Oscar Omar Alonzo Aguilar represents the fourth generation of coffee producers in his extended family. From a very young age he showed heavy interest in coffee cultivation and acknowledged coffee as his personal heritage—and yet, always imagined himself experimenting with coffee, developing new experiments and pathways, and improving upon what those before him had done.
At an early age Oscar already had his own farm and was getting excellent yields, but the low global coffee prices of the late-1990s sapped his initiative to invest: no quality he could produce would earn him any more value in the market. In 2001 he met a man named Rodolfo Peñalba who was determined to organize farmers and change the way coffee farmers produced, with an emphasis on harmony with nature. Peñalba would go on to form the influential local association COMSA and become its general manager for many years.
Oscar embraced the new project and threw himself into organic farming; however, he had no name for his farm. After much consideration his thoughts turned to the bicycle: “if someone wants to get ahead on a bicycle, they have to pedal hard, maintain their equilibrium, resist backward motion, and in doing so they don’t contaminate their surroundings”…for this reason he named his farm in honor of his favorite metaphor of sustainability: Finca Cual Bicicleta.
These days, Finca Cual Bicicleta’s main objectives are to maintain coffee quality, continuously improve its varietal profiles, and draw the younger generation of his community into quality farming. The farm currently has IHCAFE 90, catuaí, Lempira, and icatú cultivars, as well as parainema and gesha, all in production. The honey process lot we selected this year is small but memorably delicious, with syrupy and floral with honeysuckle-like sweetness, and flavors of cinnamon, dried fig, and date.
Finca Cual Bicicleta is in the community of El Trapiche, in the municipality of Chinacla, just north of Marcala, in Honduras’ La Paz department and 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.
Oscar 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.