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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
1 Assessing demand for organic produce in the Monteverde area Jacki Walczak Department of Biological Aspects of Conservation, University of Wisconsin Madison ABSTRACT Small scale, local and organic agriculture is beneficial to communities environmental ly, 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 un ique 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 both 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 n eed 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 productio n will improve soil integrity of the farmers land, as well as yield a supply of healthier produce choices for the entire community. RESUMEN La agricultura local y orgÃ¡nica es beneficiosa a las comunidades ambientalmente, socialmente, y econÃ³micamente. En este estudio, la preferencia de consumidores para los productos orgÃ¡nicos, particularmente la lechuga, las naranjas y los plÃ¡tanos , fue examinado en la comunidad de Monteverde y sus alrededores. Cinco tiendas locales que fueron Ãºnicos en su localizaciÃ³ n, tamaÃ±o, y clientela fueron examinadas . Hubo una diferencia significativa entre las lechugas orgÃ¡nicas y no orgÃ¡nicas 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 lechu ga orgÃ¡nica prueba de muestra, n = 10, p < 0.05. La diferencia entre orgÃ¡nicas y no orgÃ¡nicas no fue significativa para las naranjas prueba de muestra, n = 2, p > 0.05 o los plÃ¡tanos 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 plÃ¡tanos orgÃ¡nicas prueba de muestra, n = 2, p > 0.05. En conclusiÃ³n, hay una demanda en el Ã¡rea para las verduras orgÃ¡nicas que no se pueden cultivar fÃ¡cilmente en jardines locales. Las naranjas y los plÃ¡tanos son cultivados orgÃ¡nicamente por las familias, entonces no hay ninguna necesidad para comprarlos de un mercado. La comunicaciÃ³n creciente entre los granjeros, los vendedores y los consumidores locales podÃa ayudar a establecer un mercado local sano para algunos tipos especÃficos de productos, creando un Monteverde mÃ¡s autosuficiente y mÃ¡s autÃ³nomo. La producciÃ³n orgÃ¡nica mejorarÃ¡ la integridad del suelo en las fincas locales, asÃ como la producciÃ³n una fuen te de opciones mÃ¡s 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 agroecosystems and t heir role in environmental management Perfecto 2003. An emerging trend in agroecosystem management is organic food production, which excludes any artificial chemical use pesticides, fungicides,
2 herbicides etc. due to potential impacts on public healt h and the environment Pimintel et al. 2005. Costs and Benefits to Consumers The most commonly perceived costs of organic produce are a higher price, lower quality appearance and limited availability Shepherd et al. 2005. Organic produce can cost qui te 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 soybeans can cost anywhere between 20 140% higher than conventional corn and soybeans Pimentel et al. 2005 . Also, organic produce is not treated with any chemicals before, during or after harvest, which includes no chemical treatments for preservation of a bruise free appearance. Sometimes the result is a smaller, less attractive piece of produce that custome rs will not buy C. Vargas, Pers. Comm.. Anyone 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 c an be grown. The majority of the planet is seasonal, so there will be confounding 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 times of the year, customers looking to buy organic produce may not be able to get a hold of the product they are looking for. Organic produce can benefit consumers in many ways. Most import antly, organic produce is healthier than traditionally grown produce, Shepherd et al. 2005 and the general consumer knows this. Consumers of organic food avoid ingesting all the agrochemicals 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, fungi outbreaks and weeds Asoka et al. 1998. There are no pesticide residues, growth hormones, antibiotics or other artificial additives in organic produce. Organic produce may contain significantly higher amounts of beneficial antioxidants as well Halweil 2006. In addition, buying and consuming locally grown organic produce helps to promote stability of rural communities by redistribu ting limited employment resources because of the greater labor needs of organic farms Halweil 2006. Consumers may also benefit from a cleaner environment, as well as the ecosystem services that are maintained by organic farming, like a clean and reliabl e water supply Shepherd et al. 2005. Costs and Benefits to Producer Organic producers have to manage problems not encountered by traditional agriculture. Initially, there are lower yields when a high yield plot that used chemicals and is then converte d 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 hig her workload 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 Halweil 2006. Small scale and poor farmers are often fiscally unable to absorb t he 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 for organics that can be found in richer, more develope d countries Halweil 2006. There are numerous benefits that are the result of organic production, which reach the environmental, social and economic sectors. Environmental benefits are innumerable, including
