Transformation Toward Sustainability on a Costa Rican Coffee Farm


Earth, Environment, and Society



Document Type



agroecology, organic agriculture, agrotourism, coffee value chain, resilience, diversity, education




This case study examines how smallholder coffee producers can overcome the economic and environmental challenges from dominant production structures of agrochemical application and the sale of unprocessed beans at low, market-determined prices. This study is guided by the questions posed by local coffee farmers themselves: How can one successfully shift away from wasteful and harmful practices to those that support the health of the family, community, and environment? We track how El Toledo Coffee Farm in Costa Rica has harnessed natural systems and knowledge sharing, facilitated by international travel to transform challenges into opportunities. Here, we highlight how this family-run coffee farm has (1) implemented agroecological methods, (2) harnessed economic benefits of processing organic coffee and developing innovative products from coffee fruits, and (3) examine psychological factors that have made these transformations possible. By examining the development of integrated coffee production from three distinct academic perspectives, we found that mental flexibility and receptiveness to new ideas, combined with an appreciation of sustainable, traditional practices and values, have spawned various beneficial agroecological practices. These ideas and practices were often initiated by interactions with visitors to the farm, supporting the idea that globalization can foster sustainable food systems and promote collective ecological action through knowledge transfer and shared concern for local environments and communities. The mentality of embracing challenges as opportunities to invest in healthy soils and agroforestry and expand their business model by offering tours and varied products replicates ecological resilience attained through diversity.





Published in

Case Studies in the Environment

Citation/Other Information

Häger, A., Little, M., Amel, E.L., and Calderón, G. (2021). Transformation Toward Sustainability on a Costa Rican Coffee Farm. Case Studies in the Environment, 5(1). https://doi.org/10.1525/cse.2021.1227777