If you are a permaculture lover, or if you’re looking for an eco-friendly place to visit in Costa Rica, the Rancho Margot should interest you!
Located near the Arenal Volcano, Rancho Margot is an eco-resort, an organic farm & a science lab.
I visited Rancho Margot when I was working, a few miles away, as a volunteer in a Butterfly Conservatory. This new generation of eco-resort dwells on two principles: regenerative agriculture, which means regenerating natural ecosystems through agriculture; and holistic management which uses resources through a systemic and cyclical approach.
I found it positive and exciting that hotels contribute to regenerating biodiversity. I learned a lot during the guided tour and am very happy to share with you some of their knowledge and wisdom.
Regeneration off the grid
As all other places that I’m interested in, the Rancho Margot combines tourism, production and education in a virtuous way.
In 2004, Juan Sostheim the founder of Rancho Margot purchased 400 acres of pasture. He fell in love with the breathtaking view of the land riding his horse to the mountain top. Although the land was 90% cleared of all vegetation, like many others in Costa Rica that have destroyed the native rainforest to raise cattle. He decided to develop it while regenerating it.
Rancho Margot is Costa Rica’s best example of a self-sufficient eco-lodge. There are luxury bungalows as well as backpackers’ dorms, a farm, and some natural pools tucked in the jungle. One can sleep and eat there, as well as practice various activities (farm tours, horseback riding, yoga, etc). Everything is produced on site: food, furniture, soaps, electricity, compost. And the facility created 50 local jobs.
At Rancho Margot, all the food is organic and produced on the property (veggies, fruits, meat, eggs, milk). While producing food for humans, regenerative agriculture aims to recreate habitats for the local biodiversity. They grow garden lettuce as well as jungle bananas 🙂
The Rancho Margot has a zero carbon footprint. All the energy needed is produced on site thanks to solar and hydraulic power supplied by a river that flows on the property. All waste is reused and transformed. The idea is to view materials as a resource going from one cycle to another. All waste is a resource, and they have creative ways to put them in to use.
The organic waste is gathered to create compost. Animal manures are used to naturally heat the hotel’s showers. They are also given to worms who love it and are able to turn huge piles of shit into wonderful high quality compost (vermicompost) that will be used to feed the plants.
Animal urines are collected through an underground infrastructure which is based on the natural topography of the terrain, letting gravity do its work. Animal urines are transformed through an anaerobic digestion process process into a biogas used in the restaurant kitchens.
Talking about gross undesirable waste… the oils used to fry food in the restaurant are transformed into delicious scented soaps. Farm glam at its best!
The Rancho Margot is part of a wider trend called « farm-to-table » restaurants and hotels. The experience is about being deeply immersed into an environment that feeds you.
The restaurant only cooks with the farm produces: chicken, pigs, cows, milk, eggs and seasonal fruits and veggies. The whole property is organized around food production, the hotel facilities slipping discreetly in between the fields, the stables and the greenhouses.
How not to be touched by such delicious mini filet mignon suckling their mother ❤
In symbiosis with the landscape
All the buildings have green roofs. Earth tiles are laid on top of metallic roofing. Plants, and even small trees, keep the buildings cool.
Fences also follow the rhythm of living organisms.
They are made out of branches directly cut from trees. They are planted into the ground and connected by wire cables. Unlike metal or plastic fences, those « living fences » are alive and evolve with time, attracting a great biodiversity of insects, birds and butterflies.
The laws of nature, from gravity to synergy, are the true secret of sustainability.
Rancho Margot does a lot of experiments, studying their own practices in order to improve them and share their learning through workshops. Far more than just an eco-lodge, Rancho Margot is a living school, training volunteers and interns from around the world. As a giant of the local economy, the Rancho Margot supports its community. They help with children’s education in the village funding language, music and sport programs.
If you want to learn more, here is a selection of different videos, each has its own touch 😉
Rancho Margot – official version
Rancho Margot – local version
Rancho Margot – US version
From kitchen oils to soaps
-Volunteer at Rancho Margot : http://www.ranchomargot.com/
-« The Planet to Plate Podcast » : a podcast about innovative sustainable ways of farming – especially the episode with Kevin Watt : « Regenerative vs. degenerative agriculture »
-My article : « Butterfly & Rainforest regeneration »
-My article : « Manifesto »
-My article : « Hiking the Cerro Chato Volcano »
-My article : « Ecosystem Designer »
-National Geographic, « 50 places to stay if you care about the planet »