Milpa Alta, Mexico

The last conversation was very tough, it was a direct plea from the women activists/producers, asking us the people in urban areas what are we planning to do to support them, but how it is actually about supporting ourselves, it is not a charity act, but if those in urban places want to keep having water they need to understand that there is a relationship with Milpa Alta that they need to take care of. 

Carmen, Martina and Mauricio, Fork to Farm Local Dialogue Facilitators

 

The Fork to Farm Local Dialogue in Milpa Alta was facilitated by Carmen; her daughter Martina, and Mauricio. Carmen and Martina are founders of Colectivo Amasijo, an organisation of seven women who believe that “food production is the defence of the territory. We think that there is a very strong relationship between how you are producing food and taking care of the land”. 

 

In the beginning of 2020, during an event curated by Carmen, Martina and Mauricio, the team met the mayor of Milpa Alta. Simultaneously, the Carrillo Gil Art Museum asked them to design a food-themed exhibition. The mayor then invited them to an assembly with the Milpa Alta community heads, which inspired the team: “these people are defending the land, they are caring for it every single day and others should know about this.”

 

Carmen, Martina and Mauricio integrated their existing work with the Fork to Farm process and began weekly visits to Milpa Alta. “It wasn’t like we decided ‘this is the town that I want’ but when we went to different towns certain producers kept coming back, so we worked with them.”

 

Building relationships was “quite complex… some producers were like: ‘you are really welcome here, come to the milpa, I’ll show you everything’. Others were like: ‘no wait a second, let's meet at a restaurant first, have a chat and if I like what you are doing then I’ll listen to you but if not, then I’m not interested in working with you.” The team had planned for participants to get paid for their contributions and be able to use the space to sell their products. However, some producers said:  

 

“I am not interested in payment, I’m interested in knowing how you as the museum, as a community, are going to help us work the land, people like you keep using us for your artistic moment, and then you end up forgetting about us. What are you going to do to take care of the land?”

 

Multigenerational
Multigenerational

Carmen, Carlos and Carlos Jr. selling their native corn and milpa harvest. They have a family milpa which preserves the seeds of non-genetically modified corn.

press to zoom
Tamales
Tamales

Tamales from mujeres de la tierra, a womens' collective cooking group that weave ties of organisation and community sisterhood against violence against women. Fire and sowing are the symbols of their struggle and resistance.

press to zoom

Ancient and present technique of making pulque. Pulque is a prehispanic fermented beverage that was popular until 1970, when the government prohibited its drinking among the population, in support of the beer companies.

press to zoom
Multigenerational
Multigenerational

Carmen, Carlos and Carlos Jr. selling their native corn and milpa harvest. They have a family milpa which preserves the seeds of non-genetically modified corn.

press to zoom
1/3

One piece of advice: 

Carmen:

“You will need a very open mode of listening, listening without having expectations. It is not about listening like a recorder, but listening with sensibility … so you can receive what is being said to you. You should arrive with an enormous curiosity, because curiosity is what creates a space for the other to feel able to share.”

 

Martina:

“You are relating with someone really close to the land and you want to understand this very strong relationship, you want the person to teach you about the land from there and then allow yourself to be taken by others along a path. It’s important to not go with an established plan but to let it emerge from the relationships that you are forming.”

 

Mauricio:

“I would advise to organise dialogues following the lunar cycle. I think it’s better if the first conversations are about the individual reasons behind what we are doing together, not about what the collective problem or the solution is. Instead, a conversation that starts from people sharing what it is that calls them to take part in this. After you’ve established this, then you can begin talking about what you want to build together … pay particular attention to words, and the fact that words don’t have the same meaning, to deconstruct these, to really try to understand each other.”

Blank_pin_blue.png

Many different kinds of farmers participated in the process:

 

  • Temporaleras; a kind of producer that harvests seasonal produce during the rainy season, or buys from a group of harvesters.

  • Small-scale nopal producers.

  • Small-scale seasonal fruit producers with single apple or zapote blanco trees.

  • Milpa farmers, often including entire families who produce, harvest and sell together.

  • Mujeres de la Tierra; a women’s collective with shared experience of domestic violence who use food production and processing as a form of collective healing.

  • Comuneros and comuneras, people who work the land in pre-colonial communal land ownership regimes.

 

Once relationships had been established within Milpa Alta, the second part of the process was about connecting with urban consumers. The team decided to use a farmers market format as these are “not only places for economic exchanges, but public spaces to meet each other, even if you are not there to buy anything.”

 

The market was also a way to use “food to teach you about climate change. In the first market, producers brought a lot of mushrooms and said this was the last batch as it was already September and the rains were beginning to end. But then in the second market, they sold mushrooms again because the rains had not stopped. In another market, they brought tiny apples and apologised for their size which was due to the rains being delayed … food helps you connect to climate change through your everyday experiences, instead of the 'South Pole is melting and it is likely that in Africa sea levels are going to rise and the Pacific Islands are going to drown’ narrative, it is more like this is my land, and in this moment, this is what food can tell me about it.”

 

The markets created new opportunities. An anaesthetist visiting the market got in touch about bringing food to the hospital. Restaurant owners messaged the Colectivo Amasijo on Instagram to ask producers to supply food for their restaurants. Other museums approached the team to get them to organise markets. 

 

With many side projects emerging, Carmen thinks that: “in a way we skipped the policy makers with relationships being formed between people in the urban parts of the city and producers in the outskirts.” Nonetheless, meeting the mayor was crucial as “she brought us here [Milpa Alta] and introduced us to a lot of people after we told her we wanted to work with food producers. This project would not have happened without her.”

 

Considering what changes they would make to their project, Carmen and Martina suggest better, more affordable transport arrangements for people attending the markets, and taking things slow when initially meeting people.