Arnoldo Cristóbal Nicolás Morales first inherited a parcel of land from his father in 2013. The plot was part of a 50-year-old coffee farm planted with bourbon brought from El Salvador in the 1920s. Arnoldo’s father had always managed 4 manzanas (about 3 hectares) of coffee, half of which was bourbon and the rest catuaí, one of Honduras’ most common cultivars. However, in 2009 Arnoldo watched his father lose the entire farm to la roya (coffee leaf rust). After re-building, his father gave him his own parcel.
Arnoldo joined the COMSA cooperative in 2014 and began to learn organic agriculture and the benefits to farms and farmers alike of practicing earth-friendly land management. He officially named his farm “Finca Los Tucanes Verdes” in 2015 in honor of the emerald tucans that frequently spent time on the farm. Arnoldo makes his gratitude for the natural harmony of the farm quite clear: “to spend a day on Finca Los Tucanes Verdes is to enjoy nature accompanied by the song of the birds, breathe the fresh air and contemplate nature’s beauty, enjoy a delicious fresh-cut orange from the tree, taste the flavors of the earth, and take in the sight of countless local birds.” Indeed!
From the very first harvest as Finca Los Tucanes Verdes Arnoldo began practicing with washed, natural, and honey processing methods and obtained excellent results in the cup from the beginning. Based on this year’s honey process results, it’s clear Arnoldo knows what he’s doing. We cupped multiple samples of his and this one in particular had the sweetness and tanginess of reduced balsamic vinegar and flavors of date, red grape, a clean structure and aromatics of dried rose petal.
Finca Los Tucanes Verde is in the community of Las Pilas, 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.
Arnoldo 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.