Jim Finegan didn’t set out to make Panama his second home. While traveling through Costa Rica with a couple of his bartender employees from his home state, Pennsylvania, Jim went to a Columbus-Day celebration and made a lucky $50 bet that netted him $5,000.
Armed with an unexpected extension to his travel funds, Jim and his buddies decided to head down the coast to Panama. Their plan was to hike the dormant volcano near Boquete, then spend one night in the town.
“When I first saw Boquete, my planned 24-hour visit turned into two weeks,” says Jim. “The beauty of the area captured my attention immediately. Add to that the laid-back atmosphere and the friendly locals, and I was sold.”
Jim began returning to Boquete frequently, introduced his wife to the area, and eventually bought property to build a home. “My home is on a hillside with views of the Pacific Coast,” says Jim. “I have a million-dollar view without the million-dollar price tag.”
When Jim bought his property 10 years ago, the cost ran about $100 a square meter ($9.29 per square foot). Today’s cost for property like Jim’s would run three times that much. “This area is high-end due to the incredible coastal views, but there are deals right now,” says Jim. “Many expats built spec homes during the real-estate boom. When the market dropped in the U.S., they couldn’t afford to continue their building efforts in Panama, so there are plenty of places for sale.” A 2,000-square-foot home can be found for around $200,000. A two-bedroom rental house will run around $500 a month.
Jim makes his living in the U.S., where he owns two outdoor Tike bars in Pennsylvania. The bars are seasonal. Every October he packs up the bars (literally) and heads south to Panama, where he has started another venture as a coffee farmer.
“Coffee grows like roses here, so I decided to try my hand at farming. I bought 1.2 acres from a local farmer. The front half is on a steep hill and had a few coffee trees. I planted 225 more coffee trees last year,” says Jim. The cost of the trees and labor was just $87.
Jim processes his coffee beans the old-fashioned way. He dries the beans in husks and uses a friend’s machine to remove the shells. “I roast the beans in my front yard,” says Jim. “I’m enjoying the experience and I now have coffee beans to sell.” Jim labels his brand “Bad Ass Coffee Beans.”
“As far as I’m concerned, there is no better place to live than Boquete,” says Jim. “For now I’m here six months of the year, but when I retire the move to Panama will be permanent. I have coffee beans to grow.”
You can read the full article about Jim’s coffee farm adventures in the current issue of IL magazine…which you can access immediately upon subscribing with this link.
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