Dreaming of Passion Fruit Jam and Cocoa Wine in Costa Rica
This is the story of a dream come true over many years of struggle.
We are the Calderón Marin family: my wife Maria Elena, our 12 year old daughter Monserrath, our 5 year old son Tomas, & myself Vinicio. We all live together on a 17,000 square meters plot of land in Chachagua, in the province of Alajuela (Barrantes Street, Chachagua, San Ramón Canton, Peñas Blancas District, Alajuela).
Our dream began to germinate 22 years ago--in the beginning it was just a farm with no house, only a small street with an entrance and diverse trees. Over the years a house was built along with an internal road, two cabins and a ranch. The idea of ecological tourism was always present. We have planted vanilla, cacao, coffee, pepper and a large number of trees, a few planted and most by regeneration.
The last 6 years we participated in a process to certify our country estate with the program named “Blue Flag”. With this program we protect the environment and reduce use of electricity, recycle rain water and we are accountable for the fuel used on cars and the work cutting grass. Since 2015 we are registered as a Carbon Neutral company. The objective of this program is to reduce the quantity of carbon produced by the absorption of carbon dioxide by the trees we have.
As I mentioned before, we always wanted to use our farm for eco tourism, but it has been difficult due to time and making contacts with tourist companies. Both my wife and I are educators, my wife is an elementary school teacher and I am a high school teacher of agro ecology. In 2016 we had the idea of making jam at home--the economic situation was not the best so we had to do something. At first we thought of tomato jam, but after some research online we decided on passion fruit jam as it is not very common and it is an exquisite fruit.
We did not have money, but from what little was left of the salary we bought the fruit and the jars. We wanted it to be glass container for less contamination, and the labels had to be striking. We started with an iron pot and electric stove. My wife investigated how to seal the jam, then we bought a little machine to make the labels that would have the expiration dates.
My wife started selling the jam at a farmer’s market January 2017 in La Fortuna de San Carlos and a farmer’s market on Ciudad Quesada. It didn’t sell well, but we had positive reviews and made important contacts with farmer’s markets and entrepreneurs. We went to University Earth in Guácimo Limón and there we sold many jars and for the first time we realized it wasn’t a crazy idea.
We had the idea to leave samples in hotels in La Fortuna de San Carlos which didn’t work, but those left in restaurants did sell.
It was hard to find time because of our jobs. A friend told us about how the cocoa business was lucrative. We have some cocoa trees so we started to grind cocoa in a little coffee grinder and we packaged it with black with a little valve to make it different than other products. We sold it at different markets. The coffee grinder burnt out and we bought a new machine to grind different types of grains.
We analyzed the possibility of making other jams. Now we make jam from fruits such as tomatoes, pineapple, strawberry, blackberry, pepper and star fruit. Depending on which fair we are invited to, we bring different products: for example, coffee jam to the coffee fair. However, all these fruits don’t grow on our farm so we buy them from nearby farmers, helping their livelihoods as well.
Our newer products are cocoa wine, strawberry and passion fruit wine. The best seller is cocoa wine. It is an interesting product that we think can sell here as well as export to other countries.
We are selling our products almost all over the country with the Finca Iza brand. We tell our clients that it is a family business and we are dedicated to use high quality ingredients and we care about the environment. It is a growing and learning process. In 2019 we want to make a small processing plant, without neglecting the handcrafted part, and so we are applying to grants to obtain financial funds.
In particular, we are looking for assistance with improving the management of the company and help finding possible sources of financing.
(Translation by Adriana Cormier)