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La evaluacin de la demanda de productos orgnicos en la zona de Monteverde
Assessing demand for organic produce in the Monteverde area
Small-scale, local and organic agriculture is beneficial to communities environmentally, socially, and economically. In this study, consumer preference for organic produce, in particular lettuce, oranges and plantains, was examined in the community of Monteverde and surrounding areas. Five local stores were surveyed, all of which were unique in their location, size, and clientele. There was a significant difference between the organic and non-organic lettuce that consumers purchased at equal prices (Sign Test, n = 9, p < 0.05) and with a ten percent increase on organic lettuce (Sign Test, n = 10, p < 0.05). The difference was not significant for either organic and non-organic oranges (Sign Test, n=2, p>0.05) or plantains (Sign Test, n = 2, p > 0.05) either equal prices, or with a ten percent increase on the organic oranges (Sign Test, n = 2, p > 0.05) and plantains (Sign Test, n = 2, p > 0.05). These data suggest that there is a demand in the area for organic vegetables that cannot easily be grown in local gardens. Oranges and plantains are organically grown by families, so there is no need to buy it from a store. Increased communication between the local farmers, vendors and consumers could help to establish a healthy local market for specific types of produce, creating a more self-sufficient and autonomous Monteverde. Organic production will improve soil integrity of the farmers land, as well as yield a supply of healthier produce choices for the entire community.
En este estudio se examin en la comunidad de Monteverde y sus alrededores la preferencia de los consumidores por los productos orgnicos, en particular, la lechuga, las naranjas y los pltanos.
Text in English.
Consumption (Economics)--Costa Rica--Puntarenas--Monteverde Zone
Comportamiento del consumidor
Consumo (Economa)--Costa Rica--Puntarenas--Zona de Monteverde
Tropical Ecology 2006
Ecologa Tropical 2006
t Monteverde Institute : Tropical Ecology
Assessing demand for organic produce in the Monteverde area Jacki Walczak Department of Biological Aspects of Cons ervation, University of Wisconsin-Madison ABSTRACT Small-scale, local and organic agriculture is beneficial to communities environmentally, socially, and economically. In this study, consumer preference for organic produce, in pa rticular lettuce, oranges and plantains, was examined in the community of Monteverde and surrounding areas. Five local stores were surveyed, all of which were unique in their location, size, and clientele. Th ere was a significant difference between the organic and non-organic lettuce that consumers purchased at equal prices (Sign Test, n = 9, p < 0.05) and with a ten percent increase on organic lettuce (Sign Test, n = 10, p < 0.05). The difference was not significant for either organic and non-organic oranges (Sign Test, n=2, p>0.05) or plantains (Sign Test, n = 2, p > 0.05) either equal prices, or with a ten percent increase on the organic oranges (Sign Test, n = 2, p > 0.05) and plantains (Sign Test, n = 2, p > 0.05). These data suggest that there is a demand in the area for organic vegetables that cannot easily be grown in local gardens. Oranges and plantains are organically grown by families, so there is no need to buy it from a store. Increased communication between the local farmers, vendors and consumers could help to establish a healthy local market for specific types of produce, creating a more self-sufficient and autonomous Monteverde Organic production will improve soil integrity of the farmers land, as well as yield a supply of he althier produce choices for the entire community. RESUMEN La agricultura local y orgnica es beneficiosa a las com unidades ambientalmente, social mente, y econmicamente. En este estudio, la preferencia de consumidores para los productos orgnicos, particularmente la lechuga, las naranjas y los platanos, fue examinado en la comunidad de Monteverde y sus alrededores. Cinco tiendas locales que fueron nicos en su localizacin, tamao, y clientela fueron examinados. Hubo una difere ncia significativa entre las lechugas orgnicas y no-orgnicas que los consumidores compraron a los precios iguales (prueba de muestra, n = 9, p < 0.05) y con un aumento de diez por ciento a la lechuga orgnica (prueba de muestra, n = 10, p < 0.05). La diferencia entre orgnicas y no-orgnicas no fue significativa para las naranjas (prueba de muestra, n = 2, p > 0.05) o los platanos (prueba de muestra, n = 2, p > 0.05) o a los precios iguales, o con un aumento de diez por ciento a las naranjas (prueba de muestra, n = 2, p > 0.05) y a los platanos orgnicas (prueba de muestra, n = 2, p > 0.05). En conclusin, hay una demanda en el rea para las verduras orgnicas que no se pueden cultivar fcilmente en jardines locales. Las naranjas y los platanos son cultivados orgnicamente por las familias, entonces no hay ninguna necesidad para comprarlos de un mercado. La comunicaci n creciente entre los granje ros, los vendedores y los consumidores locales poda ayudar a establecer un mercado local sano para algunos tipos especficos de productos, creando un Monteverde ms autosufici ente y ms autnomo. La produccin orgnica mejorar la integridad del suelo en las fincas locales, as como la produccin una fuente de opciones ms sanas del producto para la comunidad entera. INTRODUCTION Conservation efforts need to incorporate humans in order to develop sustainable solutions (Bawa et al. 2004). As a result, more attention is being paid to ag roecosystems and their role in environmental management (Perfecto 2003). An emerging trend in agroecosystem management is organic food production, which excludes any artifi cial chemical use (pesticides, fungicides, 1