3 increase in soil nutrition, beneficial insect diversity, higher overall 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 agr iculture is one third that of conventional farming systems Halweil 2006. Studies from around the world have shown that in some cases, when a newly converted organic field returns to its original productive and chemical free state, it can produce just as much, if not higher crop yields than its chemically 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 f ar beyond those of conventional farmers in the same area. Halweil 2006 Organic production areas are also more tolerant of environmental variance, and they have reduced variability in yields during years of extreme conditions Halweil 2006. On the soc ial end, studies have shown that global conversion to organic agriculture could theoretically support a higher world population than what is projected for current conventional farming outputs, despite initial yield losses associated with conversion that de ter growers from going organic Halweil 2006. Worker health is also preserved because organic farming does not use the harmful chemicals associated with traditional farming Crucefix 1998. Heath problems associated with pesticide exposure from working on farms in non organic settings e.g. banana plantations range from acute problems 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 farm ers as well as the local economies. Although more labor is needed for organic production, it is more stable and evenly distributed over the year as compared to conventional systems Pimintel et al. 2005. The higher premiums on organic produce provides a higher net return per hectare and a means for farmers to absorb the extra costs of yield losses on organic farms Pimintel at al. 2005. Moreover, farmers do not have to spend money on expensive chemicals Pimintel et al. 2005. Organic production facili tates self sufficiency 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 large scale produce t hat 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 Cuddeford 2003. However, man y activists are concerned with the entry of corporations because the objective of a more locally based and sustainable alternative is being degraded in order to maximize profits. This involves importing cheap organic produce from developing countries whic h will perpetuate the current market driven food system Cuddeford 2003. Large scale organic production can mean clearing rainforest for a monoculture plantation in order to supply the corporations demand for cheap, organic produce Cuddeford 2003. Lar ge scale organic production uses relatively more petroleum than locally sold, small scale production because of the need to refrigerate and transport their products to retailers in the U.S. and beyond Cuddeford 2003. Also, entry of big foreign players f orces small farmers to sell their 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 into 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 been devalued by corporate entry Cuddeford 2003. Large scale production of organic produce can be attributed to rising demand and premiums for organic produce as well as consumer ignorance of the difference between buying an organic
4 papaya from a tropical country versus limiting consumption to local organic produce, such as apples in Wisconsin. Consu mers that can blindly 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 their cart only perpetuates the current consumer drive n market that is characterized by ignorance Cuddeford 2003. Buying local, small scale organic produce helps to support the local economy by keeping currency within the local money system, as well as create a relationship between consumers and producers . This ultimately helps to foster community understanding of accountable and sustainable food systems Cuddeford 2003. Farmers that sell their organic produce directly to local consumers either door to door or in a farmerÂ€s 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 respect to the adverse consequences of large scale, external produce 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 costs of transporting their goods long distance Burlingame 2000. Sustainable agric ulture is not just about chemical use, but also about helping the workers and families involved in the production, all the way to the families consuming the food. Buying food from small scale and local agricultural producers helps to promote local self rel iance, community decision making, community and worker empowerment, and more environmentally sustainable agricultural practices. The cumulative result of local organic production is a more economically and environmentally sustainable community Asoka et a l. 1998. Role of Organic Production in Monteverde Monteverde and the surrounding areas are nestled in the Cordillera TilarÃ¡n , relatively isolated from the rest of Costa Rica. The location and diverse demographical groups affect every aspect of life in Monteverde. The first people in the area were indigenous people, followed by a single family that began farming in the San Luis area in 1915 Burlingame 2000. Quakers from the United States settled above Cerro Plano and into Monteverde in 1951, bringin g 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 pr oblems 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 prosperity of the area, since tourists not only come to see the rainforest, but th ey also provide money for the local businesses. Tourism growth in the 1990 s increased the market for local produce considerably Burlingame 2000. There are a number of progressive scientists and researchers that study in the area who bring new ideas an d educational values to the area Burlingame 2000. As a result of the agricultural, demographic and economic history in the area, the farmers are fairly self sufficient, which has fostered awareness for their own and their families personal health and t he importance of not using expensive pesticides on their crops Mi. Brenes, pers. Comm.. In 1992, a group of about 15 farmers in the Monteverde area joined the Small Organic Producers Association of Costa Rica to learn about different organic production methods, and currently experiment with different techniques Burlingame 2000. Although nobody in the area is certified as organic, there are several local organic in practice producers that sell to local hotels and occasionally to local stores, and the ma jority farmers in the area organically grow enough produce to feed their families Me.Brenes, pers. Comm..
