Organic and Sustainable Business

Worth the Retreat: One Week At Finca Luna Nueva

Photo by  Compass Natural

Perspective by Steven Hoffman, Compass Natural Marketing

Eco-resort and certified Biodynamic farm Finca Luna Nueva, situated at the base of 250,000 acres of pristine rainforest surrounding the Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica, provides visitors an ideal setting for corporate retreats, vacation, and reconnecting with the natural world.

San Isidro, Costa Rica (April 27, 2019) – Walking on a solo hike through the rainforest at Finca Luna Nueva, a magical, “rustic luxury” eco-resort and certified Biodynamic farm at the foot of the Children’s Eternal Rainforest near San Isidro, Costa Rica, listening to the primal scream of the Howler monkeys and the loud calls of the Oropendola birds in the tall trees above me, I am reminded of the innate intelligence of Mother Earth.

Of how everything is connected. The cycles of life, death, decay and rebirth and the abundance of nature – how it all works together to foster new life all around us. Nature is a community we are a part of, not just a commodity for us to selfishly exploit without any consideration for other life or the environment. All of this is clearly visible every which way you look in the lush rainforest surrounding the farm and resort.

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It can be seen in the tropical saplings growing quickly through the stumps of fallen trees that came before. In how the leaf cutter ants recycle organic matter and build soil fertility by harvesting bits of foliage throughout the jungle to feed a fungus they cultivate in their underground nests to farm their own food.

A delicate balance of natural resource and nutrient usage. Plants and animals taking advantage of a new niche when a giant tree falls, leaving a gap of light in the dense forest canopy that quickly fills in with eager new growth. The myriad, complex defense mechanisms the jungle’s living creatures create for survival. A mother three-toed sloth watching carefully as she begins to train her baby to fend for itself in a tree for a few moments before cradling it again in the comfort of her lap. How the tall Cecropia tree, with its dangling seed pods, draws different species of birds including colorful toucans at different times of day to eat and spread the tree’s seeds in the forest. How the tiny red poison dart frog has to eat certain species of ants that in turn have to eat certain species of plants in order for the frog to manufacture its particular brand of poison with which it defends itself.

You begin to see how it's all connected, and how life has evolved so that it's all dependent on each other and on the Earth itself. Mother Nature abhors a monoculture; that's evident in the cacophony of rich biodiversity represented at Finca Luna Nueva.

It’s all connected, and if you tug on one thread, like we humans are doing with the environment, there is a great risk that it all unravels.

Three-toed sloth and baby, regular residents at Finca Luna Nueva in Costa Rica.

Three-toed sloth and baby, regular residents at Finca Luna Nueva in Costa Rica.

A Vortex of Biodiversity

Finca Luna Nueva is located at the base of 250,000 acres of primary and secondary rainforest, with the still-active Arenal Volcano looming over all. One of its owners, and my host for the week, Tom Newmark, Co-founder of the Carbon Underground and former Co-owner of New Chapter Vitamins, explains it like this:

“Here we are in the very middle of Central America, at the nexus point of a narrow land bridge connecting the immense continents of North America and South America. In addition, we are at a central location with the Atlantic Ocean immediately to the east, and the Pacific Ocean

immediately to the west. It is a critical corridor of biodiversity. This ‘vortex’ has created one of the most biodiverse regions in one of the most biodiverse countries on the planet – and Finca Luna Nueva, with its 224 acres of rainforest and regenerative “food forest,” is smack dab in the middle of all that. We’ve been told this is one of the most biodiverse farms on the planet!”

Trail at Finca Luna Nueva.

Trail at Finca Luna Nueva.

"Rustic Luxury" Retreat Center

I came to Finca Luna Nueva as the guest of Tom and his wife Terry Newmark, and Co-founder and farm manager Steven Farrell, as Compass Natural has the great fortune of helping with marketing and PR for this incredible place. The resort’s mission is to raise awareness of environmental issues and regenerative and Biodynamic agriculture, and provide a memorable corporate retreat and conference center for mission-based companies and organizations in natural, organic, regenerative and related products and services.

