Outside of the town of San Miguel, the economy is more traditional. A bit over half of the land is used for grazing with 37% used for crops. Over 80% of the crops are grown during the rainy season with less than 20% grown on irrigated lands. Forestry is minimal. Agriculture produces 25% of the employment in the municipality. Principal crops include corn, beans, wheat, and alfalfa, which account for 84% of harvests. Another important agricultural activity is fruit orchards. The most important livestock is domestic fowl, especially poultry. The municipality raises over 12% of the state’s chickens. Another important product is honey, of which the municipality provides 7.5% of the state’s total. Since the 1990s, there have been active reforestation efforts to replace much of what was lost previously to logging.
Industry is not as well developed here as in other parts of the state although it provides about 33% of the jobs. One important industry is the production of electrical energy. Other industries include metal products, food processing, wood products and mineral processing..
One area is known for the crafting of objects from brass and glass. Two notable artisans here are the brothers Marcelino and Abeck Leon Rosa, who produce handmade glass items. They began producing pieces in the courtyard of their home, but today they have a studio with two large workshops and operate a school for glassmakers, which trains about 50 people per year. One of their specialties is Tiffany-style lamps.
Since at least the 1950s, San Miguel de Allende is a backdrop for the production of films and television programs. Both Mexican and foreign productions and advertisements have been filmed there. Projects that have been filmed here include Once Upon a Time in Mexico, a television biopic of the Francisco “Pancho” Villa, and The Mask of Zorro II. A group of entrepreneurs is working to increase the town’s reputation as a film location, opening a privately financed studio complex called The Film Colony. Recently, U.S. television series Royal Pains, Top Chef and Million Dollar Listing have filmed episodes in the town.