RIVERDALE, Calif. — Fernando Alves is in the rental business.
He rents geese.
Every spring, farmers pay Alves $4.25 per goose to chomp away at weeds in cotton fields, vineyards and other crops. The Chinese white geese, or weeder geese, have a voracious appetite for weeds.
When the geese have done their job, farmers return the birds to Alves at his weeder geese hatchery in this hamlet in southern Fresno County.
Farmers receive a refund of 50 cents per goose.
Alves, 33, runs the last of the weeder geese hatcheries in California.
"There are only a handful of weeder geese operations left in America," Alves said. "It's a dying business.
"Since ancient times, farmers always used geese to keep weeds out of their crops. But in recent years chemicals have become popular for controlling weeds, replacing most of the geese."