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interesting mayan way of creating a food forest

 
Blaine Lindsey
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the mayans and many south american farmers have a technique they call milpa, check this out-
http://www.mayaforestgardeners.org/forestgardening.php

(the link explains it better, but they basically use the beans/squash/corn companion planting in a clear cut area of land that was originally wild forest.
at first that kinda offended me but then I saw what they were getting at, and it goes along with permaculture ideas in many ways! they let the wild plants, 'weeds' grow along with their crops and utilize them/ chop&drop to help the soil.
after this they plant fruit trees and keep companion planting until the trees are adult, basically create a food forest from scratch-
and then they re-introduce and plant hardwoods and trees that were there in the beginning to grow, so in 20 years the place is a wild forest again but 90% of it filled with human(and animal) friendly food!
it seems that, like the ancient tribes of the amazon rainforest, natives have been permaculturists of their own kind for centuries, stewards of the forest, managing the wild. I think all of us here on permie.com and everyone involved in this new movement is definately a spark and a trumpet's call of whats to come! we're to inspire the world to get back into being natives and indigenous wherever they are! Being a participant and co-creator with the ecosystem and not seperate on some suburban agriculture fueled false template!
 
Tyler Ludens
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I think the big difference between clear cutting to plant a food forest and clear cutting to plant a monoculture is that in the first instance one is replacing the forest with a functioning ecosystem which by design has more human uses than the natural ecosystem has, but which continues all the services of a natural ecosystem. And that's the whole idea of permaculture, human-designed habitats which emulate natural habitats.

 
Blaine Lindsey
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yea! permaculture design systems and applications are the best way to transform suburban/city/rural areas in the fastest time with the best/most holistic results! it starts to bring the land back to its intended natural cycles and it unfolds ever more levels of rich, lush biodiverity, it takes time but soo worth it! I was thinking modern permaculturists should spend time learning from native people to incorporate and restore/spread their ideas and practices. Milpa is just an example. probably many aspects of Milpa itself that youd never know until you spend time with south american farmers, too
 
Emma Fredsdotter
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Location: France (zone 8b-9)
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Very cool, Blaine. Thank you for the link!
 
Andrew Parker
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Location: Salt Lake Valley, Utah, hardiness zone 6b/7a
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Swidden or shifting agriculture (This is not permaculture, in the conventional sense. It is more like a combination of permaculture and crop rotation. Maybe we could call it semi-permaculture?), such as milpa, was practiced throughout tropical America, and can be found throughout the world in both tropical and temperate locations, including here in North America. One major reason swidden has almost disappeared is because of modern land tenure systems. Throughout Latin America, in order to show ownership of a particular property, you must clear it and mark the boundaries. In order to keep your property, under many modern agricultural reform laws, you must actively cultivate all of it or risk having it taken by others or the State. You cannot leave land fallow for twenty or more years, as most swidden systems require. Conversely, forests that are being conserved will not allow swidden agriculture by its historic inhabitants because "slash and burn" is considered evil.

Swidden is ideal for many marginal soils because it allows maximum output of vegetables, grains, fruits, nuts, herbs, game, timber and other non-food forest products. It can support much larger populations through this mixed agricultural/hunter/gatherer system than can be supported through conventional agriculture, monoculture or reverting to climax forest in the same area.

Unfortunately, most of the knowledge needed to successfully practice swidden agriculture in specific areas has been lost, so even if laws and norms can be changed, it could take a few generations to get back into the swing of it.

There are some who claim (and I agree with them) that terra preta is a result of hundreds or even thousands of years of successive swidden rotations. The addition of charcoal (or just "char", for the politically correct) to the soil may improve it and allow longer periods of cultivation or even permanent cultivation, using appropriate methods.

I don't know as you would be able to slash and burn your property in the US without a permit, which may or may not be obtainable. You might, however, be able to pyrolyze your slash, without polluting or risking a wildfire, in portable gasifying kilns, plans for which can be found on the internet. You would then have to distribute the ash and charcoal back onto the land. It would be doable but more labor and capital intensive.

If you have good rich soil, you don't need to use swidden agriculture. Permaculture or organic crop rotation should work fine.
 
Blaine Lindsey
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Andrew Parker wrote:
There are some who claim (and I agree with them) that terra preta is a result of hundreds or even thousands of years of successive swidden rotations.

I agree, and with all of the things you said, especially how its sad that natives cant practice swidden cuz the forest is being "conserved", but the native people are their own niche! they are just as integral as the plant species!
the land im workin with right now has unbelievably dark, rich soil! we jokingly call it tera preta because it truly does look black, Im guessing thats because it's been wild for so long with multiple fruit trees/ black locust trees/ black walnut trees droppin leaves and the weeds/ plants living and dying, the soils been going to work by itself.
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