herbicides etc.) due to potential impacts on public health and the environment (Pimintel et al. 2005). Costs and Benefits to Consumers The most commonly perceived costs of orga nic produce are a higher price, lower quality appearance and limited availability (Shepherd et al. 2005). Organic produce can cost quite a bit more per unit because of the extra effort that goes into the production of the crops. For example, the market prices for organic corn and soyb eans can cost anywhere between 20-140% higher than conventional corn and soybeans (Pimentel et al. 2005). Also, organi c produce is not treated with any chemicals before, during or after harv est, which includes no chemical treatments for preservation of a bruise-free appearance. Sometimes the result is a smaller, less attractive piece of produce that customers will not buy (C. Vargas, Pers. Comm.). Anyo ne who is attached to the exterior of that perfect banana may have qualms with an organic, slightly brown and scratched bunch of bananas. Finally, there are limits as to what can be grown where and when it can be grown. The majority of the planet is seasonal, so there will be confoundi ng factors in how much organic produce, and produce in general, can be cultivated. This is a serious issue in places that are secluded and cannot or do not grow enough organic produce to supply the demand (Shepherd et al. 2005). In certain time s of the year, customers looking to buy organic produce may not be able to get a hold of the pr oduct they are looking for. Organic produce can benefit consumers in many ways. Most importantly, organic produce is healthier than traditionally grown produce,(Sheph erd et al. 2005) and the general consumer knows this. Consumers of organi c food avoid ingesting all the ag rochemicals and disinfectants that conventional fruits and vegetables are traditionally treated with in order to meet cosmetic standards as well as avoid yield losses from pest infestations, f ungi outbreaks and weeds (Asoka et al. 1998). There are no pest icide residues, growth hormones, antibiotics or other artificial additives in organic produce. Organic produce may contain significantly higher amounts of beneficial antioxidants as we ll (Halweil 2006). In addition, buyi ng and consuming locally grown organic produce helps to promote stability of rural communities by redistributing limited employment resources because of the greater labor needs of organic farms (Halweil 2006). Consumers may also benefit from a cleaner envir onment, as well as the ecosystem services that are maintained by organic farming, like a clean a nd reliable water supply (Shepherd et al. 2005). Costs and Benefits to Producer Organic producers have to manage problems not en countered by traditional agriculture. Initially, there are lower yields when a hi gh-yield plot that used chemi cals and is then converted to organic (Pimintel et al. 2005). The gap is most pronounced in developed countries that use the gamut of available chemicals and, depending on resilience, the land may need more time to return to its original state. Also, there is a significantly higher work load required for organic farming, not to mention the higher susceptibility to pests, fungus and need for constant crop rotation in order to preserve soil fertility (H alweil 2006). Small-scale and poor farmers are often fiscally unable to absorb the costs associated with going organic, which include the initial few years of lower yields and certification costs. It is also harder for farmers in poorer nations to get paid the high market prices fo r organics that can be found in richer, more developed countries (Halweil 2006). There are numerous benefits that are the re sult of organic production, which reach the environmental, social and economic sectors. Environmental benefits are innumerable, including 2
increase in soil nutrition, benefi cial insect diversity, higher over all biodiversity, less erosion and soil depletion and a reduction in sedimentation and water pollution (Halweil 2006, Crucefix 1998). Studies show that erosion, water pollution from agrochemicals and biodiversity loss from organic agriculture is one-third that of conventional farming systems (Halweil 2006). Studies from around the world have shown that in some cases, when a newly co nverted organic field returns to its original productive and chemical-f ree-state, it can produce just as much, if not higher crop yields than its chemical ly drenched counterpart. This is most apparent in areas of low resource availabilities to begin with (e.g. Kenya) where organic farming puts organic matter into the unproductive soil, which boosts yields far beyond those of conventional farmers in the same area. (Halweil 2006) Or ganic production areas are also mo re tolerant of environmental variance, and they have reduced variability in