As a final stop on my visit to Michoacán, Leonel brought me to his farm. This was the first farm that Leonel converted from conventional practices and certified organic.
He explains to me that he was born an organic farmer. Growing up in rural Mexico with his Mom, Dad, and 10 brothers and sisters, there were no chemicals.
They grew their own fruits, vegetables and grains. They raised their own animals, and consumed everything that was produced. They made their own clothing, and were completely self sufficient. Anything left over was brought to town and bartered for other goods.
Leonel didn't know what agrochemicals were until he was older and had moved to the town of Uruapan.
As a young farmer growing citrus and other vegetables, he began using agrochemicals, especially pesticides. He quickly found that by using one chemical, it led to another chemical being needed, and then another, and another.
He discovered that the use of the agrochemicals put his farm out of balance which is why more and more chemicals were needed.
Furthermore, he isn't bashful about calling agrochemicals 'poisons.' He says that he refers to them as poison not to offend or make a point, but that's what it is, a poison "and anytime we use poison on the farm, we are opening ourselves up for an endless war against pests and diseases."
After a couple seasons experimenting with agrochemicals Leonel decided that he would never use them again. He prefers to create a system in balance with nature, in balance with the 'pests' so that each year his farm becomes stronger and more fertile, not the opposite.
Over the last 20 years Leonel has relentlessly experimented, first with organic practices, then permaculture, then agro-ecological, and now he is deep into biodynamics the last five years. He calls his system "Farming for Life" or "Agricultura de Vida" in Spanish. It is a philosophical approach to agriculture in which there is no killing of any insect or disease. He explains that there are a lot of organic certified farm inputs that are designed to control pests and disease by killing them with approved chemicals. He is confident that this approach opens ourselves up for the same consequences of agrochemical conventional agriculture. Instead, by creating a perfect equilibrium between the ecological and agricultural systems, everything is in balance, or "in their perfect order" as Leonel puts it.
On Leonel's farm, you will sometimes see an avocado tree being destroyed by a disease or eaten by insects. It is almost as if he shows off this tree so that you will ask him why he allows this tree to be destroyed.
With a huge grin on his face Leonel joyfully quips, "On my farm, everyone needs to eat. Even the pests have to eat." He then points out that all the trees surrounding the one tree being eaten are in perfect condition. His view is that if the insects have outsmarted him because he was unbalanced ecologically, that is his responsibility, not the insects. Leonel refuses to even touch a fruit fly or mosquito inside of his house. Instead he puts them on a piece of paper and lets them go outside.
On this farm visit, Leonel brought me to his nursery which had matured greatly and was ready to find a home for planting. He's still not sure where he will be planting these trees, but he is very proud of his nursery collection.
Finally, Leonel pointed out, as he always does, how the grass is a fluorescent green color. He explains that the only visual impact of his biodynamics is the color of the grass. Otherwise the only way to understand the impact of the biodynamics is with feeling, going beyond the capacities of the mental state.
It's always a blast to visit Leonel's farm, and to get a tour of an organic biodynamic avocado farm in Uruapan, the heart of Michoacán, Mexico's avocado culture.