Farming in the Orosí Valley, Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s Orosí Valley is known for its good farmland and coffee production. ©Jason Holland

For Ray and Michele Martin, the year-round temperate climate of Costa Rica’s Orosí Valley leaves them with no need for heating or air conditioning. Temperatures stay in the 70s F most of the time, which means that they can get out on their farm all year-round.

It also lets them take in the commanding view of the valley below, nestled between the Turrialba and Irazú volcanoes, from their balcony whenever the mood strikes. And when it rains, several waterfalls come alive on the mountainside opposite their home. “You never get tired of the view. It changes all day,” says Michele.

“I love living outdoors. We couldn’t have the same weather or the same lifestyle anywhere in the U.S….maybe in Hawaii, but there it’s too expensive.”

Early mornings are the rule for Ray and Michele. There’s work to be done. Milking their 10 goats comes first, and then tending their gardens. It’s a busy retirement at times. But they wouldn’t choose to be anywhere else than their eight-acre farm, named Finca Good Life, around 4,600 feet up a mountain.

The Orosí Valley is traditionally an agricultural region famed for its coffee crop, which is exported worldwide. It’s quiet…rural…small-town living. The valley, part of the larger Central Valley region, is surrounded by steep hills and mountains. The valley floor is packed with pasture and fields interspersed with villages and farming communes.

“Some people call it the simple life, but there’s something exciting every day,” says Michele. “People say, ‘You’re retired; what do you do all day?’ But we’re never bored. There’s always something to do.

“We knew from early on in our married life that we wanted to live outside the U.S. We like adventure. And when it came time to retire, money came into it. We needed to live well for our money. We were attracted by Costa Rica’s government, the climate…and we felt we’d be safe here,” says Michele.

Soon after buying their land and moving down in 2009, they planted hundreds of avocado trees. In their garden, Michele always plants Roma tomatoes, which she uses for sauces, as well as asparagus and hot chilies. There are chickens and geese. And, of course, the goats. They make several varieties of goat’s-milk cheese: chèvre, manchego, gouda, and more. They also collect rainwater in tanks that give them 30,000 gallons of storage.

The couple led busy careers in cities across the U.S., most recently in Atlanta. But they love the small-town lifestyle they now have. When their truck was stuck on their mountain road recently, a friend was ready to help—even when it took several hours to get out. Another friend in a nearby town taught Ray how to weld, so he could complete maintenance and building projects on the farm. They relish that do-it-yourself spirit and the close connection to Costa Rican friends and neighbors that comes with life in the Orosí Valley.

“People here are friendly. They help you,” says Michele.

“We love to share our life with people. We show people what Costa Rica is all about. It’s not all the beach,” says Ray.