Chocolate Farming

30 Mar 2011, Posted by admin in Stories, No Comments.

Chocolate Farming

A group of Cincinnati high school students visiting Costa Rica immersed themselves in ecotourism experiences March 28 and 29.

Eighteen Walnut Hills High School students spent two days hiking along the Rio Carbonero, horseback riding and zip lining through the Corcovado National Rainforest and touring an organic chocolate farm.

“”I’m not really a nature person, so at first I thought it was going to be kind of not so cool,” said Maya Hall, 15, of the nature hike. “But it was a really great experience.”

Morgan’s Jungle Lodge, owned by Cincinnati native Gary Morgan and his family, is hosting the students for a 10-day trip as part of an online course development project at Walnut Hills.

Morgan took several of the students through the Rio Carbonero, a river located in the Corcovado rainforest on the Osa Peninsula, where they had the opportunity to identify wildlife and explore the rainforest Monday, March 28. Students ended the hike with a jump off a waterfall into a pool below.

“Jumping off a waterfall — it’s not an everyday thing,” said Hall, a freshman at Walnut Hills.

Meanwhile, a second group of the students went horseback riding at Rio Nuevo Lodge, owned by Walter Aguierre.

“I really appreciated the beauty of it.” said Brandon Miller, a 15-year-old freshman at Walnut Hills. “After all, there’s not a lot of rainforest in Ohio.”

Tuesday, March 29, the students visited Finca Kobo, an organic farm in Palo Seco that produces 25 types of crop, including chocolate, pineapple, bananas and sugar cane.

“Finca Kobo is more than a farm. It’s a family’s dream to create living harmony between organic agriculture, people, forest and animals,” according to the farm, which is owned by local Alexander Retana Mena and his family.

Students saw organic crops, including cacao beans, and the process by which the beans are made into chocolate. During the tour, Retana Mena picked fresh pineapple, starfruit and cacao beans for the students to sample. The visit ended with a lunch of fresh fruit and homemade chocolate sauce.

“Getting to see the process and getting to taste the final product at the end was pretty cool because it was pure instead of American — pure chocolate,” Hall said. During the tour, Retana Mena explained that most milk chocolate sold in the United States only contained approximately 25 percent chocolate.

Also in Palo Seco, the Osa Palmas bar and restaurant offers zip lining tours through another section of the Corcovado rainforest. The students spent approximately one hour soaring above the rainforest canopy.

“I felt like this trip was slowly making my life complete,” Hall said. “Jumping off a waterfall isn’t something you can do in Cincinnati — like zip lining.”

Bill Schnure, a biology teacher at Walnut Hills, is developing an online course based on the Costa Rica trip, which he wants to make an annual excursion that would give students to chance to learn about a foreign environment and develop an understanding of a country that prides itself on its ecotourism.

The students will be in Costa Rica until Sunday, April 3.


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