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Agricola Campaña moves forward without beloved Cesar Campaña

The first anniversary of the death of Cesar Campaña has now passed. Yet the presence of a man who left a highly positive influence on his company — Agricola Campaña — and in Mexico’s produce industry, is very much alive.

Campaña’s brother, Francisco Campaña, carries on in the business. However, whenever he talks about the business there are frequent references to Cesar, whose photo hangs over the boardroom table. Cesar-FranciscoFrancisco Campaña in the boardroom of Agricola Campaña beside a portrait of his brother and business partner, Cesar Campaña, who died Dec. 12, 2016, of complications from a heart attack.

Francisco Campaña said his brother, who was two years younger, once headed the first greenhouses operated by the Batiz family, which started Master’s Touch.

Cesar Campaña also led the creation of AMHPAC, and was the association’s first president, serving for four years. AMHPAC, based in Culiacan, is the national association for protected agriculture. When he died Dec. 12, 2016, he was president of CIDH, which is the vegetable wing of the CAADES agricultural association of Sinaloa.

Cesar Campaña suffered a heart attack on Dec. 5 and died a week later at age 47. His brother indicated that Cesar had survived two serious automobile accidents and a bout with cancer.

“I think he lived a happy life and was satisfied with his accomplishments,” said Francisco Campaña. “We are very sad. We always thought, ‘What else can happen to Cesar?’ He took care of himself and was very, very enthusiastic in his approach to life. He traveled all over the country to invite people to join AMHPAC. He is well remembered. We were partners for 22 years.”

He said the family had an 11-year gap in operations as his father went bankrupt on the 1985-86 cucumber market. “In this business, you never know what the climate will be, with freezes or labor, which can have shortages. But that is farming. We are very satisfied to be in this business,” added Campaña.

The Campañas’ grandfather started the farm in 1947. Later, the brothers and their father ran the farm.

In 1998, the brothers took the family business to another level. By 2000 they started exporting, sending Oriental vegetables to the U.S. west coast. For the 2001-02 season, to have better control of production, they were operating the firm’s first shade house. In 2004 they began growing long English cucumbers, which is now the primary commodity for Agricola Campaña. The firm also produces orange and green bell peppers, colored mini-peppers and Italian and Indian eggplant.

Campaña now has 250 acres of shade house and 350 acres of open field green beans and eggplant.

Agricola Campaña carries an impressive list of independent distributors, which includes Divine Flavor, Oppenheimer and Ciruli Bros. Generally speaking, those customers’ brands are packed by Agricola Campaña.

The firm continues to grow white field corn — 375 acres this year. But that acreage is declining over the years to make way for vegetable expansion. “Our state produces 5 million tons of white corn and there are 25,000 growers of white corn,” said Campaña. Meanwhile, there are 100 vegetable growers in Sinaloa.

Meeting market demands

Top-notch food safety, social responsibility and sustainable practices are key to Agricola Campaña. It is one of 14 Sinaloa member-owners of 11 Rivers Growers. The Culiacan-based certification group is owned by private growers who have invested to have a top-flight third-party organization monitor its operations. Campaña said 11 Rivers investigators call on each member once a week, performing varying audits on some unannounced phase of the business.

“The way we grow here, with attention to food safety and social responsibility, meets a big concern for Mexican growers,” said Campaña. “We are now working on sustainability, too. We try to keep up with market demands. Sometimes we go beyond most of the demands.”

With the 11 Rivers certifications, Campaña aspires for the maximum requirements, not the minimum. “This should and will improve consumer confidence in this area,” he said, adding that 11 Rivers was created in 2008 after the Salmonella connection with jalapeño peppers.

Campaña acknowledged “we are worried” about the negative possibilities surrounding NAFTA renegotiations. “But,” he added, “the U.S. and Mexico need each other,” as Mexico is an important market for U.S. apples and berries. “We hope for NAFTA to endure. I think it is beautiful for both countries,” he said. “We supply vegetables when it is difficult for the U.S. to produce.” He added that the presence of Mexico in the U.S. vegetable market keeps the price down for the American people.

“I have a gut feeling the negotiations will keep on going. I really hope that NAFTA will endure,” he said.