5 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 for conventional produce, so organic farmers, like Melvin Brenes, rely on selling directly to individual clients and to local hotels Me. Brenes, Pers. Comm.. However, there is a poten tial 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 f armers 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 incentive may be provided to the local businesses to both separate organic produce from non organic produce. Ideally, higher and fair prices will be paid to the farmers for the extra work that goes into producing organic goods. High demand for organic produce may give lo cal farmers reason to produce more organic products, as well as put the time, money and effort into official certification Burlingame 2000. MATERIALS AND METHODS First, I spoke with local organic farmers in order to clarify their reasoning for growing organic produce, as well as where the farmers distribute their produce and how much they are being compensated Appendix. Since no farmers in the area are certified organic, they were chosen as organic based on whether they use chemicals or not. Organ ic plantains and oranges were purchased from Climaco Castro and organic lettuce from Melvin Brenes. Lettuce was sold at Supermercado La Esperanza , VedulerÃa Santa Elena and Supermercado Vargas. Oranges and plantains were sold at Supermercado MontaÃ±a an d the PulperÃa 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 purchase 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 understanding of customer behavior in the area. Differences between customer groups will result in demands for dif ferent products Thompson 1998 . Supermercado La Espe ranza The Supermercado La Esperanza is the main, centrally 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 Supermerca do 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. VedulerÃa Santa Elena The VedulerÃa 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
6 organic. The majority of people who shop here are local customers, tourists or other people who are looking for a specific product. Su permercado Vargas Christian Vargas also owns the Supermercado Vargas in Monteverde, a small convenience store that serves the immediate needs of the local people in Monteverde. The people who frequent this area tend to be foreign tourists, expats or Qua kers, and thus may have more awareness and education as to the importance of buying organic. Supermercado MontaÃ±a The Supermercado MontaÃ±a, owned by Victor , is nestled in Cerro Plano and functions as a convenience store for local people in the area. The small selection of products includes general items and a small produce section that is purchased from the Supermercado La Esperanza. PulperÃa in San Luis The PulperÃa 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 organ ic produce directly from either ClÃmaco Cruz oranges and plantains or Melvin Brenes lettuce at the beginning 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 ÂorganicÂ‚ and placed next to unmarked box of the same product e.g. unlabeled lettuce next to labeled organic lettuce, which accounted for any appearance differences between organic and non organic produce. A simple count of organic vs. unlabeled purcha ses was taken for one hour at equal prices, and then again for another hour with a ten percent increase for labeled produce. Preference for organics versus 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 equal 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.
7 0 1 2 3 4 5 Organic Non-organic Type Number Purchased Equal price 10% increase FIGURE 1. Mean purchase frequency of organic and non organic lettuce at both equal prices and with a ten percent price increase on the organic lettuce. There was a significant difference in mean purchase frequency of organ ic lettuce over non organic lettuce at equal prices Sign Test, n = 9, p < 0.05. Mean data was significant for people buying organic lettuce versus non organic lettuce with a ten percent increase on organic lettuce Sign Test, n = 10, p < 0.05. In gene ral, both organic produce and total produce 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 all three sites where lettuce was sold, followed by the VedulerÃa in Santa Elena and lastly, the Supermercado in Monteverde Figure 2. 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 La Esperanza Super Vargas Veduleria Vargas Store Number 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 Supermercado MontaÃ±a and the PulperÃa in San Luis, only organic oranges and plantains were bought at the Supermercado MontaÃ±a in Cerro Plano, regardless of price Figure 3.
8 0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5 3 3.5 Organic Oranges Non-organic Oranges Organic Plantains Non-organic Plantains Type Number Purchased equal price 10% increase FIGURE 3. Purchase frequencies at the Supermercado MontaÃ±a. Number of organic and non organic oranges bought at the same price and then with a ten percent increase on organic oranges. Purchase frequencies of organic and non organic plantains at the same price and then with a ten percent increase on organic plantains. No non organic oranges or plantains were bought. Average differences in purchase frequency between organic and unlabeled 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 Type Number 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 fo r 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 Sig n 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 PulperÃa in San Luis, regardless of type or price.
