Finca Los Pinos was acquired by Mirna Lizeth Domínguez Márquez through a monthly instalment plan. It can be difficult to get credit for land purchase in Honduras, where a single parcel of land, however small, can far exceed a family’s immediate savings and coffee prices are low. However, Mirna worked hard to pay off the farm, which is located in the San Francisco neighbourhood in Marcala, La Paz, and has been determined to make a success of it despite not coming from a coffee farming family.
Coffee had been cultivated on the farm for many years before Mirna purchased the land, but the previous owners had failed to care adequately for their plants. The trees and the soil were in very bad shape when Mirna finally took over. She decided to renovate the entire 2 manzanas (around 1.4 hectares) through a combination of stumping and planting sapling in areas where the trees were completely decimated. Although this meant several years of lost production, it has paid off. Today she is the proud owner of a 100% Bourbon coffee farm, and her trees are healthy, happy and productive.
When Mirna first started out, she struggled to make the farm profitable. According to her, “it was difficult because I didn’t have any basic knowledge about coffee production, and I didn’t have much resource.” Nonetheless, perseverance won out over lack of experience. She has continued to innovate, seeking advice from those more knowledgeable, in order to constantly improve the quality of her coffee.
Harvest and processing activities are central to this. After the coffee is selectively hand harvested, it is delivered to a nearby wet mill for pulping on the same day (the farm doesn’t yet have its own facilities). The coffee is sorted and then carefully pulped into a tank. It is then fermented for 15 hours until the mucilage is completely depleted. After this, the coffee is washed in clean water.
Coffee is then moved to wooden beds that are stacked within solar driers (domos) – greenhouse-like structures constructed of wood and covered with UV-protective treated plastic. The solar dryer is constructed so as to allow maximum ventilation, which regulates temperature and prevents the drying pergamino from overheating. The coffee will remain here, being constantly turned, for around 20 days.
Although the challenges are great, Mirna has a clear vision for her farm for the future. She wants to continue improving her family’s quality of life by producing ever improved coffee quality. In the long term she also wants to establish her own wet mill on the farm so as to be able to have more control over processing and to send her product to every part of the world!