I split a week between Finca Pashapa and Finca El Puente (photo set forthcoming!) in November on an early-harvest, relationship-strengthening trip to see two of my favorite farms and families. Honduras has been in the news a lot more often recently than when I began traveling there four years ago, beginning with the ousting of President Mel Zelaya (in his pajamas, as the story goes) in June of 2009, continuing through controversial elections, and an unusual frequency of violence (in particular, against journalists) in the months since then. All of the political instability that makes the news here at home feels completely unrelated to life in the communities of La Labor and Marcala – hours and worlds apart from Tegucigalpa and the world of coffee farming – so I headed south with the same high hopes as always, headlines be damned.
Would you believe me if I told you that everything about these coffees, farms, and relationships just keep getting better? How is that possible? Is it magic? Nope, it's hard work and lots and lots of practice. Take Finca Pashapa, for example, which is a family operation in the fullest sense of the term: the four siblings of the Salazar family, among them "worm guy" Roberto, divide and conquer the day-to-day tasks of the family's farm, from milking cows and collecting eggs to weighing each day's coffee harvest and paying pickers accordingly, while their parents, Coyo and Jorge, preside over the house and keep the operation running. I idealize Finca Pashapa for its long-time commitment to organic certification, its independence from commercial farming inputs (meaning they make all of their farm's compost and fertilizer out of their own materials, like manure), and the integration of the Salazar family, which owns the largest farm in town, with the surrounding community, but they work incredibly hard every day to make my vision a reality.
After this many years (this will be 10 between Counter Culture and Finca Pashapa!), I'm happy to endure Roberto's teasing as I wax poetic about environmental sustainability and beseech him to share his farm's experiences with other growers. I have tried to organize farmer exchanges between Finca Pashapa and Finca Mauritania, and between Finca Pashapa and Finca Esperanza Verde because I believe that the Salazar family's model for organic production embodies real sustainability – environmental, social, and fiscal – better than any farm I have seen and that is an incredibly valuable example to share! But, as I mentioned before, that success comes at the price of hard work, which means that Roberto is a busy guy. Almost impossibly busy, I would say, between the family's farm, the mill he runs, and the cooperative he manages.
One evening, sitting outside his office and waiting for him to finish another 14-hour day of work, I decided that he's like that friend who never returns your calls, EVER, but yet somehow always makes you feel, whenever you're together, that you are still the one who benefits more from the relationship. I have learned so much from Roberto's observations on everything from co-operatives to compost to cupping protocol over these past few years that I would be a fool not to wait, no matter how many hours.
On that note, I hope you enjoy the photo set's brief glimpse at some of the most interesting farms – and people – I know!