Ohio Farmer

Trade Delegation Visits Cattle Ranches in Costa Rica

Former Peace Corps volunteer shares his experiences pioneering cattle production in developing jungle region of nation's rich breadbasket region.

Tim White, Editor, Ohio Farmer

November 14, 2006

2 Min Read

Members of Ohio's trade mission to Costa Rica visited the farms of three cattle producers as part of the Ohio Department of Agriculture's visit to Central America to explore opportunities for exports under the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

"The hospitality shown to us by Costa Rican farmers today was truly humbling," said Keith Burgett, a veterinarian and cattle producer who owns Burgett Angus Farm LLC in Carrollton, Ohio. "They opened their farms to us and we learned a lot."

First stop was the 4,500-acre farm owned by James Hamilton, a Michigan native who moved to Costa Rica in 1968 as a Peace Corps volunteer. After his two-year stint with the organization he returned to northern Costa Rica to buy 450 acres of jungle. The land was cleared with machetes and Harrison has since added more farms and two hotel businesses to his holdings.

"This area was opened for homesteading as part of a government plan to encourage growth in the early 1970s," Harrison told the group. "It is now a magnet for tourism."

Like other farmers in the area, Harrison crossbreeds Brahman cattle to European breeds such as Simmental, Chianina, and Piedmontese. He raises the cattle on pasture without supplemental grain. Tropical conditions at his farm, which is only 200 feet above sea level, and just north of the equator, are complicated by more than 200 inches of rain a year.

"The challenge is to get them enough feed to maintain them in good condition. We have about 90% calving rate from our cows raised on grass. That can only happen if they are in excellent condition."

The group also visited Kiko Alfaro's beef and Jersey dairy farm and Don Fernando Retana's beef farm. Fernando Retana entertained the group with beef from his slaughter house and upscale butcher shops. Tomorrow the delegation will discuss CAFTA with industry leaders during a reception at the residence of U.S. Ambassador Mark Langdale.

About the Author(s)

Tim White

Editor, Ohio Farmer

Tim White has written about farmers and farming for 30 years. He's taken a seat in tractors and combines and kitchen tables all across the state of Ohio. Whether he is at the Ohio Farm Science Review, Power Show Ohio, the Ohio State Fair, or a county field day, he runs into friends from all aspects of Ohio agriculture.

Tim has won the Oscar for Agricultural Writing, and American Agricultural Editor's annual awards for best editorial and best marketing story. He helped to found the Ohio Agricultural Communicators Association and was president of the North American Agricultural Journalists. In 2001 the National Association of Conservation Districts presented him with the award for the nation's top writer on conservation. The Ohio Farm Bureau recognized him as the state's top communicator in 2005.

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