FINDING THE BETTER WAY
In January of 2004, Juan Sostheim the founder of Rancho Margot purchased 400 acres of pasture. The view of the land, from the mountain top, he saw as he and his sons rode horses was breathtaking. Although the land was 90% cleared of all vegetation, it was surrounded by approximately 50,000 acres of protected land and had the largest and cleanest river flowing through the property. It was literally love at first sight.
The nearest village was 3 km away and named El Castillo. A one room elementary school was the sum of the educational opportunity available for the local children and the nearest town, La Fortuna, was 35 km away. The road was often washed away and on several occasions El Castillo was completely isolated. With the exception of two small family hotels, jobs were non existent and illegal hunting and poaching was rampant.
In keeping with the founder’s mission and vision, Mr. Sostheim signed an agreement with the Children’s Eternal Forest (ACM), hired forest rangers, and started to protect the little remaining wildlife that was left. In addition, he hired a local van to shuttle the children back and forth to La Fortuna so that they could continue their education. Four years of daily round trips funded entirely by Rancho Margot afforded the older children of El Castillo the only opportunity to continue to study. The hired van was replaced by two 50 passenger buses bought on Ebay and operated free of charge for all the villagers until the secondary school was finally built. Today Rancho Margot supplies teachers for weekly english classes and remedial learning in all subjects that are taught at the local school. Our commitment to local education is unwavering and one of our highest priorities.
Slowly, Rancho Margot began to take form. Electricity was initially provided by two small gasoline generators until we built our own electric grid. Our first self generation was a Pelton wheel with an old AEG generator that we found discarded and were able to completely rebuild. Today we have a fully computerised electric grid that runs on 130 litres of water per second and generates over 250 amps 24 hours a day. In case of an emergency, or for system maintenance, we have a 64kw diesel back up generator that we run 15 minutes once a week to keep in operating conditon.
Growing food and raising animals became a priority even as we built our initial infrastructure. The use of agro-chemicals was prohibited from day one and continues to be a cornerstone of our philosophy. Every process that was introduced had a large learning curve. Most of the staff had grown up on the land, used agro-chemicals all their lives, and were very skeptical of the changes we wanted to implement. The agricultural engineers we hired were young and inexperienced, they looked for quick results and initially most results were failures. In poultry and swine production we had to change all the breeding stock twice until we got the gene we needed to have hearty and healthy animals with the feed that we are producing. It’s easy to produce anything if quality is not your priority. We put extra burdens on ourselves and in our closed loop design. If someone tries to cheat the process, something will fall apart. Our closed loops range from small to large and are all interrelated. When everyone does their part, we have no waste, no offensive smells, and no flies. These are what we call our “aha” indicators because they never fail to impress.
Rancho Margot is and will be forever a work in progress. From the moment visitors drive up our entrance, their senses begin to go on overdrive. The first feeling is “there is nothing here.” It’s only once they step through the reception that they begin to see the enormity of what lies beyond the doors. Once they tour the ranch, guests can’t get over what they’ve seen and experienced.