Costa Rica makes me think of sunny days, crystal blue water, and luscious natural beauty because tourism is Costa Rica’s leading industry with more than two million visitors annually. But, it was not until we dug further into the true and raw Costa Rica that I was deeply impacted by one individual and realized what this country was truly about, love and happiness.
During my time in Costa Rica, we had the opportunity to tour several farms, including a dairy farm owned by a man named Chrisley. He owned 7.5 acres of farmland including an array of fruit trees, five cattle, a handful of pigs and piglets, and worked hard with his wife daily to make a living primarily from homemade cheese. Right now you may think this sounds like an ordinary farm. I know I did, but it was not until I discovered who Chrisley was on a personal level to find out there is more to his production than meets the eye. His way of growing the economy meant sacrificing his cheese prices so that the surrounding families in the community could make a living and not surrender to poverty. He also displayed several acts of love to his children and wife, Patricia, by commonly addressing her as “Mi amor” which translates to “My love.”
Chrisley taught us the process of making the string cheese mozzarella balls and even let us roll them to enhance our experience. He told us that he makes this type of cheese because he is one of the few farms that specializes in it, so it is in high demand. He and his wife worked like a well-oiled machine without speaking to one another while they effortlessly stretched the cheese, almost like it was a motion embedded in their memory. It was truly mesmerizing to see two individuals work so well together with so much love and still have a strong work ethic each and every day.
Chrisley’s cheese production prices were also another amazing factor on how he contributes to the growing economy in San Carlos, Costa Rica. They make roughly 59 cheese balls a day, resulting in 350 balls weekly. They sell to five different families for $3-$4/ball; those families sell to local markets for $6-$7/ball. Local markets sell to consumers for $8-$9/ball, which is priced roughly $6 more than Chrisley earns.
At first glance, it looks like Chrisley makes quite a living with $1,400/week, but you have to calculate the production costs it takes to produce the cheese balls. These costs include the imported bacteria from the Netherlands, curing agents, milk bought from local farms, and the propane gas he uses to heat his water. All these calculated costs add up to $2/ball, for an actual profit of $1-$2/cheese ball, or $350-$700 a week.
Chrisley could be making nearly double that amount and when asked why he does not sell to markets directly to achieve this profit, I was truly impacted by his response. He said, “I know I can make more, but I do not care about the money, the money means nothing to me. I sell for low prices to the surrounding families so that they can make a living.” This made me realize that his way of growing the economy was not competing with others and being selfish to make a large profit; it was allowing others to make a profit off of him to reduce poverty in the surrounding community. I think that simple, yet impactful lesson is something that I can take home with me and utilize in my everyday life.