yields during year s of extreme conditions (Halweil 2006). On the social end, studies have shown that global conversion to or ganic agriculture could theoretically support a higher worl d population than what is projected for current conventional farming outputs, despite initial yield losses associ ated with conversion that deter growers from going organic (Halweil 2006). Worker health is also preserved because organic farming does not use the harmful chemicals associ ated with traditional farming (Crucefix 1998). Heath problems associated with pesticide exposure from work ing on farms in non-organic settings (e.g. banana plantations) range from acute prob lems like headaches and rashes to more serious problems such as cancer and birth defects (Asoka et al. 1998). Economically, organic agriculture is good for the individual farmers as well as the local economies. Although more labor is needed for organic production, it is more stable and evenly distribu ted over the year as co mpared to conventional systems (Pimintel et al. 2005). The higher prem iums on organic produce provides a higher net return per hectare and a means for farmers to ab sorb the extra costs of yield losses on organic farms (Pimintel at al. 2005). Moreover, farm ers do not have to spend money on expensive chemicals (Pimintel et al. 2005). Organic produc tion facilitates self-su fficiency and equitable development on the behalf of local farmers and consumers (Crucefix 1998). Small-scale and Local versus Large-scale and Imported There is much to be said about organic produce grown locally versus larg e-scale produce that is imported from across the country, or even the globe. Many organic advocates are happy that large corporations like Wal-Mart are entering the organic market because it indicates a widespread demand for organic products (C uddeford 2003). However, many activists are concerned with the entry of corporations becau se the objective of a more locally-based and sustainable alternative is being degraded in or der to maximize profits. This involves importing cheap organic produce from developing countries which will perpetuate the current marketdriven food system (Cuddeford 2003). Larg e-scale organic production can mean clearing rainforest for a monoculture plantation in or der to supply the corporations demand for cheap, organic produce (Cuddeford 2003). Large-scale organic production uses relatively more petroleum than locally sold, small-scale produc tion because of the need to refrigerate and transport their products to reta ilers in the U.S. and beyond (Cuddeford 2003). Also, entry of big foreign players forces small farmers to sell thei r land because they cannot afford to compete and sell their limited yields at the low prices that the corporations cause via market flooding. The farmers without land are forced to either move in to the city or work for the larger companies, which usually provide low wages, seasonal work and poor conditions (Asoka et al. 1998). Many farmers believe that the word organic has b een devalued by corporate entry (Cuddeford 2003). Large-scale production of organic produce can be attributed to rising de mand and premiums for organic produce as well as consumer ignoran ce of the difference between buying an organic 3
papaya from a tropical country versus limiting consumption to local organic produce, such as apples in Wisconsin. Consumers that can blindl y go to the grocery store and pick an organic product off the shelf without thinking about how it got there or considering any social implications of the product they are putting in th eir cart only perpetuate s the current consumerdriven market that is characteriz ed by ignorance (Cuddeford 2003). Buying local, small-scale organic produce he lps to support the loca l economy by keeping currency within the local money system, as well as create a relationship between consumers and producers. This ultimately helps to fost er community understandi ng of accountable and sustainable food systems (Cuddeford 2003). Farmers that sell their organi c produce directly to local consumers either door-to-door or in a farme rs market can get an 80% return on each food dollar, as opposed to 19% average return for conventional farmers selling in bulk (Cuddeford 2003). Awareness of community and personal health is encouraged, with re spect to the adverse consequences of large-scale, external produ ce production and consumption. Buying locally produced organics helps to reduce petroleum use and perpetuates the small-scale market, since small operations cannot afford the high fuel co sts of transporting their goods long distance (Burlingame 2000). Sustainable agricu lture is not just about chemical use, but also about helping the workers and families involved in the producti on, all the way to the families consuming the food. Buying food from small-scal e and local agricultura l producers helps to promote local selfreliance, community decision-making, commu nity and worker empowerment, and more environmentally sustainable agricultural pract ices. The cumulative result of local organic production is a more economically and environmen tally sustainable community (Asoka et al. 1998). Role of Organic Production in Monteverde Monteverde and the surrounding areas are nestled in the Cordillera Tilaran, relatively isolated from the