consumingcostarica

Cooking and eating through a new culture

La Feria Orgánica Buena Tierra Escazú

On Wednesdays, beginning at 8am, there is an organic market in Escazú.  Again, it was something I had heard about but had never gotten to. Type in “organic market Costa Rica” into Google and  La  Feria Orgánica Buena Tierra  is one of the first things to pop up. Since I have been all curious about this organic market trend, I talked Rafa into going with me before he had to be at work. Risking life (it was a restricted day for our car) and limb (I only had one cuppa coffee) we ventured out to see what this place had to offer. Passing the place three times, we finally realized this was it:

I hear crickets.

“That’s it?!” Rafa questions. I look at my watch and it says 9am, on the nose. Granted, the blog post stated to get there early, but we had already stocked up on the weekend so this was just an exploratory trip. Good thing. It was pretty desolate. Do the expat hordes descend at 8am on the dot and wipe the place out like locusts? Or is it a market for agoraphobes?

“Nope. It’s always like this” Sitting out, ostracized from the rest of what little there is, were my favorite cheese people from Queso Artesanal (aka the “Got Goat” cheese makers). We stayed and chatted with them. It seems they are trying to break into the market and they have been there on Wednesdays for some time. We urged them to look elsewhere. Their products are too divine to be only sold at a few tiny places. I found it ironic that people probably breezed past the best cheese in Costa Rica only to snap up a few heads of organic lettuce. Where are your priorities people?! We bought the camembert: because it’s awesome.

Next we came across a seafood seller: Balza Verde. He had a decent assortment of fresh and frozen products, including shrimp, calamari, and various fish. There was also a mix bag with shrimp, shellfish, calamari and Surimi (not a fan of that stuff). If you really need your fish fix, they will deliver to your home…but only if you live in Escazú or surrounding areas. We bought some frozen grouper to try. We’ll see.

Slim pick'ins

Desiccated desirables

Tasty nut butters and chocolate

A small covered structure at the back of the lot held the remains of what little fresh produce was left and a handful of prepared products. There were some preserves, beauty products, honey, and a sweet lady, from Good for you Foods, selling a wonderful assortment of dried fruits. I am definitely keeping her in mind for our next 10k hike. Nothing like making your own gorp! She also makes, of all things, homemade Korean Kimchi. I wanted to mention that since it has been the first time I have seen it here in Costa Rica. It’s not a favorite of mine, but those of you who love it, eat it with wild abandon. Just have a breath mint afterwards please.

I bought Rafa some homemade peanut butter with almonds and honey from Tierra Gourmet. I had seen her before in other venues and I like her spunk and drive…and she makes a damn fine good product. Try the cashew butter for a change of pace or some of her delectable chocolates.

But what was really worth the time and effort was this:

Trout!

Cured trout! OMG! The stuff is fish crack! I wanted to mainline it. It was so amazingly good. Bruno has a tiny operation out of his house where he cures and smokes fresh trout from the mountains in Los Santos region, and the Escazú market is the only place he sells it. See! I knew trout was around here somewhere.  But we had blown through what little money we had thinking we were not going to get much. Bruno, bless his heart, was going to give us some on credit. Not credit card. The real credit. We couldn’t do that and ended up just running to the closest ATM. When I dashed back with the colones in my hot little hands, Bruno cuts the last slab of trout off its skin, passes it to me and says “Get a bottle of Pinot Grigio with this and you will be happy.” Oh, I like him so much. If you can’t make it to the Wednesday market, he sells out of his house at maurach@ice.co.cr

People rave about this place and I see it mentioned all over the internet. What I found interesting was the complete absence of any mention of Feria Verde on the sites listing organic farmers markets. Why is that? Is there some Eastside/Westside organic turf war? Or is it that Escazú is its own little enclave and doesn’t recognize anything outside its borders that isn’t Atenas or Guanacaste? When we are in the area and tell people where we live, we almost always get puzzled looks. At first, I thought it was my pronunciation, but no. San Pedro/Zapote just does not register. It’s great that there are options for people who live in the central valley to have access to organic food. That’s not my point. I mean, if I am showing up an hour after it opens and it is picked clean of produce, why bother going? Why entice people to show up? And there wasn’t even coffee let alone any breakfast treats. The La Feria Orgánica Buena Tierra blog site states ” There is currently a selection of more than 70 fruits and vegetables.” I would have been surprised if there was a total of 70 individual pieces of produce!  At least at Feria Verde, there were ample products and if all else fails, there’s a number of places to plop down and nosh on some fantastic food. And it was bustling with people! If you ask me, a market needs that. Afterall, it is supposed to be a social community meeting place, for the benefit of the consumer and the producer.