With its open air meeting center, a soon to be completed poolside restaurant and bar constructed with bamboo and other natural building materials, spa, hot tub, rooms and individual cabins, organic food grown on the farm and served in its restaurant – and an amazingly kind, courteous and muy amable staff – I highly recommend Finca Luna Nueva to reconnect with your company’s mission, your people, Mother Nature ... and yourself.

Natural Building Highlighted

An unexpected highlight of my trip was arriving at Finca Luna Nueva right at the start of a natural building workshop that was being conducted on the farm by Dome Gaia, an organization founded by Hajjar Gibran, grand nephew of late author and poet Kahlil Gibran.

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Led by instructors Rafael “Rafa” Bravo and Gabriel De La Cruz, the workshop attracted nearly 30 people from all over the world to learn to build affordable, sustainable dome buildings made from “AirCrete.” Made with cement and the foam of dish detergent (the instructors specifically use Seventh Generation dish detergent, due to its particular formulation!), the lightweight AirCrete blocks are meant to help people the world over to build low-cost, eco-friendly dome buildings and homes. The group embraced me warmly into the fold and I witnessed and photographed the dome getting built in just 10 days. You never know when you’re going to learn something new ... and meet great people!

My journey to Finca Luna Nueva was a meaningful one for me, as it marked the 40th anniversary of my first entering the Peace Corps in 1978 at the age of 22 and a return to this rich Central American country. While I was eventually assigned to serve in Honduras, I lived for three months with a wonderful Costa Rican family while receiving immersive training in tropical agriculture and Spanish language and culture at the Peace Corps’ training center in La Guacima Alajuela, near the capital of San Jose.

Natural building, natural food, natural world. Thank you, Tom, Terry, Steven and everyone at Finca Luna Nueva. While I’ve returned to my home in beautiful Boulder, CO, a piece of mi corazón will always remain in Costa Rica, and, “si Dios quiere,” I look forward to a return visit to my beloved Finca Luna Nueva. As the Costa Ricans say, Pura Vida, everyone!

Corporate Retreats Available

If you’re interested in exploring corporate and organizational meetings, workshops and retreats at Finca Luna Nueva, contact us at Compass Natural and we’ll be pleased to share more information and connect you with the very professional team at Finca Luna Nueva. Our associate Evan Tompros will be pleased to be of assistance. Contact evan@compassnaturalmarketing.com.

Resources
Finca Luna Nueva
Brave Earth
Dome Gaia
Ecological Building Network
Tom Newmark’s vanilla blog

From left: Terry and Tom Newmark, co-owners of Finca Luna Nueva.

From left: Terry and Tom Newmark, co-owners of Finca Luna Nueva.

Photos by Steven Hoffman

What the Flock? USDA Seeks to Kill Organic Animal Welfare Rule

Source: Presence Marketing Newsletter, January 2018
Author: Steven Hoffman

December 21, 2017

After repeatedly delaying implementation of an Obama-era rule that would have required organic egg producers to provide actual outdoor access for their hens, USDA announced in mid-December it plans to withdraw the new organic animal welfare rule altogether.

Originally approved in January 2017 by President Obama in his final days in office, the organic animal welfare standards, known as the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule (OLPP), would have prohibited enclosed “porches” in large-scale organic poultry houses in favor of real outdoor access for the birds. The new rule would have established minimum indoor space for the birds, as well.

USDA acted under pressure from large-scale pork and other livestock producers, who are threatened by any federal regulations regarding animal welfare, as well as a small handful of “industrial scale” organic egg producers. According to the USDA, at least 50 percent of the eggs currently sold as organic come from industrial-scale producers like Mississippi-based Cal-Maine, which houses up to 200,000 hens in a single, multistory aviary with porches, reported AgWeek in November 2016.

The fact that half of all certified organic eggs sold come from industrial-sized poultry houses with no real outdoor access for the hens is a situation that angers hundreds of other organic egg producers that do provide outdoor access for their birds. George Siemon, CEO of Organic Valley, requires its egg producers to provide outdoor space for its hens, saying it’s what consumers want and that it is a fundamental part of organic agriculture. “It needs to be a whole system that features the bird’s basic needs, and there’s no doubt that a hen wants to be outside scratching in the ground,” he told National Public Radio in support of the rule.