rest of Costa Rica. The location and di verse demographical groups affect every aspect of life in Monteverde. The first people in th e area were indigenous people, followed by a single family that began farming in the San Luis ar ea in 1915 (Burlingame 2000). Quakers from the United States settled above Cerro Plano and into Monteverde in 1951, bringing an outside culture educated by western society. Agriculture is responsible for the initial economic success in the area. The remoteness of the area facilitated a tradition of utilizing locally-based committees and organizations in order to deal with problems in the community, as opposed to waiting for the Costa Rican government to help (Burlingame 2000). Ecotourism is responsible for the current and substantial economic pr osperity of the area, since tourists not only come to see the rainfore st, but they also provide money for the local businesses. Tourism growth in the 1990s incr eased the market for local produce considerably (Burlingame 2000). There are a number of progressi ve scientists and researchers that study in the area who bring new ideas and educational valu es to the area (Burlingame 2000). As a result of the agricultural, demographic and economic history in the area, the farmers are fairly selfsufficient, which has fostered awareness for thei r own and their families personal health and the importance of not using expensive pesticides on their crops (Mi. Brenes, pers. Comm.). In 1992, a group of about 15 farmers in the Montever de area joined the Small Organic Producers Association of Costa Rica to learn about diffe rent organic production methods, and currently experiment with different techniques (B urlingame 2000). Although nobody in the area is certified as organic, there are several local organic-in-practice producers th at sell to local hotels and occasionally to local stores and the majority farmers in the area organically grow enough produce to feed their families (Me.Brenes, pers. Comm.). 4
Currently, there is not a separate market for organic produce in the San Luis/Monteverde/Santa Elena area. Local farmers that do sell produce to the local grocers do not get any more money for organic produce than fo r conventional produce, so organic farmers, like Melvin Brenes, rely on selling directly to individu al clients and to local ho tels (Me. Brenes, Pers. Comm.). However, there is a potential economic market specifically for local organic produce considering the high number of tourists, the environmentally aware Quaker population, as well as a general mindfulness as to the benefits of a chemical-free lifestyle that seems to be present in farmers and the community as a whole. The purpose of my study was to assess the possible market for organic produce in the area. I expected to see demand for such a market, with or without higher prices on organics As a result, economic incentiv e may be provided to the local businesses to both separate orga nic produce from non-organic produc e. Ideally, higher and fair prices will be paid to the farmers for the extr a work that goes into producing organic goods. High demand for organic produce may give local farmers reason to produce more organic products, as well as put the time, money and effort into official certif ication (Burlingame 2000). MATERIALS AND METHODS First, I spoke with local organi c farmers in order to clarify their reasoning for growing organic produce, as well as where the farmers distribut e their produce and how much they are being compensated (Appendix). Since no farmers in the ar ea are certified organic, they were chosen as organic based on whether they use chemicals or not. Organic plantains and oranges were purchased from Climaco Castro a nd organic lettuce from Melvin Brenes. Lettuce was sold at Supermercado La Esperanza Vedulera Santa Elena and Supermercado Vargas. Organges and plantains were sold at Supermercado M ontaa and the Pulpera in San Luis. I distributed questionnaires and spoke with each owner about their personal opinions of organic produce as well as where and how they pur chase their produce (Appendix). Local Vendors Five local vendors of produce were sought out as research sites, each having different demographics, which is important to the unders tanding of customer behavior in the area. Differences between customer groups will result in demands for different products (Thompson 1998). Supermercado La Esperanza The Supermercado La Esperanza is the main, cen trally located supermarket and the largest supplier of produce in Santa Elena, owned by Enrique Cruz. Tourists and a great portion of local people do the bulk of their grocery shopping at the Supermercado La Esperanza. Tourists tend to be more educated and have more disposable income than local people, and so may be likely to buy organic produce (Thompson 1998). Vedulera Santa Elena The Vedulera Santa Elena next to La Esperanza, owned by Christian Vargas, is much smaller, but sells a large selection of fresh produce that Christian buys himself, which many times is 5
