Jesus Edgardo Sanchez has been producing coffee of his own since 2008, although his parents have always been involved in coffee. In the beginning all his coffee was sold to independent processors, but one day, in his own words, “I realized I was giving away my work, and that in reality I wasn’t doing things well. I started to process the coffee and focus on volume, not quality, but then I realized this wasn’t the way to be, that I had to work for quality.”
Jesus joined the COMSA cooperative soon after, which has permitted him as a young farmer to have a clear vision of what a good coffee producer really is, and to think first and foremost about quality and the environment, develop best practices for each, and then scale from there. Through COMSA Jesus began to learn organic agriculture and the benefits to farms and farmers alike of practicing earth-friendly land management. He officially named his farm “El Mirador” (a view or lookout point) in honor of the view spot near a large waterfall, surrounded by trees, on the perimeter of his farm. He plans to one day transform the site into an eco-tourism destination.
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. Based on this year’s washed process results, it’s clear Jesus knows what he’s doing: his coffee is lightly perfumed and delicately flavored with tropical fruits, dry spice, and lemongrass.
Finca El Mirador is in the community of Quebrada Las Lajas, 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.
Jesus 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.