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Unwind, Unplug and Connect with Your Food: The Ultimate Farm-to-Table Experience in Costa Rica

6/1/2011 2:27:00 PM

Tags: Finca Luna Nueva, New Chapter, Steven Farrell, Tom Newmark, Paul Schulick, Sacred Seeds Sanctuary, Matias Baker, Biodynamic Farm, Herbal Resort, Travel, Costa Rica, Robyn Griggs Lawrence

0 Robyn HeadshotI’ve been dreaming about Finca Luna Nueva, a 60-acre biodynamic farm and herbal resort on the edge of Costa Rica's Children’s Eternal Rainforest that I visited earlier this year, since I finished up an article on the resort's Sacred Seeds Sanctuary for an upcoming Herb Companion issue earlier this week. A world model for biodynamic agriculture, an educational retreat center and a gathering spot for scholars and herbalists, Finca Luna Nueva has grown into a comfortable, full-fledged 33-room resort where visitors looking for more than a beach vacation will find the best of agricultural tourism and fine farm-to-table cuisine.

Finca Luna Nueva was founded as an organic ginger farm in 1994 after New Chapter whole food supplement founders Paul Schulick and Tom Newmark contracted Steven Farrell, one of the rare farmers growing ginger organically in Costa Rica, to manage a 207-acre farm in the verdant San Carlos agricultural region. In 2002, the farm’s staff began making buildings out of fallen logs on the property as a place for New Chapter staff members and guests. The farm grew, organically, into an eco-resort as more herbalists, botanists and research groups learned about it. In 2008 Finca Luna Nueva opened to the public as a place where people could unwind, unplug and get connected to their food.

nueva mathias baker“We wanted to use tourism not only as a way to promote sustainability, but also want to teach people to have a better connection to their food,” Farrell says. “Healthy vegetables can heal us just as much as medicinal herbs can.”

During farm tours, guests learn about the biodynamic preparations and compost that help make the vibrant, tasty produce they eat for dinner. They munch on freshly picked bok choy, lemongrass, tropical lettuces, cilantro and a deliciously sweet oregano (that the natives use in mojitos) from the nursery and greenhouse They see firsthand how feeding free-range pigs a diet of whey, yucca, bananas and kitchen leftovers makes for happy animals and flavorful, healthful pork. Many taste fresh eggs and dairy for the first time. When there’s enough milk from the water buffalo, they see the farm’s stinging nettle used as rennet to make mozzarella cheese.

Finca Luna Nueva is a nearly closed-loop system, where permaculture, biodynamics and good organic practices intermingle to create fresh food for the crew and 1,300 guests. Farrell brings in only a small amount of calcium carbonate, a drum of seaweed, and 5 gallons each of organic zinc and organic boron; otherwise, this farm feeds itself. Ginger and turmeric, the farm’s cash crops, are planted on fields interspersed throughout the 60 acres. After their roots are harvested, dried and sent off the United States and Germany, the fields are planted with yucca and taro root interspersed with papaya and pineapple. For the next three years, the fields lie fallow and the brush takes over, perfect feeding grounds for the pigs who turn the soil looking for grubs and mushrooms and rejuvenate it with their waste. The cycle is repeated in the fifth year, when the earth is again ready to grow healthy ginger and yucca.

Matias Baker, a biodynamic journeyman from California who’s also known to folks on the farm as “the magician,” spends a couple months a year at Finca Luna Nueva, studying this area’s natural rhythms and developing preparations specific to the tropics. It’s the perfect place, he says, to develop a relationship with the earth at its most fertile and to adapt Rudolf Steiner’s Eurocentric biodynamic principles to today’s changing climate. Baker is organizing a gathering that would bring together biodynamic practitioners from North and South America for the first time, and he hopes to hold it at Finca Luna Nueva.

“Something’s happening here,” he says. “All these good people are coming to this place.”

Biodynamic journeyman Matias Baker spends a couple months each year exploring the earth's patterns at Finca Luna Nueva. "All these good people are coming to this place," he says. Photo by Barbara Bourne 

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