organic. The majority of people who shop here ar e local customers, touris ts or other people who are looking for a sp ecific product. Supermercado Vargas Christian Vargas also owns the Supermercado Va rgas in Monteverde, a small convenience store that serves the immediate needs of the local peopl e in Monteverde. The people who frequent this area tend to be foreign tourists, expats or Qu akers, and thus may have more awareness and education as to the importa nce of buying organic. Supermercado Montaa The Supermercado Montaa, owned by Victor is nestled in Cerro Pl ano and functions as a convenience store for local people in the area. The small selection of pr oducts includes general items and a small produce section that is purcha sed from the Supermercado La Esperanza. Pulpera in San Luis The Pulpera in San Luis is owned by Dania Brenes, a resident of San Luis. Her customers are almost exclusively local farmers and their families who need a select few things, as the store is comparatively small. The fruit selection, purchased from the Supermercado La Esperanza, is limited at best. Data Collection I began with purchasing organic produce directly from either Clmaco Cruz (oranges and plantains) or Melvin Brenes (lettuce) at the be ginning of each week. Each store was visited a total of four data trials over the course of four weeks. A box of the purchased produce was labeled as organic and placed next to unmarked box of the same product (e.g. unlabeled lettuce next to labeled organic lettuce), which account ed for any appearance differences between organic and non-organic produce. A simple count of organic vs. unlabeled purchases was taken for one hour at equal prices, and then again fo r another hour with a ten percent increase for labeled produce. Preference for organics vers us unlabeled produce was tested using Sign tests RESULTS General Demand for Organic vs. Non-Organic The data show that consumers bought organic lettuce over unlabeled lettuce in the San Luis/ Monteverde/ Santa Elena area at e qual prices (Sign Test, n = 9, p < 0.05. Figure 1) as well as with a ten percent price increase on the organic lettuce (Sign Test, n = 10, p < 0.05 Figure 1). 6
0 1 2 3 4 5 Organic Non-organic TypeNumber Purchased Equal price 10% increase FIGURE 1. Mean purchase frequency of organi c and non-organic lettuce at both equal prices and with a ten percent price increase on the organi c lettuce. There was a significant difference in mean purchase frequency of organi c lettuce over non-organic lettuce at equal prices (Sign Test, n = 9, p < 0.05). Mean data was significant for peop le buying organic lettuce versus non-organic lettuce with a ten percen t increase on organic lettuce (Sign Test, n = 10, p < 0.05). In general, both organic produce and total produc e was purchased more frequently at the sites that were centrally located in Santa Elena. Customers in the Supermercado La Esperanza bought the most organic and non-organic lettuce of a ll three sites where lettuce was sold, followed by the Vedulera in Santa Elena and lastly, th e Supermercado in Monteverde (Figure 2). 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 La Esperanza Super VargasVeduleria Vargas StoreNumber Purchased organic non-organic organic10% Increase Non-organic10% Increase FIGURE 2. Purchase frequencies of organic and non-organic lettuce at equal price and after a ten percent price increase on the organic lettuce at each store. Although oranges and plantains were sold at both the Supermerca do Montaa and the Pulpera in San Luis, only organic oranges and plantains were bought at the Supe rmercado Montaa in Cerro Plano, regardless of price (Figure 3). 7
0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5 3 3.5 Organic Oranges Non-organic Oranges Organic Plantains Non-organic Plantains TypeNumber Purchased equal price 10% increase FIGURE 3. Purchase frequencie s at the Supermercado Montaa. Number of organic and nonorganic oranges bought at the same price and then with a ten percent increase on organic oranges. Purchase frequencies of organic and no n-organic plantains at th e same price and then with a ten percent increase on organic plantain s. No non-organic ora nges or plantains were bought. Average differences in purchase frequency be tween organic and unlabel ed oranges at equal prices were not statistically significant (Sign Test, n = 2, p > 0.05. Figure 4). This trend did not become significant with a price increase on the organic oranges (Sign Test, n = 2, p > 0.05. Figure 4). 0 0.25 0.5 0.75 1 1.25 Organic Non-organic TypeNumber Purchased Equal price 10% increase FIGURE 4. Mean purchase frequency of organic and non-organic oranges at both equal prices and then with a ten percent price increase on the organic oranges at both locations. There was no significant difference in mean purchase frequency of organic oranges over non-organic oranges at equal prices (Sign Test, n = 2, p > 0.05). Mean data was not significant for people buying organic oranges versus non-organic oranges with a ten percent increase on organic oranges (Sign Test, n = 2, p > 0.05). Purchase frequency of organic plantains was not significant when compared with unlabeled plantains at equal prices (Sign Test, n=2, p>0.05. Figure 5), or with a ten percent price increase on the organic plantains (Sign Test, n = 2, p > 0.05. Figure 5). No oranges or plantains were bought at the Pulpera in San Luis regardless of type or price. 8
