It was the end of the pineapple plantation tour and our guide continued his mission of hospitality by agreeing to more photos. His backpack had a logo promoting Costa Rica as an “eco-tourism” destination and he held it near his shirt logo for the pineapple grower, Collin Street Bakery.
It was a spontaneous act, but there would seem to be a profoundly important confirmation inside: Production agriculture and ecology, or “the environment” walk hand-in-hand. In Costa Rica, “agro-tourism” and eco-tourism seemed to be joined at the hip. No surprise, really for those in agriculture. We’ve long understood our day-to-day need to work in partnership with nature. How could it be any other way for those who rely on soil, rain and sun to produce a livelihood?
This year’s Environmental Respect world tour points up another fact: While we may compete for world markets with other countries, we are also partners in the sense of our desire to provide for a global demand that continues to accelerate. This unique shared mission — responsibly growing more while being good stewards of land, water and air — was also immediately obvious as Mike Twining, representing Willard Agri-Service, our national winner of the 2010 Environmental Respect Awards, met Mainor Rojas Sanchez of Almacen Agroprecuaria El Exito, the award-winner in Costa Rica and one of his customers. The grower-retailer conversation at the tailgate of the pickup parked at the field edge as the crop grows in the background seemed the same as those everyday all across the U.S. Retailers and growers all around the country may be more the same than they are different.
By definition, an ambassador is “a person who acts as a representative or promoter of a specific activity.” It’s a word that sprang from a latin root, “ambactus” which means “servant.” In every sense of this word, Mike Twining and Mainor Rojas Sanchez were splendid ambassadors for agriculture and Environmental Respect.