A dirt road has taken me everywhere I’ve been in Costa Rica. The road to Rancho Margot, a mostly self-sufficient eco-resort in the cloud rain forest in the western province of Alajuela, was no different. Except after Rancho Margot there’s only forest and mountains.
I’ve committed to a work-exchange program at Rancho Margot for at least one month. I found Rancho Margot by googling ‘yoga retreats and farms in Costa Rica.’ I was torn between what farm to volunteer at first, and then I met someone who had been to the ranch. After a yoga workshop I took in New Jersey, I talked to one of the yoga teachers, Jo Ann Jones. She had a pamphlet in her hand about Costa Rica. Farming came up in conversation and Jo Ann mentioned Rancho Margot. “You have to go. It’s a magical place,” Jo Ann said. My decision was made then and there.
Rancho Margot overlooks Volcano Arenal, which was Costa Rica’s most active volcano up until 2010 and Lago Arenal, Costa Rica’s biggest lake. At the 400-acre ranch we produce our own electricity with hydroturbines; we heat the shower water with compost; we create our own methane gas from animal waste; we grow food without chemicals; we make our own soap and furniture and so much more. Learning about the sustainable steps the ranch implements, makes me wonder why more people and organizations don’t follow suit. There are simple ways to live in symbiosis with nature all while nourishing and preserving the Earth.
The owner of the ranch, Juan Sostheim, opened the first Burger King in Europe and owned a chemical factory in Holland. While vacationing in Costa Rica he stumbled upon a barren horse and cattle pasture. For the past nine years he has been reforesting that land, which is now the ranch, and turning it into a model for sustainability.
At the ranch there’s about 50 workers and a rotating cast of anywhere from 5 to 10 volunteers. I sleep in la casona, in a bunkbed in the voluntarias room. I work a 6-hour day in the vegetable garden and when the tour guides need help, I give tours to guests and visitors. I take daily yoga classes at the outdoor studio on the ranch. I love working in the garden, surrounded by green, being a part of the process of cultivating life. I love giving tours and educating people about our sustainable practices, learning more and more about plants and wildlife all the time.
So far everywhere I’ve been in Costa Rica has bordered a body of water. I can always hear the vital life force rushing, always moving. At the Nicoya Peninsula it was the ocean. Here it’s the Caño Negro Rio that’s along the ranch. Instead of the rush of traffic, it’s the rush of a river. Instead of the wail of sirens, it’s the wail of birds. Instead of gray concrete buildings, it’s green growing plants. This presence of nature is always something I want to surround myself with, something I always want to keep alive in my heart.