By Trissean McDonald
Academic pathways toward success get rather pricey. However, what if some of those expenses were paid for with tequila? Gerardo Madrigal, a statistics professor at East Los Angeles College, has a plan to create his very own tequila and use a percentage of the revenue to sponsor a scholarship for ELAC students.
Tequila grant money? It does sound a bit far fetched. But, Professor Madrigal has an agave farm in which he envisions creating the spirited beverage. Not only that, he even chooses to share his hard work’s profit with students who have the same strife and ambition to bring about success. Anahy Vilchis, a student majoring in biochemistry, thinks that the scholarship is a great resource for students. “It would give us more resources in order to prosper. A lot of us students start here with the intent of wanting to continue on. So that would be really good,” Vilchis said.
Madrigal said that the tequila bottle could take nearly six months for completion. Therefore, at the moment, it is unclear as to when the scholarship will be funded. A Linkedin article written by Madrigal details the future plans of the company as well as its history. The name of his brand is Tequila AMAN. Certified by the Agricert México, this tequila is 100 percent USDA organic Blue Weber Agave Azul.
Tequila AMAN’s mission is to educate the public by displaying how the company “affirms” to the soil by dedicating their farming method to soil-carbon sequestration. Therefore, the name AMAN means “to affirm,” according to the Linkedin article “Tequila AMAN: The First and Only Organic Tequila Dedicated to The United Nations Climate Action Sustainability Goal #13.” Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It is a method of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere with the goal of reducing global climate change.
Madrigal said that he has been fascinated with the idea of creating his very own tequila since the age of 10. “My family could never afford growing it. I told myself I would own my own someday,” Madrigal said. His father, who was a minimum wage blue collar worker, would annually save money in order to take his family to Nayarit, México. Madrigal’s father managed to eventually save enough money and decided to take his family on the anticipated trip. “When we landed in Guadalajara on the way to Ixtlán Del Rio Nayarit, [we passed] the “paisaje agavero” (Spanish for agave landscape) -millions of hectares filled with blue agave,” Madrigal said. “I remember being fascinated with those plants. I’m not sure [if] it’s because I’m an earth sign and love to evoke a deep connection [with] the earth.”
Tequila AMAN works closely with research scientists to collaborate documents of progression with sequestering carbon into their soil. “I’ve done my homework. I don’t trust distilling companies because they steal agave.” Madrigal said. He continued saying, “in the time of scarcity, distilling companies are stealing agave. I have to make my own tequila.” Some regenerative organic agriculture methods that the company practices are composting, ground mulching and crop rotation. These methods assist in restoring the health and livelihood of degraded soils in order to increase abundant harvests.
Madrigal elaborated more about the tequila brand as well as the future sponsored scholarship. He said that the root behind the idea for wanting to own his own tequila company stemmed from his father. “I owe it to him,” Madrigal said. His father is battling with cancer. However, “if it wasn’t for his foundation, I wouldn’t be doing this,” Madrigal said.
Students should expect to wait approximately three years in order to apply for the scholarship. However, Madrigal would rather have it to be sooner. “The bottle is still being created. My goal is within a year. It’s kind of out of my control at the moment.” The scholarship grant could range from between $100 or more. However, Madrigal said that he cannot make any confirmations about the time frame in which students can apply or even have an idea of the exact amount of money. For students who are bilingual, however, Madrigal said that the scholarship opportunity could possibly be raised. The requirements are:
Students must have a 2.5 GPA
Students must be a STEM major
Students are required to take 10 or more units at ELAC
Students must have completed 15 or more units
Students must give a statement describing personal focus in STEM as well as a community contribution.
These are all approximations. “I have to think of the account of things,” Madrigal said. He continued saying, “I can’t really say until I have a financial idea.” Half of the scholarship funds would come from the professor’s own pocket. The other half would be governmentally funded. “Student loan debt continues to rise into the trillions of dollars per year. The cost of going to college continues to climb and more and more students dropout of college because of long work hours,” Madrigal said. He continued, “why not help mitigate this issue? My products will be Fair Trade, a global movement to alleviate poverty in ways that are economical, socially and environmentally sustainable.”
The professor understands that some staff, as well as students, will be disturbed by the fact that the scholarship comes from the profits of a tequila company.
Maria Macias, a student majoring in communication, is rather bent on the concept. She thinks that the scholarship is both a good and bad idea. “I think it’s both. It’s a good ideas because it’s helping another student continue to keep going to school. You know, they probably have financial problems. The fact that he’s trying to help another student, I think that speaks more than where it’s coming from,” Macias said. She continued saying, “I don’t think it’s bad that its from a tequila company. He’s using that money for good. It’s not all necessarily bad.”
In response to all opinions, Madrigal said, “I respect their beliefs. This is more than just another brand. It’s the culture, heritage, and people.” He continued saying, “the product is not illegal and the brand will not only be tequila. I will be selling agave plants, organic agave syrup, and agave inulin. This brand is about the relationship with my farmers, agriculture, and preservation of our ecosystem.”
Madrigal then left a few words of wisdom for all ELAC students, “Hard work puts you where good luck can find you,” Madrigal said. For more information about the company you should visit Madrigal’s Instagram page @Tequila_aman.
Photos Courtesy of Gerardo Madrigal