Discovering Nature’s Diversity in Costa Rica

Discovering Nature's Diversity in Costa Rica

At Finca Luna Nueva in Costa Rica, biodynamic farming principles are used to grow an array of crops including turmeric and ginger.

alive senior editor Ellen Niemer visits the Finca Luna Nueva Ecolodge and Biodynamic Farm in Costa Rica

Whether we live in a bustling city or a quiet town, sounds help us identify our surroundings and influence our emotions. On my recent visit to Finca Luna Nueva, a biodynamic farm and sustainable ecolodge in northwestern Costa Rica, exotic bird song was the first sound that greeted my ears.

It was my first trip to Costa Rica, and I was excited to stay at Finca Luna Nueva, a 2 1/2 hour drive from Costa Rica’s capital, San José. To get there, my driver and I passed fields of sugar cane, coffee bushes, plantain, and coconut trees. Lush green fields gave way to grey mountains on the horizon.

More tile art by Terry NewmarkFinca Luna Nueva Restaurant and Spa







Farm of the New Moon

Finca Luna Nueva, or Farm of the New Moon, is situated a half hour’s drive from La Fortuna, the adventure capital of Costa Rica, home of zipline, biking, and horseback adventures, as well as luxuriant hot springs fed by the famous Arenal Volcano.

The farm covers 225 acres, half of which is primary and secondary rainforest. As I walked to my clean, simple wood-panelled room, a sloth clung to the upper branches of a tree, sound asleep in a comfortable ball. He only came down from his perch once a week when “Nature called.”

Sloth in a treeDiversity of the rainforest

Fresh and friendly

After settling into my room, where I was greeted by rose petal-covered towels on my bed and a homemade bar of soap wrapped in a green leaf, I met my hosts, Sara and Tom Newmark, for lunch. We ate our meals beside a beautiful swimming pool in the open air restaurant adjacent to the spa. Friendly servers brought us meals prepared fresh with local ingredients: mangos, watermelon, plantain, beans, eggs, and traditional Costa Rican dishes.

Towel with petalsBalcony

Tom’s resumé includes former lawyer, former CEO of the natural health product company New Chapter, committed environmentalist, and co-owner of Finca Luna Nueva. Accompanied by his daughter, Sara, current Director of Sustainability at New Chapter, and his wife, Terry, Tom took me on a tour of the farm after lunch.

Tom and Terry Newmark in nature's classroom

I expected to see straight rows of crops, a red barn, and a silo. But this wasn’t Kansas! Finca Luna Nueva is a biodynamic farm that’s operated according to the biodynamic principles introduced by Rudolf Steiner in Europe in the 1920s.

We meandered down dirt roads bordered by peach and acai palms, and jackfruit trees weighed down with their heavy fragrant fruits. As we dodged intermittent muggy showers, Tom explained the principles of biodynamic farming to me.

Jackfruit treeCloseup of cacao fruit

Beyond organic

Although Steiner wasn’t a farmer, he borrowed upon the principles of science, economics, and agriculture to create the concept of biodynamics. Its principles include the ideas that

  • the farm is a whole organism that strives to be as self-reliant as possible by preserving seeds, planting cover crops, and fertilizing with manure from its animals
  • a farmer is part of the living being of the farm
  • energy is cultivated on a broader scale by incorporating the cycles of the sun, moon, and stars

Tom called biodynamic farming “a metaphysical and spiritual celebration of the production of food.” He said that although organic farming is a healthy alternative to regular farming practices, too often large-scale organic farms simply mimic non-organic farming practices minus the pesticides and chemical fertilizers. To be truly biodynamic, Tom says, “A farm must be seen as a living entity that has energy and consciousness.”

Herb and vegetable garden

Fruits of the land

We visited the farm’s garden where herbs and plants are grown to feed its residents and guests. Tom urged me to sample black pepper seeds that were growing green on the bush, to Terry’s constant refrain, “You don’t have to try it.” I tried everything and my mouth can verify that black pepper seeds are way hotter than the peppercorns sold in the store.

Black pepper plantTom Newmark cutting up turmeric

I also sampled cacao seeds from a freshly cut cacao fruit, ginger, and turmeric. New Chapter grows turmeric at Finca Luna Nueva to produce an anti-inflammatory supplement. We examined a field that had just been harvested. According to biodynamic principles, its leaves were left to enrich the soil.

Harvested turmeric fieldFruits of the farm (cacao, ginger, and turmeric)

Animals with jobs

Human hosts aside, some of the farm’s most charming inhabitants were its black and white pigs. Not just loafers, these pigs work hard for their organic human food scraps. Using their friendly snouts, the pigs’ natural rooting instinct makes them expert at clearing the land for planting.

Three not-so-little pigsTom Newmark and friends

Two other impressive hard-working residents I met were Julietta and her daughter Julie, two of the water buffalo who help to plow the fields.

Water Buffalo JulieWater Buffalo

As we headed back to the lodge, a flock of colourful parrots flew over our heads. A black dog-like creature ran across the path in front of us. It was a great curassow, a rare bird, whose female mate was spotted on the farm a week before.

After a delicious dinner of tilapia, plantain, rice, and beans, I sat on the deck and listened to the sounds of the birds, still conversing long after dark, joined by the howler monkeys. This diversity of life was living proof that biodynamic principles create an atmosphere that’s welcoming to all creatures—including humans.

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