In late March of this year, Campos Borquez became Regenerative Organic Certified (ROC), making it the first farm in Mexico to receive this rigorous new certification.
“My family was part of a group of pioneers in a valley that hosted Dr. Norman Borlaug’s research for the Green Revolution,” says Campos Borquez’s CEO Pablo Borquez. “Maximizing yield to have enough food supply for a rapidly growing population was at the core of sustainable farming for my parents’ generation. Times have changed, and I believe that our part in sustainable farming’s history is being defined by the Regenerative Organic Alliance’s vision and guidelines. We feel honored and proud to have obtained the certification and be part of this movement.”
Based in the Mexican state of Sonora, Campos Borquez farms over 5,000 acres, 712 of which are now Regenerative Organic Certified and 3,530 of which are certified organic or transitioning to certified organic.
Campos Borquez’s Regenerative Organic Certified crops are asparagus, celery, broccoli and cauliflower, and the company recently planted 888 acres of avocados and 30 acres of mangos (and 100 more acres will be planted this year).
“We are preparing the mangos and avocados to be certified ROC as well,” says Sergio Borquez, executive vice president of Campos Borquez, noting that the Mexican state of Sonora is not a typical region for growing avocados due to the extreme summer temperatures. “Regenerative organic practices not only are more sustainable, but they also strengthen the trees to better withstand the stress of the heat. We are excited to see these projects flourish in the near future,” he says.
“I believe that our part in sustainable farming’s history is being defined by the Regenerative Organic Alliance’s vision and guidelines. We feel honored and proud to have obtained the certification and be part of this movement.” -Pablo Borquez
Overseen by the Regenerative Organic Alliance (ROA), Regenerative Organic Certified (ROC) builds on USDA Organic, which is a prerequisite for applying for ROC status. An in-depth certification, ROC focuses on three pillars: soil health, animal welfare, and social welfare.
“There are several things we really like about the certification,” says Sergio. “First, it is very transparent in its messaging and diligent in its audit process, which helps to avoid green washing and miscommunication on this topic. The concept of regenerative farming is becoming more important for consumers and therefore more widely used commercially. It is important there is an intellectual and authoritative leader in this process. We believe that the ROA is doing a great job at being it.”
“Secondly,” says Sergio, “ROC builds upon what others have done instead of scratching and trying to reinvent the wheel. It incorporates certifications like Fair Trade and USDA Organic, which have done a great deal for our industry’s supply chain.”
"The concept of regenerative farming is becoming more important for consumers and therefore more widely used commercially. It is important there is an intellectual and authoritative leader in this process. We believe that the ROA is doing a great job at being it." -Sergio Borquez
Sergio says Campos Borquez also appreciates ROC’s emphasis on continuous improvement. The certification requires companies to add and strengthen regenerative practices over time and awards various levels of achievement—Bronze, Silver, and Gold. “We can always do more or do better,” says Sergio. “That is the way we approach regenerative agriculture and social responsibility. Having a certification like ROC that promotes that culture instead of pass/fail is great for everyone, starting with the environment and communities that it serves.”
While Campos Borquez has always employed regenerative practices, Sergio says ROC has helped the company take them to the next level. “The certification pushed us to increase standardization of these practices and be more methodological with their implementation,” he says. “For instance, we have been producing and applying beneficial microorganisms to our soil for several years now but lacked in our system a way to measure their activity in the ground. ROC requires intensive soil monitoring to make sure that what we are applying is living successfully in our soils. Through soil testing, we found that one particular fungi, Trichoderma, was not present in one of our farms despite being applied frequently. We investigated and found the root of the problem was in our application process. We have now corrected this and results are looking much better!”
“Having a certification like ROC that promotes that culture instead of pass/fail is great for everyone, starting with the environment and communities that it serves.” -Sergio Borquez
In terms of his company’s plans for fulfilling the continuous improvement requirement of ROC, Sergio says Campos Borquez will expand its cover cropping practices: “We are currently using cover crops, but there are still areas where we can improve this by increasing coverage and doing so in the most efficient way possible in terms of water and other resources.”
“We are also working on incorporating more beneficial microorganisms into the ground and bringing more life back to the soil,” he says.
Campos Borquez produces its own microorganisms in an on-site lab after first harvesting them either from the company’s own farmland or from natural environments like volcanic soils. Using petri dishes, leaching, fermentation, and other processes, Campos Borquez is able to reproduce the beneficial microorganisms in large quantities to be later added back into the soil.
Sergio says obtaining ROC status was a “rigorous” process, noting that it took nearly two years for Campos Borquez to achieve the certification. But he believes it was well worth the effort.
“While we have always strived to nurture the ecosystems and communities we work in, this certification will help us propel our mission to another level,” he says. “It provides an instrument for like-minded organizations and consumers to connect commercially while serving as a guideline to hold everyone in our organization to the highest standards of sustainable practices. Today, I see consumers much more engaged and educated about regenerative farming ideals and the importance of giving life and organic matter back to the soil as a way to preserve our planet under healthy conditions. These are concepts that are easily relatable to both the consumer and farmer. With the consumer engaged, our reach as an industry can truly transcend.”
To learn more about Regenerative Organic Certified, check out OPN’s recent Q&A with Elizabeth Whitlow, executive director of the Regenerative Organic Alliance.