A Costa Rican Garden of Eden
Ric’s Farm in Costa Rica
Organic regenerative agriculture for the highest vitality and quality
With over 25 years of experience Ric Scalzo in the field of medicinal plants is now world-renowned. He stands for new, outstandingly advanced standards in the herbal medicine industry and dedicates his efforts to educational projects that teach children healthy and sustainable lifestyles. In 1987, after Ric became increasingly well-known and sought after as a doctor of medicinal herbal medicine in North Carolina, he founded Gaia Herbs. The company has about 300 acres of land where about 40 different medicinal plants are grown and then sold on the worldwide market. The term Gaia represents the interconnectedness of all being on Mother Earth, interdependence and co-evolution. From the beginning until today, Ric and his team align themselves with this mindset in all their activities.
In the United States, Ric is a renowned and one of the most valued herbalists and botanical researchers. In the name of co-creation; of learning, growing and laughing together, he networks leaders in the field of botany such as ethnobotanists, natural health practitioners and students. On a personal visit to Costa Rica, we immediately felt his openness, interest in the other person, and joy in sharing his knowledge. We came to know Ric as a gentle, thoughtful and sympathetic person. His openness and hospitality made us feel right at home. We have enjoyed the mutual exchange greatly and feel very enriched in various ways by his manner, his work and the considerable wisdom he has shared with us.
Already in his youth Ric recognized the significance of the co-evolution of the human and the plant world
Driven by curiosity and inquisitiveness to better understand the forces of nature and to study selected medicinal plants and their ideal habitat in more detail, he emigrated to evergreen, fertile Costa Rica after selling the Gaia Herbs company. Here, about 2.5 years ago, he purchased a 43-acre farm where 8 different medicinal plants are grown and researched organically and regeneratively. After years of formal study in naturopathic plant medicine, Ric wanted to get right into the action. He wanted to be in direct contact with nature and learn through his own observation about the organizing power of nature and the role of plants of its metabolism. He set out to understand the wondrous alchemical processes of his medicinal plants; how they synthesize the power and wisdom of nature into their very own structure. Even in his youth, Ric recognized the significance of the co-evolution of the human and plant worlds. His progressive understanding of the cosmos of plant lore also drove his personal, inner growth ever forward. Accordingly, Ric titles this process of research and development, driven by his inner curiosity, as a spiritual journey rather than a business with primarily economic intent.
Join us on a trip to Ric's medicinal plant plantation in Costa Rica
A Costa Rican Garden of Eden
Self regulation of nature
and balance between activity and passivity
Starting from Uvita, located on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, we drove a good half hour through jungle-like, incredibly fertile-green nature towards the inland. The region seemed very quiet and peaceful to us, withdrawn from the livelier coastal towns. We especially liked the very authentic character of the area; we met local residents and school children from time to time, but there was no trace of tourist infrastructure here. Arriving at Ric's Farm we were overwhelmed by the natural power and beauty of this place. The sap green fields are surrounded by mountains and dense jungle with huge trees from which vines climb down and a river meandering through. It touched us to see how connected Ric is to nature and his work, with what passion and wisdom he told us about his plants and their healing powers. With all our senses we felt the purity and vitality of this place and absorbed it deeply.
A sustainable and appreciative approach to nature, as well as the co-creation of man with nature, have an extraordinarily high priority in Ric's life. He strongly believes in 'principles of nature' and sees its power as supremely magical. For him, these principles imply, for example, the fundamental orientation of recognizing nature as a powerful medicine. Other important principles include the preservation of nature's self-regulation (as little human intervention as possible) and the balance between activity and passivity. He shares that nature always draws from rest, from a state of consciousness in which all potential expressions are already contained, under which a particular one actively manifests. Such significant insights, which he was allowed to learn through the mere observation of nature, serve him not only for a greater understanding, they guide him at the same time in everyday actions as well as in business management.
