SINCE OUR FIRST DAY, WE’VE BEEN WORKING TOWARD A BETTER TOMORROW
Narrated by CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, this episode of The Next List features Rancho Margot owner Juan Sostheim.
Former fast-food executive turned environmentalist, ranch owner Juan Sostheim was born and raised in the mountains of rural Chile where he recalls an idyllic childhood. When he started Rancho Margot in 2004, he envisioned a small mountain village that might recreate his most treasured childhood memories. Today, his vision has become a globally recognized eco-resort offering a sustainably luxurious experience.
SEEING POTENTIAL FROM ABOVE
One day, as Juan and his sons were horseback riding atop what is now known as the Mirador Ridge, he looked down at a view that took his breath away. Though the pasture below had been overgrazed, it was surrounded by thousands of acres of protected forest and had the Caño Negro, the largest, cleanest river in the area, meandering through. Seeing a vision of what could be, Juan purchased more than 420 acres of this valley below Monteverde on the south shore of Lake Arenal in January, 2004.
BUILDING MORE THAN A RANCH
Three kilometers from the ranch lies the village of El Castillo. There, a single elementary classroom represented the local educational opportunity. Twenty-eight kilometers away, the next town over is La Fortuna with a rough, unpaved road that was often washed away. On countless occasions, El Castillo found itself isolated due to the damage to this connecting road. With the exception of two small family hotels, paying jobs were virtually nonexistent, illegal hunting and poaching were rampant, and deforestation was out of control throughout the area.
In 2006, Juan signed an agreement with the Children’s Eternal Forest to hire, house and equip forest rangers to help protect the area’s resident and migrating wildlife and to steward the land in the right direction. Every day for four years, Juan hired a van to shuttle the local children to La Fortuna so they could continue their studies and advance in the public school system. As the need expanded, Juan eventually purchased two 50-passenger buses on eBay, had them painted by a local muralist, and operated them free of charge until the secondary school was finally built in EL Castillo. Throughout the years, Rancho Margot has continued to provide space, material resources and teachers for weekly English classes and remedial learning in all subjects taught at the local school. Learning is the backbone of progress, so from the start, our commitment to local education has remained a core priority.
POWERING OUR PURPOSE
Starting in 2004, slowly but surely, Rancho Margot got up and running. Initially, electricity came via two small gas-powered generators. Our first self-generation was a Pelton wheel with an
old AEG generator that Juan found discarded and was able to have completely rebuilt. Today, the ranch operates a fully computerized electric grid that runs primarily on water (130 liters per second) and steadily generates over 250 amps, 24 hours a day. In case of emergency or grid maintenance, we also maintain a 64kw diesel backup generator.
PRODUCING A BETTER WAY TO PRODUCE
Once our energy, water and waste management infrastructure were in place, we needed to get our production on track. Part of Juan’s vision was to raise animals and grow crops the right way, so from day one, agrochemicals were strictly prohibited on the ranch. Our earliest staff had always used these chemicals, so they were skeptical of the change. The agricultural engineers we initially brought on were mostly young and inexperienced, often looking for shortcuts and immediate results, and their experiments led to several failures. For our poultry and swine production, we had to change our breeding stocks twice until we could achieve the traits needed to raise healthy, hearty animals nourished by regional feedstock. Trying new things is just part of our process, but quality will always be paramount to our production.
CLOSING THE LOOP
We strive daily to maintain the highest level of functionality in our closed-loop systems. These systems range from small to large, are at once interrelated and interdependent, and are an integral part of our circular economy. When the system is flowing smoothly, we produce no real waste, no offensive smells, and attract no flies. We call these “aha” indicators and they never fail to impress visitors who come to understand the inner workings of this magical place. Currently, we’re experimenting with the integration of Web3 technology across our operation so that we may be able to work and share information more efficiently. We can proudly say that Rancho Margot is and will forever be a work in progress.
EXPERIENCING IT FOR YOURSELF
Surrounded by the lush landscape of our Costa Rican rainforest, your first time down the entrance road, your senses shift into overdrive. Walking through our reception area, you can’t help but feel welcome, wanted and inspired. Take the ranch tour, fill your eyes, ears and soul with our regenerative wonderland, and begin to see the enormity of what lies beyond plain sight. If you’re ready for a travel experience that’s both endlessly enjoyable and truly sustainable, make plans today to join us at Rancho Margot where we’ll never stop working toward a better tomorrow.