Story and Video by Chinmay Vaidya
SAN LUIS, Costa Rica —Rancho de Lelo is a ranch in the slopes of San Luis, a small rural community in northwest Costa Rica.
But Lelo Mata, the farm’s owner, has found a way to build on his current business and create a model for sustainability.
Mata grows sugarcane, plantains and yucca on his farm. He also maintains livestock, including chickens and pigs. He uses a biodigester to recycle livestock waste for use as fertilizer and to generate gas for cooking.
Mata has a tilapia farm with over 4,000 fish. He has built several ponds, each with fish of different sizes. The water in the ponds comes from a stream in the mountains. Mata said the water is extremely clean and doesn’t need to be treated. He also collects oranges from the trees surrounding the tilapia ponds.
Mata’s crops and livestock are used in the Rancho de Lelo restaurant. When it comes to the restaurant business, Mata said he values quality over quantity.
“Maybe we are not interested in the amount of people, but rather the quality of service that we give them,” he said through a translator. “We have families that come and spend the whole day here and have a good time.”
He plans to add a pool and several small houses to his self-sustaining farm to attract small tour groups.
Rancho de Lelo supports the forest as well as Mata’s family. Because the farm doesn’t use any chemicals or excess land, the surrounding forest provides habitat for birds and small mammals.
Thanks to Mata’s efforts, his farm is able to sustain his family’s needs for several weeks between trips to the store, while conserving the environment.