0 0.25 0.5 0.75 1 1.25 Organic Non-organic TypeNumber Purchased Equal price 10% increase FIGURE 5. Mean purchase frequency of orga nic and non-organic plantains at both equal prices and then with a ten percent price increase on the organic plantains. Purchase frequency of organic plantains was not significant when compared with non-organic plantains at equal prices (Sign Test, n = 2, p > 0.05. Figure 3), or with a ten percent price in crease on the organic plantains (Sign Test, n = 2, p > 0.05. Figure 3). Additional Observations Customers buying produce in all stor es tended to display similar behaviors. They all seemed to survey the choices of produce in front of them, as well recognize if there was an organic option or not. Even in the convenience store envi ronments, people thoroughly examined the produce they were buying. However, there was one cu stomer in the Supermercado La Esperanza who bought four unlabeled lettuces, even though she ha d the option of buying organic at the same price. She is responsible for the only non-or ganic lettuce purchased at the same price of organic lettuce on Figure 2. Although there was not significant demand for plantains or oranges in the Supermercado Montaa, customers did pur chase a few oranges and plantains, and they always chose organic when given the choice (Fi gure 3). It should be noted that the organic produce that I displayed, whether it be plantains, oranges or lettuce, typi cally appeared fresher, and was usually larger than their non-orga nic counterparts at the various stores. Farmer and Owner Surveys Based on informal communication, local farmers seemed to vary in their knowledge of agroecology, but all seemed to believe firmly th at organic production is the healthiest option. Some stated health as the pr actical reason for growing organi cally, whereas some farmers knew of other benefits for their land and the environm ent. For example, Milton Brenes talked about how growing organically, selecti ng seeds, rotating crops, using or ganic matter as fertilizer and other natural methods are important to sustain the microorganisms that maintain nutritious soil (Mi. Brenes, pers. Comm.). All the farmers I spoke with cultivate organi c fruits and vegetables (e.g. chayotes, plantains, sweet lemons, etc) to f eed their families. The majority of farmers only grow organic vegetables for subsistence, but th ey make money off of milk and cheese production and/or coffee (G. Lobo, pers. comm.). The farmer s that do sell their organic produce usually sell it to family, friends, local people and sometimes hotels, but they rarely sell to the local supermarkets due to the low prices that local st ores are willing to pay (C. Castro, Me. Brenes, pers. comm.). Overall, local farmers have a positive attitude towards increasing the local production of organic produce. 9
Store owners understand the importance of consuming organic products for personal health, but their ability to obtain and sell or ganic produce differs between locations. The produce that the Supermercado La Esperanza bu ys comes from outside Monteverde and is usually non-organic. Both the Supermercado Mont aa and the Pulpera in San Luis get their produce trucked in from the Supermercado La Espe ranza (E. Cruz, Victor, Dania, pers. comm.). Victor, the owner of Supermercado Montaa says that he buys organic when he can and separates it, but this is rare due to the difficulty in finding a local source of organic produce. He also believes that consumers w ould rather buy organic, but they are accustomed to buying what they find, which means if it is not sitting on the shelves, people will not go out of their way to find and buy organic produce (Victor, pers. comm.). Dania, the owner of the Pulpera in San Luis, says that it is very important to consume organic produce, but th at it is difficult in San Luis for two reasons: (a) in San Luis, all the fruits an d vegetables that are needed cannot be locally produced and (b) the produce that does grow there organically is only available seasonally, so produce has to be brought in from elsewhere. She does buy and sell organic produce when it is available locally, and although she does not separate and label it as organic, she makes sure to inform her customers if the produce they are buyi ng is organic and local (Dania, pers. comm.). Christian, the owner of the Vedulera Santa El ena and Supermercado Vargas in Monteverde, seeks out 90% of produce for his stores in He redia himself at CENNDA (Centro Nacional de Distribueron Agro.), which is often organic. Th e other ten percent comes from local, small scale organic farmers. However, he currently does no t separate or label organic versus non-organic produce because he is busy and does not have time to keep track of and label extra boxes (C. Vargas, pers. comm.). DISCUSSION A significantly higher purchase frequency of organic produce at the most visited stores, regardless of price, supports th e conclusion that there is a dema nd for certain types of organic produce in Monteverde. Survey data, in conjunc tion with interviews, su ggest that local people know that organic produce is much better for personal health and well-being than the consumption of pesticide residu e on non-organic produce, and the data suggest that they are willing to spend a few extra colones to obtain it. Two studies in Sweden concluded that customers strongly associate organics with heal thy choices, rather than with environmentally conscious consumption (Shepherd et al. 2005). Th e same seemed true in