The original tree plantation of Finca Leola is located in La Garita, near Monterrey, San Carlos, Costa Rica. Here we grow mostly teak, because the altitude and dry season are suitable, and the land in this area is very rich volcanic soil. It is located within 20 kilometers of Arenal Volcano, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Costa Rica. Forestry engineer Antonio Rodriguez examined the property and said that it is some of the richest soil he has seen in Costa Rica in his 30-plus-year career. Antonio has been working with hardwood plantations for many of those years, and we still consult with him even though we now have our own forestry engineer. Our second plantation, near Guatuso, is ideal for many natives and is where our offices and furniture factory are located. It is also where we make our home. We have continued to at least one plantation each year.
Finca #1 used to be a working dairy farm. The property had only been a farm for about 30 years; before that it was rain forest. Because of this, the land has about 50 cm of the richest topsoil. The farmer did an excellent job of not overgrazing the land. Antonio expected superior growth rates due to the richness of the soil, and his prediction has been borne out by the excellent growth rates we are experiencing.
The finca is roughly 400 feet above sea level, which is an excellent elevation for growing teak. The land is very well drained. It is approximately 67 hectares, or 165 acres. It is 1 kilometer from a nationally maintained dirt road and 7 kilometers from a paved road. Even during the rainy season, you can drive to the finca without four-wheel drive — though four-wheel drive sure makes it easier.
We choose properties based on these factors:
|Location — We focus on the foothills and lowlands nearest the central mountain range near Lake Arenal. The land in this area is known in Costa Rica as being some of the most fertile. This means that our conservative estimates on growth rates of trees are being exceeded. We welcome all visitors, and you can make your visit part of a trip to the tourist destinations around Arenal and Monteverde, as our farm is about 1 hour north of La Fortuna.)|
|Access — Some of the properties we visit are very difficult to get to during the rainy season, though this could be remedied with road work. We deliberately search during the 8-month rainy season so that we can evaluate how bad access is then. The fincas we choose have not only the best soils, but year-round access.|
|Water — Another advantage of checking out land during the rainy season is to determine how well-drained the soil is. Our fincas have excellent drainage and are well-supplied with water by rivers and streams intersecting the properties. Also, because the topsoil is so deep, it holds water very well for the dry season.|
|Soil — As has been mentioned, the soil in this area is excellent. A preliminary soil test of our first finca showed 50 cm (20 inches) of volcanic topsoil. 25 cm or more is considered excellent for growing trees. More complete soil tests established that the land requires very little fertilizer.|
We are extremely pleased with the results of planting hardwood trees on this land. The trees are growing very well, and we are very excited about the future as our plantations help ensure an ongoing supply of sustainable wood for homes and businesses.
This is the same field in July 2003 and in October 2004.