The Flanzer family began farming in the Serra do Cabral (in the Chapada de Minas at the north of Minas Gerais) in the 1970s, when Henrique Flanzer – father of Marcelo & Roberto – bought land to engage in forestry projects. For many years the farm, now known as Ecoagricola, was almost purely run for forestry. However, in 2000, Marcelo and Roberto (who had taken over management) began planning for the next 30 years, at which point they decided to diversify. They chose coffee for the great fit with the region: altitude, climate, water & terroir were perfect for coffee production. We are glad they did! They planted their first coffee nursery in 2006 and their very first coffee harvest was in 2009.
When brothers Brothers Marcelo & Roberto first began producing coffee, there were two big challenges that they had to face. Firstly, coffee had never been produced in the region before, so there was little infrastructure and no ‘accepted’ practices that had been developed and adapted over time for the region. They were going to have to figure it out alone. The second challenge was that they had no background in coffee at all! The brothers figured out that pivot irrigation was the way forward, taking into consideration water availability and terrain. Pivot irrigation (known variously as ‘waterwheel’ or ‘circle’ irrigation) is a method of crop irrigation where equipment rotates around a central pivot and crops are watered with sprinklers. The sprinklers will irrigate a circular area around the pivot point, often creating a circular pattern in crops when viewed from above. Center pivot irrigation typically uses less water compared to many surface irrigation and furrow irrigation techniques, which reduces the expenditure of and conserves water.
In many ways, sustainability and ethics are intrinsic to Ecoagricola’s origins. Many decades before sustainable production came into “fashion”, the family had already preserved vast areas within their land. Hundreds of hectares remain almost untouched. In fact, these concepts of preservation are built into the company’s very name: “Eco” refers to “ecological” and “Agrícola” means “agriculture”. According to Marcelo and Roberto, the very purpose of their agricultural business is to generate funding for ecological preservation. They’ve been incredibly successful and were re-certified by Rainforest Alliance with a grade of 97.7 out of 100 in 2017.
These measures have helped them to achieve their goal of marrying quality and sustainability. Although they are relatively new kids on the block, the quality of the coffee speaks for itsel and in 2017 they won places in the prestigious Cup of Excellence competition.