La milpa is a traditional Mexican agricultural practice. Traditionally the major crops were beans, corn, tomatoes, peppers, and squash but can include many other local permaculture or perennial crops like agave, avocado, sugar cane, or potatoes. Each crop would either renew the soil, like nitrogen fixing legumes, balance out the pressure on the soil, and manage pests. The practice wraps crop rotation, intensive agriculture, and sustainability into one.
The milpa system’s origins reach back to Mesoamerican cultures: The very word “milpa” means “cultivated field” in Nahuatal so that gives you a sense of just how fundamental and ancient it is. The fact that it’s still used across Central America testifies to its efficacy. Farmers do things like their ancestors but are also adapting to new plants and agricultural products. In the photo above you can see Tosba co-cropping corn, sugar cane, and agave. The corn is used for food, the cane for their rum DAKABEND, and the agave for their mezcal.