In part 2 of this exclusive interview with Nestor Andrés Plasencia, the famed cigar maker discusses the growing process and his passion for the cigar business. For part 1 of this interview, click here.
Heads of companies all start their days differently. For Nestor Andrés Plasencia, his day typically starts very early and involves him using that extra time to figure out how to better use his time. Sometimes he chooses to dedicate more time to the factories as he tries to figure out how he and the Plasencia team can work together better. He also spends a lot of time trying to figure out how he and the team can improve as human beings—a lofty but important goal that he knows can be achieved through the growing of tobacco and making of quality cigars.
“My intention is never to serve as a model,” he says. “We can help companies be more successful by showing them how investing in staff and in the communities where we operate is a great business decision. Your staff will be more committed, and in the end their products will be of better quality, which helps the business in the short and long term. Being born in Estelí and seeing what the industry has achieved to improve the lives of the city’s inhabitants fills me with great satisfaction, but there is still much to do.”
When it comes to his job and responsibilities, what Nestor Andrés enjoys the most is the time he gets to spend on the farms, which he says is where his heart is and where the real magic happens.
“It is impossible to make an excellent-quality cigar if you do not have excellent-quality tobacco in the beginning,” he explains.
Despite being forced to move due to political unrest and different diseases impacting crops over the years, tobacco has remained a key to the Plasencia family’s overall success throughout various generations. For Nestor Andrés, the importance of tobacco in his family’s success and business stays at the top of mind in all he and the company set out to do. Nestor Andrés attributes much of his family’s success to the great team the family has built over the years. Without these skilled and talented individuals, Nestor Andrés says that he does not believe the company or the Plasencia family would be in the great position it is today.
“For me, the most important of all the facets of this wonderful industry is the tobacco growing,” he says. “It is in the fields where the magic begins. I like to refer to this as the triangle of success where, starting with soil that’s full of nutrients together with microclimatic factors such as optimal temperatures, relative humidity, precipitation regime and wind speed, we add the most important factor: the know-how of our people. It is the human factor that determines our success because it is there where years of experience and passion for what is done determine what the best seeds are that we can plant. It is our people’s knowledge that determines when those plants have to be irrigated, when those leaves have reached the ideal maturity to be harvested and can be transferred to the curing barns and then are ready to go to the fermentation rooms.”
He adds, “It is the relationship with the land that makes it possible to obtain an excellent-quality tobacco. With those leaves that we were able to save from all the challenges over the years we were able to create some blends for all those passionate cigar lovers to enjoy. To all who are reading this article: If you have not had the opportunity to visit a tobacco field, do so, because I assure you that it will be a unique experience.”
The changing climate, diseases and pests all remain the biggest challenges to the Plasencias’ tobacco growing operation today. “In the ʼ80s, we had a heavy infestation in our fields where my father lost everything he planted for many years due to a fungus called blue mold,” says Nestor Andrés. Thanks to the development of improved varieties and better practices, we have been able to continue growing. I also remember that about seven years ago a tornado destroyed all the curing barns that we had on a farm. It is because of all of this that we decided many years ago to diversify the risk by growing in many different places. For example, in Nicaragua, we grow in Jalapa, Estelí, Condega and Ometepe. In Honduras, we also plant in different places such as Jamastran, Olancho and Talanga.”
Today, the Plasencias are growing different varieties of Habano and Connecticut tobacco seeds. A few years ago, they also began planting Broadleaf seeds. Altogether, the Plasencias grow more than 3,500 acres of tobacco across all of their farms. Growing 100 percent organic tobacco remains a priority for the Plasencias, and it is achieved by using all of the knowledge of ecosystems, soil makeup and biology of the crop that the family and its team have gained through years of experience.
“It is a process that I am personally very passionate about because the tobaccos we grow are the basis for the Plasencia brand blends, and it reminds me of the first project I worked on after graduating from the agricultural school, the Plasencia Reserva Organica.”