The Crow Canyon Archaeological Center’s Pueblo Farming Project was highlighted in a new U.S. government report, “The Second State of the Carbon Cycle Report” – a companion piece to the highly publicized National Climate Assessment about the dangers of climate change.
Both reports were released by the U.S. government in November.
Written by 200 scientists and issued by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the follow-up report provides a current “state of the science” assessment of the carbon cycle in North America, and its connection to both climate and society.
The Pueblo Farming Project was referenced in a chapter on tribal lands as a project documenting the sustainability and cultural importance of traditional agricultural practices.
Since 2008, Crow Canyon researchers have planted, tended and harvested corn and other crops from experimental gardens on the Crow Canyon campus and elsewhere in Southwest Colorado using traditional Hopi methods.
“Since 2008, the Hopi have been using their traditional ecological knowledge to teach us about dryland farming of corn,” Mark Varien, executive vice president of the Research Institute at Crow Canyon, told The Journal in 2013. “It has been an honor to work with them and very inspiring to learn from their experiences.”
The Hopi continue to farm in Arizona’s Black Mesa desert in Arizona as they have done for generations. Where others have failed, the Hopi are proficient at growing corn, squash, beans and melons.
“For the Hopi, corn is not just food, it is a metaphor for life. Their people were created from corn,” said Paul Ermigiotti, a researcher and educator at Crow Canyon.
About 50 people listened to a presentation about the Pueblo Farming Project recently at the Crow Canyon campus as part of the Four Corners Lecture series.
There are five basic varieties of corn: popcorn, flint (or Indian corn with colorful kernels), dent, flour and sweet corn. The oldest corn cob dates to 6,500 years ago. Domesticated corn arrived in the Southwest 4,000 years ago. It is derived from a wild grass called teosinte.
“The Hopi relationship with corn is different than me going to the grocery store to buy it,” Varien said. “It is central to their identity, and they think about it in a different way.”
Their methods, which eschew modern farming machinery such as tractors or tillers for traditional tools like planting sticks, use minimal water and maximize the moisture, nutrients and carbon storage in the region’s typically sandy soil.
The research has helped show how ancestral Puebloan people sustained themselves in the arid Mesa Verde region and how that information can be used to make policy decisions as the modern climate changes. The results of this research are included in an e-book, “The Pueblo Farming Project: A Collaboration between Hopi Farmers and the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center,” available for free on the Crow Canyon website.
In conjunction with the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office and the Hopi Cultural Resources Advisory Task Team, the project is led by Varien; Ermigiotti; Grant Coffey, Crow Canyon GIS archaeologist; Kyle Bocinsky, director of the Research Institute at Crow Canyon; and Read Brugger, Crow Canyon volunteer.