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Profitable vegetable production is only part of Santa Amalia’s plan

comonfort, guanajauto, mexico — For most of us, an encounter with a dead mouse is not an experience that we choose to prolong.

And, actually, Alvaro Nieto prefers to kill nothing. But in the interest of having a bio-diverse farm, he has trapped mice, then sliced open tiny stomachs to learn what he can about the animal’s habits.

This example is a tiny slice of all Nieto has done to have his 300-acre vegetable farm produce safe food while adding to the local environment.

One thing Nieto and his biologist colleagues have learned is that wild animals often enter fields to drink from drip irrigation; more than they seek to feed on the crop.

In the interest of food safety, he has surrounded the five plots of his 112-year old family farm, Agricola Santa Amalia, with fences to discourage entry by large mammals like dogs and deer.

Sta-Amalia-Alvaro-NietoWhile Agricola Santa Amalia is receiving very positive recognition from international specialists in biodiversity, company owner Alvaro Nieto also makes the firm’s five biodiverse farm locations a commercial success. This part of Guanajuato is part of byways for birds and the November Monarch butterfly migration route between Canada and nearby Michoacán. Inside those fences, he has created many artificial water pools to provide birds, small mammals and wildcats with places to drink.

Also along the fields’ fringe, Nieto is planting indigenous trees and flowering plants to help maintain the region’s natural bio-diversity.

He also has motion-activated flash cameras mounted on trees beside the pools to photograph the farm’s thirsty night life. Many a startled wildcat have been captured on electronic film.

To a visitor, Nieto’s clear love of support for Mother Nature tends to overshadow his success as a commercial grower. But speaking well of Santa Amalia’s financial viability is year-round shipping of lettuce and other vegetables to Church Bros. Farms and Fresh Express.

“I am growing very rapidly with my good customers,” Nieto said. “But I want to do it carefully and methodically.”

“I give preference to my existing customers, such as Discovery Organics, out of Vancouver,” he added.

But Nieto is also interested in developing other business.

Beyond commercial success and the promotion of biodiversity, Nieto places food safety, social responsibility and sustainability as very important parts of his firm’s positioning.

In the first quarter of 2017 he will receive his Fairtrade certification.

But, naturally, Nieto already has a long track record in taking care of his workers.