Café Orgánico Marcala (COMSA) was founded in December of 2001 with a vision of creating new and alternative development opportunities for small-scale coffee farmers in the region of Marcala, Honduras. The organization originally brought together 69 small-scale farmers of Lenca origin who were interested in selling their coffee collectively under the umbrella of a rural credit union.
At that time, the predominant production system in the region used conventional (chemical) practices and sold to the local coyotes, often at prices that did not even cover the farmers’ production costs. One of the primary founding objectives of COMSA was to seek out and promote new ways of thinking – both in production, moving from conventional to organic production; and in markets, moving from commercial to specialty buyers.
In the beginning the challenges were enormous, as transitioning from conventional to organic practices can cause dramatic drops in production yields. Many members became discouraged and dropped out of the organization. In response, the COMSA Board of Directors and technical team looked for new methods of intensive organics to support their transition and established a strategic alliance with the Corporación Educativa para el Desarrollo Costarricense – CEDECO. With CEDECO’s support, staff and members of COMSA learned new and innovative practices to transform their lands into integrated organic farms – promoting soil and water conservation, and the preservation of local plant and wildlife. Meanwhile, members began to see improvements in coffee yields, better family relationships and rapid growth in membership for COMSA.
With their initial successes, members became more and more open to experimentation with innovative organic practices. Since COMSA's inception, it has developed its own approach to organic agriculture, adopting the five “Ms” of organic agriculture over time: in 2001 - use of organic Matter; 2006 – application of Micro-organisms in compost; 2010 - exploring the use of Minerals; 2012 – production of fermented live Molecules; 2013 - strengthening the grey Matter (brainpower) of their technical team, members, and strong educational program with their youth and women’s groups. Today, their lead farmers continue to demonstrate effective, regenerative organic practices that are both improving productivity and protecting their plants from common diseases.
In 2016, COMSA launched the Diplomado Organico, a week-long intensive training program that not only teaches innovative organic farming techniques, but also helps broaden perspectives for small-scale farmers on the relationship between their work, the ecosystem and the health of communities on both sides of the supply chain.
Cooperative Coffees began working with COMSA in 2014, importing their members' high quality washed and honey process green coffees, presenting the unique regional characteristics of Marcala: medium body and pronounced acidity, bitter chocolate flavours, and nuances of floral, lemongrass, peach and wild berries. We were delighted to participate in the Diplomado Organico course in 2016 and are pleased to offer continued support by sponsoring our producer partners in Latin America to attend this program.
Porfirio Gámez Rodríguez grew up surrounded by coffee. Since he was little he observed his father and grandfather work in the farm. He is the third generation in his family dedicated to coffee production. His grandfather started the tradition in the year 1930.
He became a member of COMSA in 2014 and began the implementation of organic agriculture with support of the cooperative. In 2014 he also begins the the implementation of the 5M proposal, minding the needs of the soil and of coffee trees, in order to have a sustainable and environnmentally friendly production.
Porfirio began growing coffee in 1980 with the knowledge he had learned from both his father and grandfather. Since then he has been growing coffee at his own farm, developing his methods in processing, from depulping to drying, and allowing himself to experiment every year in order to improve the quality profile of his coffee.
At Finca El Encanto, Porfirio is joined by his wife and children in the work. His children also continue in the tradition with his same passion, with the objective to produce quality coffee. This is something he leaned from his father and grandfather.
Mario Porfirio ensures that al production practices are environmentally friendly. He also hope to diversify his production, having planted numerous fruit trees.
This process is very short. It requires that coffee be picked very selectively, ensuring only ripe cherries are chosen. Once selected, the cherries are laid out to dry in a raised covered drying table where temperature is modulated so that the coffee can be dried slowly. In this process coffee is moved constantly to avoid the development of mold that might cause defects in the taste profile.
This drying process can take up to 30 days, depending on climate conditions. Once the target moisture of 12% is reached, the dried cherries are placed in bags to be transported to the COMSA warehouse.