Class in Session: Earth University

    Class in Session: Earth University
    Amanda Cargill

    “Isn’t every day Earth Day?” It was a question put to me by a five-year-old kindergartner while substitute teaching a lesson on Earth Day last year. I didn’t have an answer that wouldn’t lead to a dozen more questions, so I just shrugged.

    Five months later and no longer substitute teaching, I visited Earth University, a place where no one needs a holiday to be reminded of earth’s abundance. In fact, it’s that abundance – namely bananas – that funds the University. If you’ve ever bought Costa Rican bananas at Whole Foods Market, you’ve made a contribution.

    How does buying a banana – specifically, a banana certified by Fairtrade International and the Rainforest Alliance, among others – have this kind of impact? The answer starts with the University itself.

    Set in the humid tropics of one of Costa Rica’s poorest areas, Earth University is a private, non-profit University focused on achieving human and environmental sustainability through agriculture. Its students, 80% of whom are recruited from marginalized communities primarily in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, are trained in advanced fields including peri-urban farming and biodynamic agriculture.

    Each year’s studies begin in January and end on the third week of December. Daily classes commence Mondays at 6:30am and end late Saturday afternoon. As part of their coursework, students establish their own businesses centered on a particular area of interest. Past businesses have involved energy conversion, agri-tourism, and innovations in organic pest control. Following completion of the Earth University curriculum, students graduate with credentials akin to a Master’s Degree.

    But while impressive, this is not what makes Earth University unique. Rather, it’s the University’s mission – to “Prepare leaders with ethical values for sustainable development of the tropics and maintain a commitment to construct a prosperous and just society” – and how it undertakes to achieve that mission that set it apart.

    Next up, the role of banana production in education and agricultural sustainability… 


    Just in time for Earth Day, find out how these Latin restaurants are going green.