York University’s 10th Fisher Fund Wine Tasting & Auction raised more than $126,000 to support the Las Nubes Rainforest Project in Costa Rica. The event was held on April 19 and all proceeds will go towards supporting the substantial research, environmental education and conservation in the region.
Jeff O’Hagan, vice-president advancement, thanked those in attendance for sipping and buying for a great cause. “We are thrilled that you’re here tonight to help support biodiversity protection, rural sustainability and environmental education,” he said.
Faculty of Environmental Studies Dean Barbara Rahder, who served as the evening’s emcee, said that she was proud to announce the forthcoming publication of Las Nubes: Conservation in the Cloud Forests of Costa Rica, a book of photographs initially conceived by the late Professor Howard Daugherty, the former director of the Las Nubes project. Rahder said that Daugherty had always wanted to publish Canadian photographer Brett Cole’s extraordinary nature photography. Two of Daugherty’s former students, Ana Maria Martinez and Chris Saker, completed the project in his memory.
Rahder also announced the appointment of Professor Felipe Montoya-Greenheck as the University’s new chair in Neotropical Conservation. “We’re delighted to announce we’ve found the right person to take over the Las Nubes project,” said Rahder. “Not surprising perhaps, he comes to us from the University of Costa Rica, where his reputation in community-based conservation is second to none.”
“It’s really amazing that what happens here at this event supports conservation in Las Nubes and the Alexander Skutch Biological Corridor,” Montoya-Greenheck said. “It’s an amazing global connection and it means so much to people trying to achieve a sustainable way of life.”
In 1998, Toronto physician Dr. Woody Fisher donated Las Nubes, 124-hectares of Costa Rican rainforest, to York University. York faculty and students, along with international partners, conduct valuable research at the site and work to protect the region’s biodiversity and promote sustainable development. The Fisher Fund for Neotropical Conservation continues to support the Las Nubes project and the wine auction is an important source of funds each year.
The Las Nubes project has also created a model of international collaboration that includes the private, public and cooperative sectors in the production and sale of Las Nubes coffee. The coffee, grown on farms adjacent to the Las Nubes rainforest, is certified sustainable by Costa Rica’s Ministry of Agriculture and has been on sale at Timothy’s Coffee’s of the World locations across Canada since 2004. Timothy’s donates one dollar for every pound of coffee sold to the Las Nubes project, making the coffee chain a major supporter of student research and other conservation activities in the region.
Building on the success of the coffee venture, Fisher treated this year’s wine auction attendees to a taste of his newest creation: Las Nubes Ecohelado, the first of York University’s rainforest ice creams. A self-described “ice cream-aholic”, Fisher took his idea for an ice cream flavoured with Las Nubes coffee to Greg Mahon of Greg’s Ice Cream and the first batch was served to guests at this year’s wine auction. “The concept involves a limited series of ice cream of the highest quality that reflect flavours found in tropical rainforests,” announced Fisher. “The pitch will be something like, ‘Every lick saves some trees’.”
“Woody lives on ice cream,” said Fisher’s partner and long-time wine auction organizer Valerie Grant. “I don’t know how he got the idea to make his own ice cream but he always has some brilliant idea. Right now it’s a little seed of an idea from which big things will grow, I hope.”
The plan is to sell Ecohelado at York University and and throughout Latin America, with profits going to the conservation and preservation of the neotropical rainforests. “We have saved one tiny bit of rainforest,” said Fisher, “but that’s a very small drop in the very large bucket of what has to be done.”