this study, considering everyone from taxi drivers to the owners of th e stores emphasized how much healthier organic products are than the alternatives. The only pe ople that ever mentioned the environmental benefits were the farmers, and they were mainly concerned with keeping the integrity of their farmland to ensure future crops and high yields rather than conserving the environment (Mi. Brenes, pers. comm.). The demand for organic lettuce vs. the lack of demand for oranges or plantains (organic or otherwise) can be explained by the fact that lettuce is not a pr oduct that citizens of Monteverde can easily grow in their backyard. Plantains and oranges, on the other hand, are products that everyone can, and in many cases do, readily grow behind their houses. It is commonly known that locals never use pesticides on these plants, but lettuce is a more delicate, pest susceptible plant, and is generally sprayed with chemicals to increase growth success. Overall, the demand for organics in Monteverde a nd Santa Elena may be restricted to vegetables that are not readily grown here, but people are willing to pay the extra cost that will supply them with a healthy and diverse diet. 10
There were trends in consumer behaviors be tween stores, which can largely be explained by the location of the store and its clientele. Th e amount of lettuce purcha sed was greatest in the Supermercado La Esperanza, followed by the Vedulera in Santa Elena and the Supermercado Montaa respectively, which is most likely due to the increasing distance from a central location in Santa Elena, as well as the difference in st ore sizes. However, there was not a significant difference in the preference for organic lettuce between the stores. This may be attributed to customer differentiation due to variation in store size, location a nd demographics. For example, the Supermercado La Esperanza may have a lot of customers and sell a lot of lettuce relative to the other stores, but the Supermercado Vargas in Monteverde has local customers who are highly educated and are more likely to buy the organic option. There is a positive correlation between education and the propensity to buy organic pr oducts (Thompson 1998). The Vedulera in Santa Elena may be a small store, but it sells a re latively large amount of produce, and many curious tourists and local people shop there for their ve getables because it is easily accessible, quick and convenient (C. Vargas, pers. comm.). Although further research is necessary to test the following prediction, I think that if the demand for lettuce could be tested at the Supe rmercado Montaa along with the rest of the stores, there would also be a si gnificant demand here as well. I al so predict future research to show a local demand for organic produce that can not be grown in San Luis because it would be more convenient for San Luis residents to go to the Pulpera for a head of organic lettuce than to spend the time and gas money on making a trip to Santa Elena. My study suggests that local consumers prefer organic over non-organic produce that they cannot grow for themselves, so it would be interesting and useful to test all areas for consumer demand for organic lettuce, as well as for other types of organic produce. The apparent demand for certain types of pr oduce has important implications for farmers and the store owners, as well as the relationshi ps between them and local consumers. Judging from the store owners responses and the consumer demand for organic lettu ce in the area, there need to be more organic vegetables produced on the farmers parts and more communication between the store owners and the farmers about who needs what, what the customers want, and what the farmers are able to supply. The owners expressed a shortage of availability and a lack of knowledge for who is producing which products as the main reason for not buying and selling organic produce. They will only buy organics when they are cheap and there is a constant and reliable supply. The farmers, on the other ha nd, do not see a reason to produce more than what they need to feed their families. It is questionabl e that even if the farmers wanted to grow to sell, they would not be able to because of the seas onality of many produce types. However, as a demand for organic leafy vegetables rises in the area, more incen tive exists for the farmers to produce more. Education efforts geared towards teaching local farmers organic farming methods may also aid in recruitment of more producers (Mi. Brenes, Pers. Comm.). A growing demand with a low supply means higher prices, which may reach a high enough price to help pay for conversion costs (to organic) as well as official certification fo r the farmers (Crucefix 1998). Increased communication within pr oducer-vendor-consumer relationshi ps could help facilitate a healthy, local and sustainable organic market in the greater Monteverde area (Crucefix 1998). Although small-scale, local and organic production has numerous benefits to shareholders, the costs and complications for both producers and consumers can be overwhelming. As with anything, the hardest pa rt is getting started, and in the case of Monteverde, it will take coopera tion and a bit of sacrifice on ev eryones part to get the ball rolling. Halweil (2005), talks about a middle gr ound being the best road to take: organic and sustainable agricultural technique s incorporated into conventional farming systems that use limited chemicals when they are absolutely needed. This method is easier and would allow for 11