Maybe we caught them on a bad day? Maybe it’s geared more towards the local regulars who fly in right at 8am? What I think, is that Escazú would benefit more from a farm share operation instead of a straight up market, especially on a Wednesday. People could just pick up and go and not expect the atmosphere of a market. If you ask me, a farm share would be the next step in the evolution of the locavore/organic trend here and if it happens, I would be first in line.

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11 thoughts on “La Feria Orgánica Buena Tierra Escazú

  1. You can also buy that trout at the Buena Tierra Cafe, if I am not mistaken. There was a lot of variety and selection at 8… everyone swarms, and you’re totally right, it doesn’t feel like a community event. No one chats or lingers around, it seems like strictly business.

    • Back in the states, I was in a farm share and it was almost exactly like Escazu, but you just paid up front for a set period of time and had to take what was in season. It was great because it forced you to cook and eat what they gave you, which could be very challenging. Thank you for the suggestion! I will certainly get to the cafe and check it out. Happy eating!

  2. Yes, this market has a shotgun start… Just like a golf tournament… there is only so much produce bought in advance for those people who choose not to place an order. The goal for the organizers here is to provide fresh organic produce for those people who will not make the trek out to Feria Verde every Saturday and so, since they are buying the produce out of their own pockets, they try to not have anything left over by the end of the morning.

    Many others take advantage of the opportunity to place an order by Sunday evening and just stroll in to pick up their boxes of organic produce when it is convenient for them. There is much more to see earlier in the morning and we’d love to have you back before 8 am so you can take part in the stampede!

    Gradually, more and more individual farmers are choosing to join us and sell their products. Customers are allowed to buy from any of the vendors present before 8 am and new vendors with unique products are always welcome with advance approval.

    Thanks for the mention of my company and my products. I do carry more than dried fruit and kimchi and would love to give you a brief tour of my company when you have some time. I take a lot of pride in what my mom and make for the masses so we can all eat a bit healthier.

    • Ahhh! See, it IS like a farm share. I wasn’t able to get that from the information I got. I didn’t know pre-ordering was an option (and a fantastic option it is!) What would be cool (and maybe it’s available) would be to see the fresh produce pre-ordering to include the vendors. When I was in a farm share back stateside we had an option of swapping out some of the fresh for prepared. It allowed people to cater their pick-up based on their weekly needs. Something to think about.
      I might not be able to be a repeat customer since we live on the other side of town, but Rafa works in Escazu and I might convince him to stop by for goodies. He was really interested in your fruit. I would love to do a blog on you. Let me know when a good time would be! I love organic but I really want to get the locavore movement in the spotlight and I hope to make Consuming Costa Rica a venue for that. Thanks for reading.

  3. I had to go look up what a farm share was and I can’t say our market is like this… I guess it is something completely different! I would be happy to tell you all the details I know but for all the facts, you really should speak with the two ladies who organize this weekly event… they are the experts. I have worked with them for over a year now and can break this market down into a few key points:

    1. People can order fresh organic produce from a list consisting of a huge number of items. Items can also be ordered from the other vendors who choose to participate. The order form is available electronically by email or customers can fill out a form in person to submit for the following week. Orders are selected by each customer, people buy only what they want to buy, and pay for their items upon pick-up in case some items ordered are not available.

    2. Each vendor rents a space each week in order to be able to come sell their products. This way, the cost of renting the venue is shared by all people involved in this little community. People often meet the hour and a half or so prior to the market to catch up with each other, talk, and meet new people. It is not uncommon to see customers arrive before 7 am while the vendors are still setting up.

    3. The amount of produce available depends upon how many orders are placed by Sunday night and the consumption of the previous weeks. Estimates are made and then a large order is placed to try to accommodate as many people as possible without the organizers having to lose money out of their pockets. The amount of food available at 7:59 am is a sight to behold!

    4. Given the size of Costa Rica, I would assume that all fresh produce grown within it’s borders would be considered local. The produce for this market comes from local farmers and a farming cooperative outside the central valley. Just as the vendors in Feria Verde come from all different parts of this country, so do our vendors as many of them also participate in the two organic markets running each Saturday. I can introduce you to the other market called El Trueque if you like. It starts at 5am on Saturdays.

    Hope you find this extra information helpful. If you would like to meet for an interview, maybe we could meet some Saturday at Feria Verde. I go there every week to buy part of my produce. I spend time there talking with all my vendor friends and learning what I can about this special community we have all had a part in creating… It has been a wonderful experience so far meeting people a nd learning from each other. We really do endeavor to help each other as much as possible sharing what we know with each other no matter which of the three San Jose organic markets we participate in. Talk to you soon! :o]

  4. The farm share I had was a pre-paid plan for a year and you got whatever was in season with the ability to swap a few things out for other products. Then again, I was living in an area that didn’t have such a wonderful growing season like Costa Rica! I loved it! It really made me a better cook and a better consumer.
    Locavore does take on a slightly different connotation here and the “100 mile rule” is a little redundant. I see buying locally as buying directly from the market/farmer and not the big chain stores. Just having more control over what what you eat.

