Professional MLB Pitcher Óliver Pérez Martínez Establishes the Sinaloa Valley's Agricola Olianna
CULIACÀN, SINALOA MEXICO - Óliver Pérez Martínez might be more widely known in the U.S. as the baseball pitcher for Major League Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks, but his name is more familiar to me as the President and Founder of Agricola Olianna in Culiacán, Sinaloa. My visit in January brought me direct to this innovative and socially responsible grower of slicing cucumbers and mini watermelons for Nogales, Arizona-based SunFed.
Óliver and his father, Ismael Perez Ruiz, began the growing operation in the fertile soils of the Sinaloa Valley 2 years ago, and are currently growing and harvesting cucumbers in its protected agriculture operation with mini watermelons on the horizon.
“Oliver and I used to own a construction business but didn't like the idea of taking away from the earth. Instead, we wanted to give back,” Ismael tells me, as we walk under a shaded canopy where employees are taking a break from the heat. He points to a prayer written on a sign to our right - Gracias Senor por darnos hoy el pan nuestro de cada dia - Thank you Lord for giving us our daily bread today.
Oliver and Ismael are very thankful for the success of the operation and hope to keep their growth initiatives in line with their care and concern for the region and its people.
A couple years earlier, when Olianna was just getting off the ground, the entirety of their cucumber production encountered a hurricane that flooded the area just 15 days after planting. While they were concerned for the viability of the operation itself, they were more concerned with the welfare of the people and bought over 5 tons worth of food and water to hand out to the community along with supplies. They also put together 4,000 emergency kits, with the help of the community.
“Our investment is always first and foremost, the people,” Ismael notes.
Along with the many philanthropic endeavors, is the company’s work with local construction on churches in the area, donating all material and air conditioning equipment. Olianna has also donated trees to combat climate change as part of a project with the local elementary school which helps the students become more environmentally savvy and promotes overall education and engagement to inspire the youth.
SAGARPA, the Mexican equivalent of the USDA, comes to the farm 2 to 3 times a week to keep workers informed of best practices, hosts employee education classes and provides access to basic health resources.
“We know that there will always be more work to be done, but creating a healthy and productive work environment has always been a part of our vision,” Ismael says.
Cucumbers currently have about a 45-day growth cycle from seed to harvest and 30 to 35 days from transplant. Watermelons, a new category for Olianna, have a longer growth cycle - between 80 to 90 days.
Oliver and Ismael are looking to expand in the near future as they continue to grow the company and the community. With all their social and entrepreneurial initiatives in store, it is looking to be a promising 2015 for Agricola Olianna and SunFed.