several local, small-scale farmers to adopt some sustainable methods, a system that has more cumulative positive impacts environmentally, socially and economically than one farmer in the area going completely organic (Halweil 2005). The aforementioned method is a good start on the road of sustainability for the Monteverde ar ea, but in the end, this method will not be enough. There needs to be communication between loca l players within the organic market in order to expand and tap the potential market for organic produce in the area. No changes can be made without an increase in production, and an increase in production will not happen unless both the local vendors and the farmer s are willing to take risks a nd invest in organic produce. Store owners need to be willing to compensate the local organic farmers more for the produce they sell, and in turn the farmers will have a means to invest in the expensive conversion to organic production, as well as absorb certification costs. Melvin Brenes has achieved success in many ways, including growing many t ypes of produce at different ti mes of the year, as well as attained enough financial success to expand production on his model farm. His model exemplifies that organic production can be accomp lished in the Monteverde area on a scale that is marketable, and he could provi de insight to other interested farmers, or contribute to an educational program that may be geared toward helping producers in getting started, as well as surviving and expanding. Organic production can be accomplished in the area, and communication between local players in the organic market may be the key to a more sustainable and self-sufficient Monteverde. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to thank Alan and Karen for their guidance an d also for letting me drop off so much lettuce at their house every week. Muchas gracias a mi familia ticaXinia Araya Leiton y familia por todo su amor, ayuda y las arepas ricas. Also, thanks to Climaco Ca stro and Melvin Brenes for all the fresh and tasty organic produce. Thank you to the storeowners: Dania, Christian, Victor, Enrique and Jose for letting me use their personal businesses for my study. Muchas gracias to all the farmers in San Luis who took the time to talk with me, in spite of my sad and broken Spanish. Thank you Katie Hawksyour incredis panish astounds me, and you were always there when I needed you. The love always goes out to Camryn Pennington and Tom Mcfarland for being the wonderful and helpful T.A.s that you were cut out to be. Not to mention the occasional late-night-cake eating. As always, never ending thanks to Wesley and my family for the unconditional love and support; you all mean the world to me. LITERATURE CITED Asoka et al. 1998. Bitter Fruit: Attractive supermarket displays of tr opical fruit conceal ug ly environmental and social costs. Alternatives Journal. 24(4): 18-25. Bawa et al. 2004. Beyond Paradise: Meeting the Challenges in Tropical Biology in the 21st Century. Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation. Supplement: 1-9. Burlingame, Leslie J. Conservation in the Montever de Zone. IN: Nalini M. Nadkarni. and Nathaniel T. Wheelwright 2000 (ed). Monteverde: Ecology and Conservation of a Tropical Cloud Forest. Oxford University Press, New York. Crucefix, David. 1998. Organic agriculture and sustainable rural livelihoods in developing countries. Natural Resources and Ethical Trade Programme. Cuddeferd, Vijay. 2003. When organics go mainstream. Alternatives Journal. 29(4):14. Gliessman, Stephen R. 2000. Agroecology: Ecological Processes in Sustainable Agriculture. CRC Press, LLC, Florida. Halweil, Brian. 2006. Can organic farming feed us all?. World Watch. 19(3): 18-24. Perfecto, Ivette. 2003. Review of: Conservation through an agroecological lens. Ecology. 84(11): 3100-3102. Pimentel, D. et al. 2005. Environmental, energetic, and economic comparisons of organic and conventional farming systems. Bioscience. 55(7): 573-583. Shepherd et al. 2005. Determinants of consumer behavior related to organic foods. Ambio. 34(4/5): 352-360. 12
13Thompson, Gary D. 1998. Consumer demand for organic foods: What we know and what we need to know. American Journal of Agricultural Economics. 80(5): 1113-1118. APPENDIX Common Questions for Farmers: o Cmo cultiva cosechas orgnicas? Por qu? o Qu cultiva usted? o A Quin vendelos? Especificamen te, que vende a cada cliente? o Por cuntas? Especificamente, cuantos ve duras y frutas, y cuanta s por cada fruta or caja, etc. o En total, Cada semana y cada mes, cuantas ga na usted por su veduras y frutas que vende al supermercado,o otros negocios locales? o Ud. sabe otras personas que cultivan organicos? Common Questions for Store Owners: o Qu piensa orgnica? Qu si gnifica a usted? Importa o no? o Usted piensa que personas locales quie ren comprar verdural y frutas organicas? o De quien usted compra sus frutas y verduras? o Compre de campesinos que venden frutas y veduras organicas? Por qu si o no? o Usted separa organicos y los productos que no son organicos en cajas differentes? Por qu si o no?