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Four Ways Mexico’s Indigenous Farmers Are Practicing the Agriculture of the Future


Four Ways Mexico’s Indigenous Farmers Are Practicing the Agriculture of the Future

Leah Penniman

Affectionately called “Professor” by his neighbors, Josefino Martinez is a well-respected indigenous farmer and community organizer from the remote town of Chicahuaxtla, in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. He watched with patient attention as I showed him photographs of Soul Fire Farm, my family’s organic farm in the mountains of upstate New York.


When working with indigenous people in Bolivia who are sustenance farmers in the highlands (where it is quite dry), I’ve noticed a brilliant connection with the land and the food that would bedazzle most Americans. When offering me a platter of dried figs I am gently guided to the very best one (I am sure) by the eye of the host. How does she know? She knows! The goat we eat for lunch and dinner is still half drying above my seat on a wire. I probably watched it playing a few days before. It makes me sad, his/her meat is delicious, he/she had a life. Who am I to judge?

Getting back to the article…eat colored corn (blue is my favorite), it’s tasty and the GMO mafia has yet to be involved with its cultivation.


Really cool article. A signpost for a sustainable future is a signpost from an ancient past. As population increases available land use will be more intensive. The higher productiveness of a multi use form of agriculture offers a way to reduce dependence on big agra. A more technological (using tractors etc) variant of this system should be researched by the agricultural dept. and universities to create a standard practice mullti crop form of agriculture not dependent on a small scale farming but all forms.

This is one of the eventual standard practice ways of doing things that we don’t do now but will in the future. Similarly with our fishing. Asians do not throw back bycatch but use it. Shrimpers throw away perfectly good fish that we could eat. In the future as population increases and food sources grow scarcer, we will not continue to waste fish that we could eat. Multi species fishing - multi crop farming = efficient spaceship Earth. A work in progress.


Thank you for the food for thought. Edible landscaping in the city could save the bees and help us be less nutritional starved. Come on urban and suburban communities. Plant fruit trees and share with neighbors.
Corn, beans, and squash, a Native American tradition should be are landscaping.


This a beautiful and oh so hopeful article. Thanks for this.

Again 70 percent of all food produced comes from farms of less than 2 hectares. This is contrary to the conventional wisdom that it the large industrial farms that “feed the world”.

Much like the health insurance industry in the USA being there only to generate profits for the few rather than provide health care to people, Industrial farms have as their only mandate profits and when the costs can be transferred to someone else or to Mother nature than it becomes a “damn the costs” mentality as the same people destroying the lands line up for their subsidies.


That same sacred sense of the Earth, as mother, and corn as staple product (and link to nature) exists throughout South America. Indigenous peoples recognize these links and their farming (and other) practices are far more life-supporting than the nature-decimating, uniform, corporately-controlled mono-crop models pushed by entities like Monsanto with their false claims about feeding the world and radically boosting productivity.

Thank you for this beautiful, inspiring article. I love the concept of the three-tiered planting model emulating the rainforest. Dynamite!


One meme I have a problem with is some articles suggesting that what our Indigenous people have known and practiced for thousands of years is somehow a “new discovery” with modern science claiming it has “discovered it” which is very much in the vein of “Columbus discovering the Americas”.

These GUYS from Europe have to learn some humility. There are people smarter than them and when it comes to the promotion of LIFE on Earth in all of its abundance, the smartest GUY in the room is not a guy at all. It the Earth Mother.


Tremendous article - Thank you!

Just a quick look at the breadth of properties in the terrace stabilizing vetiver grass cited in the article.
The ‘mono’ in the monculture extractivist model for “profit”, is increasingly becoming one of the most laughable delusions of modern western market-based society in the anthropocene.
In today’s CD series of postings the observations can also appear highly applicable to critiques of the corporatized “education” model oppressing long term societal health in post-Katrina disaster capitalism. The incisive observation that the definition of ‘terrorism’- “the use of violence and intimidation in pursuit of political aims”. I am reminded of the 43 disappeared students for whom parents, communities and supporters world wide are still calling for accountability.

The utter lack of creativity and respect for the aggregate wisdom and breadth of the diversity of archaic evolutionary paths is emblematic of the devolutionary path of predatory capital models. They result in organized criminal activity of an unprecedented scale and depth.