9 0 0.25 0.5 0.75 1 1.25 Organic Non-organic Type Number Purchased Equal price 10% increase FIGURE 5. Mean purchas e frequency of organic 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 increase on the organic plantains Sign Test, n = 2, p > 0.05. Figure 3. Additional Observations Customers buying produce in all stores tended to display similar behaviors. They all s eemed 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 environments, people thoroughly examined the produce they were buying. However, there was one customer in the S upermercado La Esperanza who bought four unlabeled lettuces, even though she had the option of buying organic at the same price. She is responsible for the only non organic lettuce purchased at the same price of organic lettuce on Figure 2. Although t here was not significant demand for plantains or oranges in the Supermercado MontaÃ±a, customers did purchase a few oranges and plantains, and they always chose organic when given the choice Figure 3. It should be noted that the organic produce that I di splayed, whether it be plantains, oranges or lettuce, typically appeared fresher, and was usually larger than their non organic 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 that organic production is the healthiest option. Some stated health as the practical reason for growing organically, whereas some farmers knew of other benefits for their land and the envir onment. For example, Milton Brenes talked about how growing organically, selecting seeds, rotating crops, using organic matter as fertilizer and other natural methods are important to sustain the microorganisms that maintain nutritious soil Mi. Brenes, p ers. Comm.. All the farmers I spoke with cultivate organic fruits and vegetables e.g. chayotes, plantains, sweet lemons, etc to feed their families. The majority of farmers only grow organic vegetables for subsistence, but they make money off of milk and cheese production and/or coffee G. Lobo, pers. comm.. The farmers 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 lo cal stores 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.
10 Store owners understand the importance of consuming organic products for per sonal health, but their ability to obtain and sell organic produce differs between locations. The produce that the Supermercado La Esperanza buys comes from outside Monteverde and is usually non organic. Both the Supermercado MontaÃ±a and the PulperÃa in San Luis get their produce trucked in from the Supermercado La Esperanza E. Cruz, Victor, Dania, pers. comm.. Victor, the owner of Supermercado MontaÃ±a says that he buys organic when he can and separates it, but this is rare due to the difficulty in fin ding a local source of organic produce. He also believes that consumers would 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 organi c produce Victor, pers. comm.. Dania, the owner of the PulperÃa in San Luis, says that it is very important to consume organic produce, but that it is difficult in San Luis for two reasons: a in San Luis, all the fruits and 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 sep arate and label it as organic, she makes sure to inform her customers if the produce they are buying is organic and local Dania, pers. comm.. Christian, the owner of the VedulerÃa Santa Elena and Supermercado Vargas in Monteverde, seeks out 90% of produ ce for his stores in Heredia himself at CENNDA Centro Nacional de Distribueron Agro., which is often organic. The other ten percent comes from local, small scale organic farmers. However, he currently does not separate or label organic versus non organi c 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 the c onclusion that there is a demand for certain types of organic produce in Monteverde. Survey data, in conjunction with interviews, suggest that local people know that organic produce is much better for personal health and well being than the consumption of pesticide residue 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 healthy choices, rather than with environmenta lly conscious consumption Shepherd et al. 2005. The same seemed true in this study, considering everyone from taxi drivers to the owners of the stores emphasized how much healthier organic products are than the alternatives. The only people that ever m entioned 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 org anic lettuce vs. the lack of demand for oranges or plantains organic or otherwise can be explained by the fact that lettuce is not a product that citizens of Monteverde can easily grow in their backyard. Plantains and oranges, on the other hand, are pro ducts 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 incr ease growth success. Overall, the demand for organics in Monteverde and 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.
