The Organic Production of Traditional Crops by Mixteco Farmers

Final report for FNC20-1255

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2020: $9,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2022
Grant Recipient: Michigan Food & Farming Systems-MIFFS
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
Filiberto Villa-Gomez
Michigan Food & Farming Systems-MIFFS
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Project Information

Description of operation:

The initial production area was 3 acres and the crops were Tomatillo milpero, Swiss chard, green beans, purple and yellow beans, Kuza squash, garlic onions and corn. With this project, 2 more acres were added for 5 Acres in total in the 2021 season. The established crops were: winter squash (for Flowers), Red potatoes, Onion, Tomatillo.
This producer started his farm 6 years ago and always is trying to grow his crops in natural conditions, implementing natural and manual practices that he has learned since he was growing with family in Oaxaca Mexico.

The Practices:
1). Land preparation: It can be said that this is minimal, since it was limited to the opening of a hole in the ground to a depth of 3 inches and depositing the seed in each hole so that the plant germinates. There were 2 feet between plants, in the case of pumpkin, in rows 3 feet apart.
For garlic, we made small trenches 3 inches deep and every 8 inches deposited a seed. Row were 20 inches apart. These rows are in groups of 4 in the form of beds, leaving a space between each bed of about 24 inches to carry out fertilization, weeding and nutrition practices, since most of the practices are carried out manually using tools such as a hoe, and some type of straight shovel.
2). Weeding is also manual, and herbicides are not used.
3). Nutrition is by means of fish emulsion and other organic foliar nutrients by means of a backpack sprayer.
4). In relation to disease control, copper-based products that are already known for copper are sometimes used.
5). Irrigation was done by spraying from a single hose that had to be moved manually from one place to another until the entire area was covered. Thus, for each crop it has its own measures and practices that are constantly performed to avoid weeds and prevent diseases as well.
6). He was also using trellises with posts to support the plants. in the case of tomatoes and tomatillos to prevent them from coming into contact with the ground.
Note: He has been doing these practices since he started production on his farm.


The farmer for this project is Severiano Felipe Antonino García.

Mr. Antonino García has vast experience in the production of traditional agricultural products using organic practices, which he gained working at his family farm in Mexico.  After working for many years as a migrant farm worker, a few years ago he bought a small farm in Van Buren County, Michigan where he is using his experience in the production of organic agricultural products.  Due to the increased demand for tomatillo criollo, Kusa squash, garlic, beans (yellow, green, and purple), and hot peppers, Mr. Antonino Garcia is planning to expand his current production of traditional agricultural products to sell at local markets and to expand the marketing of his products to new markets. This project is Ecologically Sound since it does not use any type of chemicals in the production process, is economically viable since it will increase his farm revenues and profits in the end.  Finally, the project is Socially Responsible because it will improve his quality of life, as well as that of other underserved farmers. In addition, he plans to share his experience and knowledge with other farmers in the community.

Project Objectives:
  • To expand from 3 to 5 acres my current production of traditional agricultural products to satisfy the current demand in local markets.
  • Implement agricultural practices without the use of pesticides in order to avoid water pollution and improve the soil life and take care of the environment.
  • Learn about new and improved technologies for the production of naturally-grown products.
  • Share my experience gained in the production of naturally-grown agricultural products through demonstration plots, trainings, conference presentations, and social media.


Materials and methods:
  1. Purchase of Seeds – Seeds could be purchased from companies with organic certification. The following are the quantities that will be bought: Tomatillo 3 ounces; Beans 6 pounds, Squash ½ pound, Hot Peppers 4,500 seeds, and Garlic 10 pounds.
  2. Facilities preparation and seeding – Conditioning greenhouse for seeding, subtract preparation, preparation of flats for seeding.
  3. Delimitation of production plots – Identification of production plots, each plot should be close to an acre.
  4. Purchase of irrigation materials as needed – Determined the type of materials to buy based on the different crops.
  5. Establishment of crops – Transplant of seedlings to production plots.
  6. Establishment of irrigation system – Adapt the irrigation system according to the crops.
  7. Implementation of a program for pest and disease control – Pest and disease monitoring and look for the appropriate control.
  8. Crop management – Cleaning (weed control) and pruning as needed, trellis management, acquisition of recommended products for organic production.
  9. Establishment of plants to attract pollinators around the plots – Buy seeds for pollinator plants according to plan.
  10. Implement a product promotion and search for suitable markets – Visit customers, send them flyers with production pictures, make phone calls, and preparation of samples.
  11. Preparation of promotional materials – Prepare promotional flyers/advertise through social media.
  12. Trips for market recognition – Visit market outlets in nearby cities, meet with potential customers, participate in marketing events.
  13. Preparation of workshops, demonstration and visits to the farm – Conduct hands-on demonstration workshops on keeping records.
  14. Workshop about harvest and quality products management – Hands-on workshops and show videos.
  15. Workshop and food safety and storage of produce – Train producers to follow rules about safety for food products.
  16. Workshop about importance of Pollinators and practices of conservation – Hands-on workshop and presentation of videos.
  17. Final seasonal evaluation Garcia photos
Research results and discussion:

To learn about our project and the experience(s) of the farmers, we created this video.

Story Telling Session-- The Organic Production of Traditional Crops by Mixteco Farmer Project

Participation Summary
1 Farmers participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

1 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
1 On-farm demonstrations
1 Online trainings
3 Tours
1 Other educational activities: Tours to 3 other farms to review the crops and talk directly with the producers about the advantage of growing without excessive pesticide use. The farms are located at Cover, Eau Claire and Decatur at Van Buren Co. (During the pandemic we did not have in-person meetings, and at the 3 in-person visits, we took care to social distance).

Participation Summary:

3 Farmers participated
2 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

 We toured 3 farms to talk about the crops and practices to use in this project with the producers. 

Learning Outcomes

4 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Lessons Learned:

The producer was worried about the crop losses since he does not have a risk mitigation program such as crop insurance. In the case of flooding at the first stage of this project, he lost the plants and seeds of the original crops but got different crops to replace them on his farm.

Fortunately, he was able to get other crop seed (white and purple corn, potatoes and onions) and he established this crop in the next project season. Now he is thinking about growing just this crop since he gets good buyers. 

Project Outcomes

3 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
1 New working collaboration

It seems like for all projects must be to include some risk mitigation practices or resources to reduce the losses.

Information Products

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.