Rancho Margot founder Juan Sostheim, the former owner of a chemical company, understands well the implications of the over-use and consumption of chemicals. The minute he set eyes on this incredible natural setting, he decided he was going to create something special – and it wasn’t going to involve chemicals. It takes dedicated hands and a strong ethic to practice chemical-free agriculture. But we work hard and smart at Rancho Margot, striving to uphold the values rooted in true sustainable living as pioneered by Juan and team.
Ten of Rancho Margot’s 400 acres are dedicated to chemical-free agriculture demonstrating functioning agroforestry and permaculture. Water is plentiful here, thanks to abundant rainfall and the six streams crisscrossing the property. The soil is diverse, ranging from sandy to smooth. Because of our proximity to Arenal Volcano, the soil, while rich in minerals is also fairly acidic. Over the past several years, we have recuperated this soil by regularly hand tilling the earth and fertilizing with rich compost produced onsite. We use natural pesticides, including companion plants such as basil and celery, and a mixture we make from microorganisms gathered in the forest. We are beyond organic; we are chemical free.
Our dedication to chemical-free agriculture extends to our seeds. Rancho Margot is free of genetically modified seeds. Some of these seeds we purchase and some come from our fledgling seed bank. The seeds give birth to a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, spices and medicinal plants. We also grow a variety of high-protein plants and grasses specifically to provide a highly nutritious diet to the animals whose meat we consume. This method allows us to raise cattle on half the land required for traditional beef production.
The practice of chemical-free agriculture at Rancho Margot also encompasses our livestock. Our free range cows, pigs and chickens are fed chemical-free natural products grown on the Ranch. Cows rotate grazing in twenty-five distinct pastures. We produce enough milk to make our own cheeses, yogurt and butter. The pigs enjoy a antibiotic and hormone-free diet and have daily access to the pasture, where they frolic in the dirt and get additional minerals they need directly from the earth. A hormone-free diet means the pigs grow at a slower rate (the life span being about eight months compared to four at commercial pig farms). Our pigs live healthier lives and produce higher quality meat. We also have 200+ free-range chickens that lay 60 to 80 eggs a day, the shells of which are returned to their diet for calcium, along with protein-rich California Red Worms.
Everyone at Rancho Margot reaps the benefits of chemical-free agriculture. The water stays fresh, the land remains fertile and the breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets continue to offer a diet based on optimal nutrition with products harvested here at our home.