11 There were trends in consumer behaviors between stores, which can largely be explained by the location of the store and its clientele. The amount of lettuce purchased was greatest in the Supermercado La Esperanza, followed by the VedulerÃa in Santa Elena and t he Supermercado MontaÃ±a respectively, which is most likely due to the increasing distance from a central location in Santa Elena, as well as the difference in store sizes. However, there was not a significant difference in the preference for organic lettu ce between the stores. This may be attributed to customer differentiation due to variation in store size, location and demographics. For example, the Supermercado La Esperanza may have a lot of customers and sell a lot of lettuce relative to the other st ores, 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 products Thompson 1998. The V edulerÃa in Santa Elena may be a small store, but it sells a relatively large amount of produce, and many curious tourists and local people shop there for their vegetables because it is easily accessible, quick and convenient C. Vargas, pers. comm.. A lthough further research is necessary to test the following prediction, I think that if the demand for lettuce could be tested at the Supermercado MontaÃ±a along with the rest of the stores, there would also be a significant demand here as well. I also pred ict future research to show a local demand for organic produce that cannot be grown in San Luis because it would be more convenient for San Luis residents to go to the PulperÃa 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 produce has important implications for farmers and the store owners, as well as the relationships between them and local consumers. Judging from the store owners responses and the consu mer demand for organic lettuce 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 hand, do not see a reason to produce more than what they need to feed their families. It is questionable that even if the farmers wanted to grow to sell, they would not be able to because of the seasonality of many produce types. However, as a demand for organic leafy vegetables rises in the area, more incentive exists for the farmers to produce more. Education efforts geared towards teaching local farmers organic farming methods may also aid in recruitmen t 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 for the farmers Crucefix 1998. In creased communication within producer vendor consumer relationships 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 bene fits to shareholders, the costs and complications for both producers and consumers can be overwhelming. As with anything, the hardest part is getting started, and in the case of Monteverde, it will take cooperation and a bit of sacrifice on everyone s par t to get the ball rolling. Halweil 2005, talks about a middle ground being the best road to take: organic and sustainable agricultural techniques incorporated into conventional farming systems that use limited chemicals when they are absolutely needed. This method is easier and would allow for
12 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 orga nic Halweil 2005. The aforementioned method is a good start on the road of sustainability for the Monteverde area, but in the end, this method will not be enough. There needs to be communication between local 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 farmers are willing to take risks and in vest 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 certi fication costs. Melvin Brenes has achieved success in many ways, including growing many types of produce at different times of the year, as well as attained enough financial success to expand production on his model farm. His model exemplifies that organ ic production can be accomplished in the Monteverde area on a scale that is marketable, and he could provide insight to other interested farmers, or contribute to an educational program that may be geared toward helping producers in getting started, as wel l 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 and also for letting me drop off so much lettuce at their house every week. Muchas gracias a mi familia tica Xinia Araya LeitÃ³n y familia por todo su amor, ayuda y las arepas ricas. Also, thanks to Climaco Castro and Mel vin 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 Hawks your incredi ble Spanish 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. B itter Fruit: Attractive supermarket displays of tropical fruit conceal ugly environmental and social costs. Alternatives Journal. 244: 18 25. Bawa et al. 2004. Beyond Paradise: Meeting the Challenges in Tropical Biology in the 21 st Century. Association f or Tropical Biology and Conservation. Supplement: 1 9. Burlingame, Leslie J. ÂConservation in the Monteverde Zone.Â‚ IN: Nalini M. Nadkarni. and Nathaniel T. Wheelwright 2000 ed. Monteverde: Ecology and Conservation of a Tropical Cloud Forest. Oxford Univ ersity 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. 294: 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. 193: 18 24. Perfecto, Ivette. 2003. Review of: Conservation throu gh an agroecological lens. Ecology. 8411: 3100 3102. Pimentel, D. et al. 2005. Environmental, energetic, and economic comparisons of organic and conventional farming systems. Bioscience. 557: 573 583. Shepherd et al. 2005. Determinants of consumer be havior related to organic foods. Ambio. 344/5: 352 360.
13 Thompson, Gary D. 1998. Consumer demand for organic foods: What we know and what we need to know. American Journal of Agricultural Economics. 805: 1113 1118. APPENDIX Common Questions for Farme rs: o Â¿CÃ³mo cultiva cosechas orgÃ¡nicas? Â¿Por quÃ©? o Â¿QuÃ© cultiva usted? o Â¿A QuiÃ©n vÃ©ndelos ? Â¿ EspecÃficamente , que vende a cada cliente? o Â¿Por cuÃ¡ntas? EspecÃficamente , cuantos verduras y frutas, y cuantas por cada fruta o caja, etc. o Â¿En total, Cada semana y cada mes, cuantas gana usted por su verduras y frutas que vende al supermercado, u otros negocios locales? o Â¿Ud. sabe otras personas que cultivan orgÃ¡nicos ? Common Questions for Store Owners: o Â¿QuÃ© piensa orgÃ¡nica? Â¿QuÃ© significa a usted? Â¿Importa o no? o Â¿Us ted piensa que personas locales quieren comprar verduras y frutas orgÃ¡nicas ? o Â¿De quiÃ©n usted compra sus frutas y verduras? o Â¿Compre de campesinos que venden frutas y verduras orgÃ¡nicas ? Â¿Por quÃ© si o no? o Â¿Usted separa orgÃ¡nicos y los productos que no son orgÃ¡nicos en cajas diferentes ? Â¿Por quÃ© si o no?