CHARITIES

Our world

At Casa Agave our initial aim was to boost the UKs education around agave spirits and the plant out of which it’s made, so that we can all learn their individual value. We are of course still dedicated to this cause. Over the last few years we’ve become more and more aware of the growing concerns that face the future of agave spirits industry in Mexico. We are very proud to be working with one of the greats in Santa Catarina Minas, Real Minero and now we will also be supporting the Bat Man of Mexico and his project of creating a more sustainable environment for agaves to grow in.

A global shift is happening where we are beginning to understand and recognise problems that have been created by, let’s face it, our own greed for more. We are now seeing behind brands, whether of food, clothing or drinks, and understanding that changes need to be made if we want to be able to continue enjoying the things which we enjoy in our everyday lives.

Agaves & Earthlings

To be able to produce an agave spirit one must harvest the plant before it can flower, otherwise the necessary starches, which are converted into fermentable sugars through the cooking of the pinas, are lost. Because of that, nature is losing out on its meal, whether that is for birds, insects, bees or bats, who are the very important pollinators of agaves. In fact, bats are the plant’s primary pollinator that feeds on the nectar of agave flowers, going from one to another carrying with them the pollen to fertilize other plants.

Industrial practices used to produce a lot of agave spirits have led to if not caused the decline in genetic diversity in agaves.

By allowing the precious maguey to flower you increase biodiversity, which helps sustain the crops. Also, you allow a natural growth of more agaves that are genetically slightly different to its mother plant, meaning if a disease took hold of the agave fields it would not spread, certainly not as easily or quickly, as if all the agaves shared the same DNA.

There are multiple ways to reproduce as an agave.

When an agave matures it grows what’s called a quiote, a trunk, that in turn grows flowers and seeds  that are sexually pollinated.

The quiote can also grow small baby agaves on its branches which, when ready, drop to the ground where they root themselves.

The above-mentioned ways of reproduction give the new agaves genetic diversity and food for our friends in the skies, but they are not the favoured way for industrial Tequila/Mezcal producers, as they would lose out on the starches of the matured agave.

The final way, and most common way to cultivate agave fields, is by using the ‘hijuelos’ these are baby agave ‘offshoots’ that grow from the roots of the mother plant. Unfortunately, the hijuelos are in fact clones of the mother agave and therefore genetically identical, making the offshoots susceptible to all kinds of diseases.

Proyecto LAM

The work of Real Minero is dedicated to the sustainability of the maguey and their family run palenque is even reviving almost extinct agave species back to health.

Being 4th generation Mezcal producers, the family are passionate about discovering all there is to know about the noble maguey.

A few years ago after the sad passing of Don Lorenzo Angeles Mendoza his daughters Graciela and Adriana and son Edgar launched a project called Proyecto LAM, honouring their father by naming the project after him.

Don Lorenzo always taught his children to care for and respect the agave. He would say: ‘Sin maguey, no hay mezcal’ (Without agaves, there is no mezcal).

His vision for the agave fields to be developed under a comprehensive approach in which the care of the environment, waste recycling, composting and ecological management of their crops in general set the standard for this project.

By studying the seeds, growth and behaviour of the many pollinators their aim is to share what they learn to other Mezcaleros, through encouraging building agave nurseries to help their growth and amongst other focusses to germinate agave seeds naturally without the need of chemical processes or technologies. This practise is of course applied in their fields of agaves too by not using any type of agrochemical.

One of the most upsetting things that Real Minero have learnt during the LAM project so far is that some agaves are so over-cultivated they are unable to grow healthy seed. An agave can produce approximately 10,000 to 20,000 seeds but they have noticed, the Espadin in particular, that less than 10% are healthy seeds.

To quote Graciela: “We not only think about the need to plant agaves and reproduce them but to understand that agaves are part of a habitat and that habitat is animals, plants and also humans. That’s why when you talk about sustainability in the maguey you have to think about water, firewood, agaves but also food.”

Amongst the many amazing things Real Minero do at their Palenque they value both social and ecological responsibility in that through their sales they were able to build the El Rosario library which focusses exclusively on the education of youths in their own community and of people of any other place.

As the LAM Project is independent it survives exclusively through donations and the sale of their Mezcal. Through these the wages of the people looking after the agave nurseries can be paid, to lower their costs for materials of their seed banks, as well as allowing for the publication of a leaflet that enables a dialogue between producers and consumers to raise awareness about the importance of the conservation of the wondrous maguey.

You can donate now to help the minds behind one of the worlds most respected Mezcals to show other producers the best way forward through education and leading by example.

Bat Friendly Program

The Bat Friendly Tequila and Mezcal Project, started by Dr Rodrigo Medellin, otherwise known as the Bat Man of Mexico, who is a professor at the Institute of Ecology of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), encourages producers of agave spirits to allow between 2% and 5% of their agave fields to flower.

Despite Dr Medellin’s relentless efforts of drawing the CRTs attention to the conservation of bats, which are as a result of the above problems an endangered species, by advocating for a small fraction of producer’s crops to mature, flower and be pollinated naturally, almost half of Mexico’s blue agaves ‘Tequilana Weber Azul’ fields are believed to be diseased or even dying.

A few years ago, Rodrigo Medellin joined forces with the Tequila Interchange Project or TIP which is a non-profit organization consisting of everyone from agave enthusiasts to producers to scientists to bartenders. TIP advocates the preservation of sustainable, traditional, and quality practices in the industries of agave distilled spirits, which not only improve our environment but also the quality of life of the hardworking individuals and families that depend on the agave spirits industry. Together, the Bat Man and TIP approach producers and agave growers to show them it’s in everyone’s best interest for some of their agaves to bloom so that one of the most important pollinators of agave, the lesser long-nosed bat, might be able to be brought back from the brink of being a threatened species, and so that agave fields grow healthier and more sustain-ably.

Demand is growing for items, whether it’s clothing, food or drink that are organic and ethically sourced and through that more people, producers and growers will see the benefits of this ever-important issue and follow suit.

The running costs of this fantastic non-profit, which since it’s not a certification program, must come from elsewhere. The producers are sacrificing a number of agaves which they could have transformed into Tequila for us to consume and so it’s our turn to show we care and to show our support for our mother nature.

Alongside this project there are many more people who are either becoming aware of the need for change and a lot of them simply believing it’s always been the way to look after nature or traditions or people.

The future of agave spirits lies in all our hands!

There are a lot of people out there who are passionate about bettering the land and the lives of our fellow earthlings and we can all lend a hand in doing that too.

But what can we all do?

  • Importers & Distributors: encourage the brands you work with to become more environmentally aware for the sake of their fields or be more selective in which brands to import or work with.
  • Bars & Restaurants: There are lots of brands out there trying to make a difference through sticking to their traditional production processes, fair-trade and of course agave sustainability. Find the brands that take positive action in 1 or more ways and shout about them by putting them in cocktails or highlighting them on your menus.
  • Consumers: By increasing the demand for environmentally friendly and/or fair-trade products then others will follow suit – Supply -> Demand. Drink better Tequila & Mezcal and that way we will all win!
  • Everyone: You can choose to donate to these amazing non-profits at checkout via this website and as a thank you receive a Casa Agave pin badge for your kindness.

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