"Do it for love or do it for money, but do it."
Agricola Santa Amalia
Alvaro is the owner of the Agrilo Santa Amalia ranch, which covers 360 hectares close to San Miguel de Allende in Central Mexico.
He took over the company from his father, who produced mainly vegetables such as broccoli, sprouts and garlic using conventional methods. Now salad plants dominate, grown on a vast scale and in all imaginable varieties, destined for supermarkets in the United States.
To make such exports possible, the company needed to meet the high food safety standards demanded by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). All the fields on the ranch have now been certified as complying with the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement.
To meet the strict conditions imposed by the authorities, he was told to set traps for mice, squirrels and other animals that the FDA defines as pests.
The story starts in May five years ago, during the dry season, when Alvaro discovers that large numbers of mice and frogs are living among his crops. He decides to cut open one of the dead mice to find out whether they are eating his salad. They aren’t. Frogs, mice and squirrels don’t eat salad; they have come to quench their thirst with the water he gives his crops, using an irrigation system that extracts water from the bountiful source that his land is so fortunate to have.
We meet Alvaro Nieto in his office, a vaulted granary more than 150 years old with a quote from Charles Darwin on the wall:
“The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man.”
After coffee has been served and he glances up at the Charles Darwin quote one more time, he lets fly.
“Set traps to kill mice, squirrels and frogs? No way.”
It’s the start of a wonderful story about how agriculture and nature are not just able to coexist but can actually reinforce each other.
On one of his fields we find a beautiful place shaded by native palo verde trees, of which he has planted 10,000 in recent years. Here we listened to one of the most inspiring talks we have ever heard about restoring the landscape and the environment, providing proof that it’s possible to change farming practices for the better while benefitting economically at the same time.
"So far we've been proving that we can do it the right way."
"All the problems that we are now facing... Just look back at nature. Just trust in science. Respect and protect nature."
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Resilience Food Stories is a storytelling platform by Ruud Sies and Hanneke van Hintum in partnership with Koppert.
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