Victor Contreras has cultivated coffee for 25 years. The farm name, “Arcanos” (‘arcana’, or secret/mysterious knowledge) comes from a deeply-held (and quite awesome) reverence for the knowledge of the earth that Victor and his family keep central to their cultivation lifestyle: “We named the farm ‘Arcanos’ because it is constantly being a wellspring of knowledge, guarding its secrets, and patiently motivating our attitude in life. The coffee plants are part of a much bigger organism that has the capacity to preserve its own memories over time--an organism that is an astonishing and incomprehensible plant kingdom. When we observe nature’s law through its diverse phenomenon, we realize that the best way to evolve is to work with the natural world, not against it.” Far out!
In the last 10 years of trial and error using organic and biodynamic methods on the farm, Victor has seen “excellent results” in the strength of the coffee, and health of the land. Not only that, but Victor has diversified his processing as well, now creating washed, honey, and natural processed coffees annually. Washed coffee at El Mirador is hand-picked, depulped and fermented the same day. Once fermentation is complete the parchment is moved to raised beds in the shade to dry. Victor’s washed coffee this year is fresh, brisk, lightly floral, and has an invigorating sweet/savory complexity to it.
Finca Arcanos is in the community of El Granadillo, outside the municipality of Marcala, in Honduras’ La Paz department, very close to the border with El Salvador. This part of the country is extremely well respected for coffee, so much so that in 2005 the region received Honduras’ first Denominación de Origen (DO) for coffee which, similar to American Viticulture Areas (AVAs), certifies the region’s terroir and final products as being authentic, so as to protect it from adulteration or imitation. The DO designation applies to Honduras’ mountainous southwestern region and includes parts of Intibucá, La Paz, and Comayagua, although it is simply named “DO Marcala” after the town itself, considered the region’s capital of coffee heritage.
Victor is an associate of Café Orgánico Marcala Sociedad Anónima, or COMSA, a large and well-respected growers association based in the town of Marcala. COMSA was founded in 2001 with the equivalent of $365 USD and 61 small coffee producers, 12 women and 49 men. Today the organization has more than 1,500 associate coffee farmers covering an area of 5,800 hectares, maintains multiple certifications, and is considered one of Honduras’ model business organizations.
From the beginning COMSA has promoted organic agricultural methods and quality of coffee as fundamental values for all participating producers. This was a reaction to what the founders saw as an over-reliance on agro-toxins which threatened the longevity of family farms (often a family’s sole asset) and the physical health of the people farming one of their country’s most gifted coffee terroirs. In 2012 the group acquired their own parcel of farmland and built “Finca Biodinámica La Fortaleza” (“Biodynamic Fortress”), a demonstration farm for testing sustainable techniques, as well as designing optimal farm inputs that can be created using common by-products of coffee farming—the results of which are shared throughout COMSA’s farmer network. In recent years COMSA has begun to focus more on what they call “La Finca Humana” (the human farm): an increased consciousness within the farmer that seeks to integrate their physical and social lives with the natural environment around them using observation, investigation, analysis, reflection, and activities that connect farmers with one another and the planet.