 of the worlds coffee, together with Vietnam, Columbia and Indonesia, these countries produce over half the worlds coffee production.  Costa Rica is the 13th largest coffee producer with the U. S. providing the largest market for these beans.  An average American uses 4 kg of coffee beans per capita.  Canadians only average 6.

Volcano from Buena Vista

10.05803º N              84.19844º W

Looking back over San Jose, you can see a better cross section of this country’s economy.  Bananas, pineapple and coffee top their export lists but you can also see the roof of a large manufacturing plant for computer and electronic components.  In the valleys down hill you can see tarps covering berry farms along with the fresh fruits from which the country cans, jellies and makes baby food as an export.

Finally look more closely at the coffee plants around you.  What do you notice about the branches as you follow them to the ground?  Much like vineyards, branches are trimmed to keep more energy into producing coffee!   It also helps because if left alone these bushes would reach far above the heads of those working the fields.  Coffee is an intensive crop which requires touching every bean!