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Text and pictures: Magueyeros and the future for Mezcalistas

Agave spirits, such as mezcal, were the fastest growing spirits category in 2022. As international demand for mezcal increases, there is more need for agave, which in turn influences the dynamic in which the plants are processed as part of the mezcal market. These days, developing a brand for global distribution, means more often than not, mezcal producers need to look beyond their own fields.

Many of the mezcal producers I visit grow their own agave plants. Their palenques have small viveros (nurseries), where they care for seedlings. After the first six months or so, these plants become hardy and can be replanted further afield, often in land collectively owned by family members. Typically these producers come from generations involved in the world of agave propagation and mezcal production.

Agave, known colloquially as maguey, comes in many shapes and sizes, with varieties endemic to different parts of Mexico. They require little water, which allows farmers (magueyeros) to use land that might otherwise have been left fallow. In light of unpredictable weather patterns, it makes sense for farmers to pursue agave as a more durable crop.

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