Milpa: A Celebration of Biodiversity and Tradition

Green San Miguel

By Meritxell Solé

On October 1 and 2, Vía Orgánica celebrates the “Día Nacional del Maíz” and organizes different activities. On October 1 we will have the “Cosechando de la Milpa” event at the Vía Orgánica Ranch. Join us in this celebration of the sacred crop, traditional food, cultural diversity, and ancestral knowledge!

“Cosechando de la Milpa”
By Via Orgánica and María de Jesús Zermeño
Sat, Oct 1, 10am–2pm
Rancho Vía Orgánica
Calle Margarito Ledesma 2, Col. Guadalupe

Through the years, different cultures have observed the diversity and dispersal patterns found in natural ecosystems. This learning process has allowed the development of several agrobiodiverse farming systems around the world that imitate nature’s rich biodiversity.

One of them is the milpa, an ancient intercropping system used throughout Mesoamerica. In this complex agroecosystem corn, beans, and squash are grown in polyculture with chiles, quelites (different plants commonly eaten in Mexico for their leaves), amaranth, medicinal plants, insects, flowers, and a huge variety of flora and fauna, creating a perfect balance for both the soil and for a human’s diet.

From an aerobiological perspective, milpa systems facilitate interaction between plants, insects, soil microorganisms, and animals. As opposed to a monoculture system, the rich biodiversity fostered in a milpa produces a highly resilient system, maintains land cover, reduces soil erosion, and enhances soil fertility, protecting farmers from complete crop failure in years of drought and disease. From a nutritional point of view, milpa crops—including fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes in all shapes and colors—provide us with a variety of nutrients that our body needs to maintain optimum health.

However, this ancient biodiversity farming system of producing food in a respectful, colorful, and intelligent manner in México is being lost. Industrialization of agriculture and economic interests of big corporations are forcing campesinos to abandon the countryside and move to cities as they no longer can work the land as their grandparents used to do. This causes rapid growth of cities, over-exploitation of soil and water resources, and environmental degradation.

Modern agriculture has followed a path of simplification, “artificialization,” and intensification, and has replaced nature’s diversity with a small number of cultivated plants, reducing the diversity of our diets. Here’s the paradox: despite being overfed, the population is malnourished. Processed food might be inexpensive and convenient, but it is nutrient-poor. When food is taken from its natural state and is processed, refined, and packaged, it loses enzymes, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and antioxidants, all essential for our overall health. So the more processed food you eat and the more you limit yourself to a very narrow range of foods, the more nutrient-deficient you become.

Reverting to diets of our ancestors would enable us to regain lost nutrients, improve our relationship with the Earth, and restore not only human but environmental health. This is why it is so important that you inform yourself: know what you eat, where it comes from, and who is producing it. Eat clean and local and reconnect with nature, traditional diets, and cultural practices. We depend on it for survival.


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