“Farming For Life” at Michoacan Organics
An Approach to Living & Working with Nature
Leonel Chávez has been farming in Michoacán, Mexico for the last 40 years—certified USDA organic for over 15 years. Through permaculture, biodynamic and organic farming practices, and other techniques, he has created a unique style of agriculture he calls “Farming for Life.”
What makes this approach so special?
A producer can boast an organic certification and still approach agriculture with a monoculture mindset, seeking to control nature with biological chemicals like harsh pesticides. In contrast, “Farming for Life” is about living and working with nature. It’s about establishing a symbiotic relationship between farming and all the bacteria, fungi, “weeds,” insects and other critters that form part of a farm’s ecosystem. A producer who is farming for life will use everything available on the land to enrich the soil, which creates amazing fruit that nourishes consumers in mind, body, and soul.
Due to linguistic and cultural barriers, however, Leonel and his family originally had to sell their world-class avocados to packhouses, big brands, and other intermediaries in Mexico. The arrangement was less than ideal, and lumped together his exceptional product with other organic avocados from the region.
Leonel felt that farmers and producers were being taken advantage of financially; they deserved a larger share of the final sale. More importantly, he believed that his avocados were worthy of greater distinction in the marketplace.
This pushed Leonel to create Michoacan Organics and set up channels for the direct sale of his avocados to buyers in the United States, giving his product the reach it deserved.
Both the superior quality of his product and the process behind it warrant special attention. Leonel wants the story of his avocados to be told—and shared widely—to help consumers understand how profoundly “Farming for Life” practices affect the quality, nutritional value, and antioxidant properties of the final product, especially compared to other avocados.
The Practices of Farming For Life
Leonel dedicates a large portion of his land to forest conservation and restoration. He implements intercropping of dozens of varieties of native grasses and plants all around his avocado trees in order to attract the greatest possible diversity of insects to his farm.
Beekeeping plays an important role at Michoacan Organics. When the goal is to encourage as much natural micronutrient variety as possible to create the richest soil and finest final product, bees are critical.
Furthermore, in keeping with the tenets of “Farming for Life,” Leonel creates plant-based insect repellent formulas using ingredients from the farm. For instance, he grows, harvests and ferments hot peppers, onion, and garlic, using the mix to fumigate the avocado leaves.
Retention lakes at the bottom of the native forests serve to conserve water, as well as several other permaculture-related functions. When it rains, microorganisms, mushrooms, and compost from the forest floor flow into the fish-filled retention lake. This formula ferments in the lake to create nutrient-rich water that is used to irrigate the fields in the dry season.
Biodynamics and other permaculture practices also show up in the farm’s six-month fermentation tanks full of ingredients like squash and cow stomach inoculated with mushroom spores from the forest.
And finally, the high altitude at Michoacan Organics means the fruit takes longer to ripen, leading to higher antioxidant and nutrient levels. All of this information is of great interest and value to conscious consumers seeking to buy the best possible product.
Leonel’s “Farming for Life” approach listens to the land itself. This way, little to nothing gets wasted. Avocados are extremely popular, and the insatiable demand they’ve generated in the international market has not been good news for Mexican forests.
Leonel is a leading example of how farmers can take the deforestation out of avocado farming.
His “Farming for Life” approach is a sustainable and conscious proposal—full of heart, creativity, and loving intuition. We at Producers Market are proud to feature him and Michoacan Organics on our platform.