Ard van der Steen

Ard van Der Steen – Founder and President

Ard’s world travels and business ventures led him to found the Tropical Grazing Institute in Parrita, Costa Rica. The journey began in Holland where he grew up and where his father had a small hobby farm, and brought him to Costa Rica as a entrepreneur to build several business ventures, all underscored by an abiding interest in and appreciation of natural sciences, human health and sustainable agriculture. The Tropical Grazing Institute was imagined through affiliation with a local cattle farm who, like Ard, saw opportunities to bring natural practices to livestock production. Ard formalized the collaboration through the creation of the Tropical Grazing Institute, focused on research and development of natural systems, ultraorganic protocols, and rejection of agrochemical use. The scientific challenge is to take these practices, which work quite will in temperate climates, and adapt them to function in the Tropics.

As the Tropical Grazing Institute has grown and developed successful sustainable systems, the benefits continue to accumulate: The meat is higher quality and healthier for humans. The animals are healthier and more productive. The farmers are experiencing better livelihood opportunities through cost savings and more marketable product. The pastures, soils, plants and waters are thriving in the absence of agrochemicals and biodiversity has increased. Through partnerships and specific research projects, the Tropical Grazing Institute is offering its research and knowledge to other smallholder farmers and graziers so that they too may benefit. The goal is to see these sustainable, livelihood-increasing practices become common not just throughout Central America, but globally in Tropical climes.

A native of Terschelling, Holland and current resident of La Garita, de Alajuela Costa Rica, Ard has found a career that never feels like work by combining his passion for natural practices and entrepreneurial spirit for the benefit of animal, human and environment.

Juan Bernardo

Juan Bernardo Gamboa – Research Director

Since childhood, the farm has been Juan Bernardo’s home. It also became his career path. He studied Agronomy with an emphasis in Natural Resources Administration at EARTH University, and later specialized in bovine cattle production. Specifically, he focused on research developments within the industry, implementation of sustainable production practices, and defining added values in the form of differentiation of the product within the beef market.

Add his prior professional experience as a Promoter in the Huetar Atlántica region for La Corporación Ganadera (CORFOGA) to his education and interest in sustainable, high productivity and marketable beef production, and the result is that the Topical Grazing Institute gains depth of knowledge, expertise and informed direction. From our beginnings, Juan Bernadro has been instrumental in steering the direction of activities, developing the various research projects, building relationships with likeminded groups and organizations, and sharing the research we’ve developed.

A native and resident of San José, Costa Rica, Juan Bernadro has extensive relationships with universities, government agencies and scientific organizations that seek to promote a sustainable, productive livestock management and works tirelessly to push the Tropical Grazing Institute’s mission forward.

Maria Janssen

Maria Janssen – Secretary

Maria joined the board of Directors of the Tropical Grazing Institute because she saw a unique opportunity to contribute knowledge to the challenge of creating innovative and sustainable grass-fed farming systems to produce artisinal beef in a profitable and responsible way in the tropics. Maria specializes in plant research, and TGI benefits from her capabilities in the development of successful practices that are specifically designed for the tropics, where demanding year-round conditions of hot and dry seasons alternating with warm and wet seasons present distinctive growing challenges.

Maria is a native of and recently a resident of the Netherlands again.  She is a Senior Researcher in Seed Production at a Dutch vegetable and herb seed producing company. Her educational background is in plant breeding (MSc from WUR, Wageningen, the Netherlands) and plant physiology (PhD from University of Minnesota). She is passionate about working with plants and has always been focused on working in the tropics and contributing to the improvement of local farming systems.

Maria has lived and worked for almost two decades in Costa Rica. She managed the organic Ark Herb Farm, producing vegetables and medicinal and aromatic herbs. She also used her expertise as a landscape designer and an agricultural consultant. She came into contact with TGI while working on the challenge of improving tropical forage systems for better and sustainable animal feed while she was still living in Costa Rica.

Lauren Tomeu

Lauren Tomeu – Treasurer

Lauren’s passionate advocacy for the production of sustainable pasture-raised animals is not surprising. Having grown up in a family where raising cattle has been a hobby and business for several generations, she knows the stigma that comes with the grass-fed label. People quite wrongly assume that a premium quality product cannot come from using traditional and sustainable cattle raising techniques. Lauren joined the Board of Directors because she believes that the Tropical Grazing Institute can dispel these myths and inspire others to make the change to better practices and, in turn, better health and longevity. She would like to have a hand in educating and spreading the word about the importance of fueling our bodies with nutrient dense foods, as well as proving to cattle farmers that traditional grass-fed can be profitable and productive.

She’s highly qualified to do so. With an educational background spanning international business management, hospitality and restaurant management, culinary arts training, Pilates teacher training and nutritional therapy credentials, Lauren brings apt and valuable knowledge, insight and experience that has helped shape the focus of TGI’s mission, goals and future.

A native and resident of West Palm Beach, Florida, Lauren is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and an avid world traveler. In fact, she became familiar with TGI while volunteering on the Parrita research farm to learn more about intensive grazing practices.