One organic activist group, the Cornucopia Institute, has even put together an "Organic Egg Scorecard" that rates different organic suppliers based on how closely they're aligned with Cornucopia's vision of humane, pasture-based organic egg production.

USDA: “Not Our Job”

In an announcement published in the Federal Register on December 19, 2017, USDA claimed the rule in question “would exceed USDA’s statutory authority,” which it says is limited to health care practices. “Withdrawal of the OLPP also is independently justified based upon USDA’s revised assessments of its benefits and burdens and USDA’s view of sound regulatory policy,” a department spokesperson said in a statement.

Dismayed by USDA’s decision, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) said in a statement, “This groundless step by USDA is being taken against a backdrop of nearly universal support among the organic businesses, and consumers for the fully vetted rules that USDA has now rejected. It is against this overwhelming public input that USDA ignores growing consumer demands for food transparency. Consumers trust that the Organic seal stands for a meaningful difference in production practices. It makes no sense that the Trump Administration would pursue actions that could damage a marketplace that is giving American farmers a profitable alternative, creating jobs, and improving the economies of our rural areas. Most striking is the administration’s continued confusion that organic standards are mandatory rather than voluntary. Farmers, ranchers and businesses choose to be in the organic marketplace, and Congress intended that industry and consumers work together to develop organic standards. This action undermines that goal.”

OTA originally filed a lawsuit against USDA in September 2017 to force implementation of the animal welfare rule. After learning of USDA’s decision to withdraw the rule, it took again to the courts to uphold organic standards. “In anticipation of the USDA’s continued attempts to kill this regulation, the Organic Trade Association last Friday filed an amended complaint in Federal Court. We will continue our fight to uphold organic standards, that this Administration continues to willfully ignore by repeatedly delaying this fully vetted and final voluntary organic standard, and now proposing to withdraw it. We will see the department in court and are confident that we will prevail on this important issue for the organic sector, OTA said."

Could OTA’s Lawsuit Backfire?

Max Goldberg, publisher of Organic Insider, cautions, however, that OTA’s lawsuit could backfire. If the lawsuit fails, “USDA might feel that is has strong legal ground to rescind previously enacted organic regulations, which has the potential to completely dismantle the entire organic industry,” Goldberg warned. “This all comes down to how an administration wants to interpret OFPA (the Organic Food Production Act). Does it want to interpret OFPA literally and not create any new regulations? Or does it want to interpret OFPA broadly and use it to create regulations that move the organic industry forward? With the Trump administration, it is definitely the former, not the latter,” he wrote.

The organic industry’s success reflects consumers’ increasing demand for transparency in how their food is produced and their support of humane treatment of farm animals, said a coalition of animal welfare groups in an August 2017 report. "A national survey conducted in 2016 found that the vast majority of consumers (77 percent) are concerned about the welfare of animals raised for food. In research conducted by the nation’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart, two-thirds of the company’s customers stated that they are more likely to shop at a retailer that improves the treatment of livestock," the report stated, adding that support for humane animal treatment was even stronger among consumers who buy organic foods.

“Consumers expect the USDA Organic seal to represent high standards for animal welfare. If consumers come to believe that organic regulations do not align with their expectations or their values, the long-term success of the organic program will be threatened. For the benefit of animals, farmers, and consumers, the USDA should act immediately to implement the OLPP rule. The future of the organic marketplace depends on it,” the report concluded.

Public Comments Encouraged

USDA is seeking public comments regarding its announcement to withdrawal the OLLP rule. Deadline for comment is January 18, 2018. To comment and for more information, visit https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/organic-livestock-and-poultry-practices.

Organic agriculture as a solution to climate change

we could remove up to 78 Gt (78,000,000,000 tons) of carbon from the atmosphere simply by rejuvenating soils that have been depleted of carbon by conventional farming methods.