I recently had a visitor from Honduras – Roberto Isaias Salazar. He was accompanied by Felice Chay, a Volcafe Specialty Coffee trader. I buy coffees from Volcafe and have always had a good experience, so when Felice said she wanted to introduce me to Roberto, I knew it would be worth meeting him.
Roberto is a third generation coffee farmer and his family developed a very successful organic fertilizer. He is also a founding member, and now general manager, of a co-op. This co-op is a group of coffee farmers who get together and utilize resources to successfully produce good coffee and get it to market. It can be as simple as sharing labor to pick or as complicated as financing. What really impressed me was his willingness to share his knowledge.
Roberto’s co-op is called Cooperative Cafetalera Ecologica and has over 300 members with each farm being around 5 acres. They share in everything from labor to education. For education, there is a 2-year training course on cupping the farmers must participate in. They learn how important it is for a producer to taste and know the difference in quality. The co-op also does a number of trainings throughout the year in organic agriculture, farm management and administration. There’s even schooling for their children, healthcare and dental services.
The coffees are certified Rainforest Alliance and it’s easy to see why. All aspects of sustainability, environment, commutative and economics have been covered. I asked how Roberto’s co-op has dealt with the coffee disease, Roya Fungas, hitting Central America. He has been the first to say to me – minimally. He believes their impact was small because of his organic fertilizer and the altitude of the farms. He added, “Right now it’s the rainy season and the trees are all flowering. We will first see ripe coffee cherries in late November, early December and we will be picking ripe cherries until March.”
Before leaving, both Roberto and Felice extended an invitation to visit them in Honduras in February. This is certainly an invitation I will accept and look forward to in the coming months.Anthony Valerio