    Our housing situation is a bit in limbo at the moment, but when we do finally settle, it would be wonderful to sit down and really see if Buena Tierra would fit our lifestyle.

    I want to make Tierra Verde a weekend destination for us and we should be there tomorrow…just not usually so bright and squirrelly as most people. 9-ish is about as good as I can do. 🙂

    We will look for you. Rafa said he saw you the other day driving an old Mercedes (the man has a mind like a steel trap). I want to keep Consuming Costa Rica moving and I really like the direction it is heading. Thank you so much for your help and information!

  5. nela perle on said:

    I guess to be able to make a serious critics about a feria, you need to go there more then one time, it is different each week and depends the time you go… I startet to go one year ago, and I like the small familiar feeling. If I have time I enjoy having a chat with Bruno, Fiona or clients I know, if I haven`t – which normally happens on workingdays mornings, I just make my buys and leave – it is different from shopping on a saturday, where many people have time to stay, to socialize, and I guess that is less a cuestion of the organisation of the market than the clients dinamics….. You are right, they don`t offer tons of each product, and not hundreds of variety, but for me that is part of “Trade/Consumo responsable”, a small and fine offer. About living in San Pedro/Zapote: while I lived in Sabanilla, of course I didn`t cross the whole city to buy organic food on wednesday in Escazu, of course it is a small market for people living nea by – that makes sense and is the idea of resposible consumption. So what is your point:? It is not a question of east and west, of Escazu enclave, it is just a matter of common sense, to buy organic groceries at the closest place near by.
    Aproposito: if you live in Zapote, you can also go to El trueque in Paso Ancho, which ist one of the very first Ferias organicas in Costarica, long before Feria Verde and Buena Tierra. El trueque is not so fency as Feria Verde, they offer mainly fresh fruits and veggies on saturday, apartir de las 6am and it is a a quite autentic costarican organica farmer market.
    Last remark: the foto you put saying it is the Feria Buena Tierra, looks sad, you are right. But you just took a foto from the sportsplace infront of the feria. If you would have taken a foto from the space where the Feria really takes place indeed (in the rancho behind the sportsaera, where vendors, products and clients are protected all year round from sun and rain) then the foto would have shown a littly busy comunity of people very comitted to promote, support, trade, exchange and enjoy organic and sustainable products within their -sometimes limited- means of time, money and posiblities. I think, the women organizing this, do a really great job, and although they for sure don`t make the big money (may be they even make loss), they do it with great enthusiasm and committment.

    • Thanks for reading!

      Offering clean, healthy, sustainable food is what I believe and am all about. Feria Buena Tierra, like you stated, is an option for people who live close by, but it’s not a market. It is a farm share that has vendors that sell additional products. The whole idea that you choose your produce prior to Wednesday for pick up is not fully explained in the website. I had to learn that from people who regularly use Feria Buena Tierra. For someone just learning the ropes of conscientious shopping in Costa Rica, it’s pretty misleading. Personally, having a farm share option is AWESOME and if I lived closer, I would sign up in a hot second. Back stateside I paid a set amount of cash for a years worth of farm fresh, organic products that I picked up weekly and it was money well spent. It’s not that I don’t believe the organizers of this market do not have the purest of intentions, it’s just that they have poor marketing. As someone with a design degree, all I see is endless potential to really make this business pop. You stated I said it looked sad. No, I never said that. It was empty and there was no sign to indicate that there was anything going on beyond the the basketball court. In fact, Rafa and I stood outside and had to ask if this was the right place. That should not happen to new clients. If the women want to solicit new customers and have the business grow, they need to market this waaaaaay better. The potential is there and I hope for nothing but the best for them. Feel free to hire my services 🙂

  6. laura barra on said:

    Hi Consuming Costa Rica! My name is Laura and I am one of the organizer of the Organic Market Buena Tierra in Escazu. I know our market can look a bit poor if you come by after 9:00am, but as our friend Jasona explained, almost all our produce are sold at that time. We are trying to buy more in order to have more produce left for the people who visit us late, and we are also trying to tell people not to come all at the same time in order to avoid the rush! Anyway I really would like to meet you and I invite you to come before 8:00 to appreciate the quality and the variety of what is sold, and if you can stay, after 9:00 we’ll be able to have a chat and exchange opinions.

    • Laura, I would love to catch up. I have been out bouncing around Panama for a bit and I need to catch up on CCR (plus Rafa and I are moving into a new house!) Never a dull moment! Rest assured, we should meet up.

    • Laura,
      I really want to sit down and catch up with you but Wednesdays are the restricted day for our car. Is there another time we can meet up? I am free during the day. Let me know!
      Thanks!

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