(FOX40.COM) — Growing agave that will be turned into mezcal is a labor of love that requires passion and lots of patience from Raúl Chávez, who hails from Jalisco, Mexico and now practices his craft in Woodland and the surrounding area.
“Where I’m from, all you see is agave,” Chávez said. “Since we were little, were always observing the process, the workers, my dad, brothers, uncles, and learning from them at a young age.”
That curiosity as a young boy prepared Chávez for an unexpected business adventure when an idea was proposed by his boss.
“He handed me 500 agave plants 8 years ago. They were tiny things and we planted them,” Chávez said.
Inspired by the endless sight of agave in his hometown of Tonaya, Jalisco, Chávez knew he could do the same thing in his current home.
Currently, Chávez is growing 5,000 agave at a Woodland ranch, with each one at a different stage of maturation. Chávez said each agave gives two or three new plants, with some producing six or seven.
“When you put a small agave plant in the ground, it’ll take two years for that plant to start producing more plants,” Chávez said.
Any stress Chávez may have on his mind disappears when he’s out at the ranch with the agave, he says.
“In my town, agave is a huge part of our culture and by having this here I feel like I have a piece of that with me,” Chávez said.
One agave plant that has been growing for 6 years is ready for the next step of harvest. Depending on how the plant looks in the middle determines if the flower needs to be cut off.
“We get the samples ourselves by opening it up and checking how much sugar it has,” Chávez said. “One sample is done here in the field and the other is done at the distillery.”
The agave Chávez grows and sells in Woodland is being used by his partners across the state to make mezcal, a Mexican spirit similar to tequila.
He also has dreams one day of making his own mezcal. When that day comes, Chávez will be ready.
“It’s a domino effect that doesn’t stop, it doesn’t stop,” Chávez said. “It keeps going and you keep expanding. Down the road, I hope to have the opportunity to do the same and create my own mezcal.”
“Everybody would tell me, ‘you’re crazy,’ and I guess I am a little crazy, but the good kind of crazy,” Chávez continued. “I feel happy and feel like I’m truly doing something special here.”