Giving Thanks to the First Farmers
- November is National Native American Heritage Month.
- Sustainable practices were introduced long ago by Indigenous farmers.
- Remembering the contributions of those who came before us can help us create a more inclusive society.
Since 1990, November has been designated National Native American Heritage Month. The U.S. Congress chose this month to honor Indigenous culture, as this is generally the end of the traditional harvest season.
Recognizing Those Who Came Before
According to Tyler Young, equity, diversity & inclusion (EDI) generalist at Syngenta, the legacy of Indigenous Peoples and their contributions to agriculture continue to resonate today.
As a society, it’s important to recognize the contributions that Indigenous Peoples have made to agriculture over thousands of years. That’s especially true when we consider the recent impact of climate change and increased weather volatility. Indigenous Peoples were the originators of regenerative agriculture and provide valuable lessons that are still relevant today for how we can steward the land.
“As a society, it’s important to recognize the contributions that Indigenous Peoples have made to agriculture over thousands of years,” Young says. “That’s especially true when we consider the recent impact of climate change and increased weather volatility. Indigenous Peoples were the originators of regenerative agriculture and provide valuable lessons that are still relevant today for how we can steward the land.”
Young notes that, for example, conservation tillage and intercropping were practices introduced long ago by Indigenous farmers. Specifically, reduced tillage is a practice that goes back thousands of years. The “Three Sisters” is another practice handed down by Indigenous Peoples.
“In agriculture, the ‘Three Sisters’ are crops planted together in a shared space — typically corn, beans and squash,” Young says. “These were vital crops in Indigenous communities. When grown together, they complement one another. Beans, for example, supply nitrogen needed by corn. Corn provides a climbing trellis for beans. Squash provides shade to help conserve moisture.”
Lessons From Canada
Ravi Ramachandran, Ph.D., is territory R&D head for crop protection development at Syngenta Canada Inc. and leads ED&I efforts for Syngenta there.
In Canada, June is National Indigenous History Month. Ramachandran says an important milestone in Canada was the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which serves as a foundation for the Canadian government’s commitment to Indigenous Peoples.
In acknowledging the importance of the heritage and historical contributions of Indigenous People to agriculture, a greater responsibility rests with the corporations in the agriculture industry to address misconceptions, ensure access to educational and professional opportunities, and provide visibility for the accomplishments and challenges of the underrepresented groups.
“All too often, members of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities struggle to establish their professional careers due to systemic bias, stereotyping and remnants of historical actions at all levels of society,” Ramachandran says. “As individuals, we need to speak up and advocate for an inclusive society. Companies like Syngenta are making a difference by committing to equity, diversity and inclusion in the workplace.”
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