Organic regenerative agriculture
for highest vitality and quality
Ric explained to us that the outstanding biodiversity of the land and the abundant rainfall of this region provide optimal conditions for the cultivation of his medicinal plants. All the important indicators for cultivation had been met here from the beginning, he said, except for the anaerobic soil structure, which still needs a lot of attention today. However, this never left Ric in doubt that he could make his farm truly regenerative and a fertile place. The majority of Ric and his team's efforts are thus dedicated to the implementation of regenerative farming practices, where soil regeneration (soil life and biodiversity) is given a central place. Heavy rainfall often causes soil compaction, which in turn can lead to erosion, where important microorganisms are washed out of the soil and removed. Thus, Ric and his team have made it their goal to loosen the soil and improve its structure, which in turn benefits the soil's microorganisms. Ric's approach to farming is thus much more than organic; he is concerned with establishing the integrity of the soil and bringing it to a level of vitality that has not existed before. Together with his team, he is experimenting and researching how regenerating the soil and repairing its microbiological structure can improve the integrity of a plant through the biochemistry of the nutrients it absorbs.
To activate soil life and ensure soil stability, regenerative agriculture enriches the soil with organically bound carbon (humus) by applying it to the soil surface. Thus, the soil is provided with various valuable microorganisms that support the essential bacterial cultures in the soil. While this approach to soil enrichment is a long and laborious process, it pays off. Another feature of regenerative agriculture is that the soil is planted year-round, primarily through undersowing or intercropping, which is then worked shallowly into the soil through what is known as surface rotations. The aim here is to reduce nutrient losses through, for example, nitrate leaching, suppress weeds and achieve better plant health without resorting to pesticides. Furthermore, the soil is enriched by a so-called compost tea; a mixture of compost with warm molasses and water, which allows the microorganisms it contains to multiply. Since loosening the soil by means of technical tools such as a plow would destroy the soil structure and dampen the humus build-up, Ric and his team have decided against using such instruments. All efforts are aimed at achieving a condition in which the food web of the soil (this includes all fungi, bacteria, nematodes, protozoa, arthropods) is in balance, the soil can regulate itself, and it provides high levels of essential nutrients to plants. When such a condition is achieved, the soil is more resistant to external influences such as climate, pests and weeds. An imbalance in the microbiological soil structure, on the other hand, is in most cases due to inadequate soil management.
‘Our soils are way out of balance, generally around the world. And we got to change this.’ – Ric Scalzos
Further, Ric clarifies the specificity of the role of fungi in the soil, dubbing them 'magical elements'. Having a healthy population of fungi in the soil, he says, enables some plants to develop an amino acid profile that can support the body in a variety of ways and promote human longevity. However, most plants in the world lack the necessary conditions to do this.
Adherence to the principles of organic regenerative agriculture has allowed the soil quality on Ric's farm to improve so much in just one harvest season, despite extreme rainfall, that the soil is looser than ever before. He firmly believes that his and his team's commitment can have a far-reaching impact. By growing and distributing his medicinal plants worldwide, which have an outstanding microbiological nutrient profile, he can positively impact the health of many people, including those whose homes are surrounded by less rich soil.
A global movement of positive change
Ric believes that everything that influences the body eventually influences the mind. He describes it with the metaphor of a light poster drawing our body and mind: only when all our lights are turned on and the connection points in our poster are activated, are we complete and with a clear transmission of information. All his medicinal plants figuratively offer the potential to make all the lights on our poster shine brightly (again).
Even if criteria of sustainability and quality are becoming more and more conscious to many people, Ric still sees a lot of work to be done. Educational measures are needed to make people aware of the potential of medicinal plants and to sensitize them to a healthy and mindful lifestyle. At the same time, he suggests that he is concerned with much more than a product or education alone. He strives for a holistic movement that creates new perspectives, interests, and pathways, generates animating conversations, and brings about a whole new level of narratives and standards of living.
Everything that influences the body also influences the mind
Ric's selection of medicinal plants is based on several factors. Through his previous business, he has already gained a lot of experience in working with these species. Furthermore, the climate in Costa Rica offers ideal climatic conditions for their cultivation. A third major driver is the strong demand, both from various large companies in the U.S. and from end users worldwide. While the homelands of these medicinal plants are originally in India and China, the quality of products from these areas is often very low. While Ric stands for quality and integrity in his organic regenerative growing methods, he wants to establish new standards in this market and create a 'movement of positive change' for all humanity.
‘How can we do what we do and begin to establish a movement around change, around positive change for the world and for all of us? And you know we have to do it, right? No one else is gonna do it, to restore the earth, restore the way we use the forces of our planet and use it in harmony with nature. It is really up to us, to have ambition, to have an impact.’ – Ric Scalzos
Restore the earth, restore the way we use the forces of our planet and use it in harmony with nature