Hundreds of years ago aggressive invaders forced the Aztec people off their lands.
Pushed back into a swampy corner of their former dominion the Aztecs were in trouble. Neighbouring tribes refused to give them access to any arable land on which to grow food to sustain themselves… feed their families..
The Aztecs desperately needed a source of local sustainable food.
They determined to do all they could using what they had – swamp, rushes, reeds, roots and mud. What more could they need?
They wove rushes and reeds into sections, and lashed those together using the stringy roots of the wild plants that grew in the water. On top of those rafts they heaped up thick mud from the bottom of the swamp.
Into these covered rafts, called chinampas, they planted vegetables, flowers and even trees. As the plants grew the roots pushed down through the floor of the raft into the water below. Companion plantings of corn, beans, squash, tomatoes, peppers and flowers soon fluorished on the water’s surface.
In 1519, when Cortez arrived in Mexico, he was surprised to find 200,000 people living on an island in the middle of the lake. It was Tenochtitlan – the best fed city in the world.
Those incredible gardens produced seven crops a year. They were the very foundation of Tenochtitlan – and key to the great Aztec civilization.
Today, about 5000 of these chinampas remain in agricultural production – many in their original condition. They continue to produce in abundance… as much as 8 times the harvest of conventional land.
Pretty sustainable… compared to the large fields that dominate our rural landscape today. In less than fifty years their productivity is diminished – unlike the chinampas!
The Aztecs were on to something. Pushed into a corner of swamp with no productive land on which to plant their crops they had to find a solution… and they did.
The result was local, sustainable food production. As for clean… we’ve seen no evidence of pesticides being used.
Today, we’re on a similar quest for local sustainable food production to support strong healthy communities. There’s one question that keeps coming up….
As we plan the coming season.., consider all the work that has to be scheduled, the seeds to order, supplies to have on hand… we ask one simple question… “How can we do better?”
As we seek answers, we consider the work of others. Those ancient Aztecs achieved some amazing results.
They were able
- to produce 8 times as much food in the same area compared to conventional cropping practises.
- to feed more people on less area
- to minimized transportation requirements and labour
- to eliminate the need to irrigate large areas of land
- to produced up to 7 crop harvests each year
With results like these… we are called to take a closer look…
How can we do better?
By always improving… staying focused… observing… listening…
We continue to seek out more sustainable methods for growing and delivering nutrient rich vegetables and fruits for our family and those who buy from us. It’s one way we aim to support better health for our family, our customers and communities.
So, we ask you, “How can we do better?”
We’d like your feedback on the results of our efforts…. and invite you to enjoy a share in our harvest again this year, by joining our early spring veggie box program or visiting us at the markets.
If you live in Stratford, Kitchener-Waterloo or Cambridge, you can have your share of the harvest delivered fresh to your door each week.
We’ll begin planting (indoors) in a couple of weeks.
While you wait, we hope you’ll enjoy one of our favorite recipes….