How to Use Maya Farming Principles

Maya forest gardeners use agricultural practices that increase yields while maximizing environmental benefits. Although these methods center around mimicking the structure of the Maya forest, their principles can be applied to different habitats.

However, these farming practices are not a one-fits-all solution. Every landscape has its unique features and needs, and farmers should assess their land to determine which method suits it the best. Many used experimentation and measured outcomes by performing soil health tests, water infiltration test, Brix tests, etc. Observation and photo journaling are also common tools to track the changes.

This agricultural practices list was made in collaboration with RegeNErate Nebraska.

Environmental Benefits

These agricultural practices produce an array of benefits, which often overlap and work together. We highlighted the top benefits below.

Lowers Temperature

Reduces Erosion

Builds Soil Fertility

Conserves Water

Increases Biodiversity

Getting Started with Green Cover

Green Cover specializes in creating highly diverse, custom, cover crop mixes to improve soil health and biodiversity. They promote milpa gardens as they not only provide food to these local communities but also help improve soil health, water quality, and habitat for pollinators and wildlife.

Milpa Garden Warm Season

Green Cover’s mix of over 40 different seeds is a great way to get fresh produce and improve the soil without going through the hassle of tillage, weeding, and hours of planning.

elderly farmer next to harvest

First Acre Program

Inspired by the Maya Milpa tradition, this program provides free seeds to any grower who is interested in planting up to one acre of the Milpa Garden seed mix. In exchange for the free seed, Green Cover ask the grower to harvest and donate at least 50% of the harvested produce to their local food banks, community, and neighbors.

Small-Scale Growers Resources

Milpas can be grown with a small plot of land to create market gardens, orchards, vineyards and home gardens. Green Cover provides resources to help start you gardening with a custom cover crop calculator, courses, and recommended books.

Agricultural Practices

forest gardener

No Till


A technique that leaves the thin layer of nutrient soil intact when planting rather than disturbing the soil through plowing.

Photo by Macduff Everton



The natural process of turning waste (from manure or food) into fertilizer that can improve soil health and act as a natural fertilizer.

Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

Using “Weeds” for Pest Management


Building soil health and leveraging natural systems to manage pests by a selection of plants. Plants that are considered “weeds” are used as pest attractors to redirect the insect from edible growth and avoid utilizing damaging pesticides.

Photo: “Weeds” are on the bottom and ears of corn are broken on the stalk to dry off.
Photo by Macduff Everton



Biochar is charcoal made from burning woody biomass and can be applied as a soil amendment.

Photo by MesoAmerican Research Center

burnt plants on top of deep healthy soil
forest gardener among tall p

Perennial Plants & Diversified Crops


Growing a variety of crops protects against pests and diseases, provides a diversified income stream and of habitats for more pollinators, and improves soil health. Perennials are plants that do not need to be replanted every year. Perennials also exhibit long root systems that can retain water, improve soil’s porosity, sequester and store more carbon, and improve soil health. Many Indigenous farmers have grown diverse crops alongside one another for centuries. Perhaps the most widely known example is the “Three Sisters” technique of growing corn, legumes, and squash together.

Photo by Macduff Everton



Hedgerows are conservation buffers that are lines of shrubs or trees around cropping systems that act as habitats for beneficial insects and other organisms and also serve as windbreaks.

paved road surrounded by

Riparian Buffers


Riparian buffers are conservation buffers that are vegetated zones near streams that serve as habitats to many beneficial organisms, protect water quality, and mitigate flooding.

Photo by MesoAmerican Research Center

Planting Native Species


This practice involves planting species that are native to a specific area. Native plants are beneficial in restoring wildlife habitat and improving biodiversity, and they can be planted as the main cash crop, incorporated in conservation buffers, or used as cover crops.

Photo by MesoAmerican Research Center

Cover Cropping


This is the practice of planting cover crops, which are plants that cover your soil in order to reduce soil erosion, increase water retention, improve soil health, increase biodiversity, and more. Cover crops can be planted around the time of harvesting cash crops or in between rows of permanent crops.

Photo by MesoAmerican Research Center



An Indigenous practice wherein growers integrate trees and shrubs into crop and animal systems. This practice intentionally mimics the forest systems to help multiple species benefit from one another.

Photo by Regenerate Nebraska showing Mark Shepard’s agroforest

two men walking in agroforest



A form of agroforestry, silvopasture integrates trees into pastures with the intention for animals to graze.

Photo by Regenerate Nebraska


Their Maya Regeneration Project aims to establish profitable regenerative poultry, agroforestry, and value-added farm operation on 400+ acres of land within Omaha. In the meantime, Pixan Ixim has built a community garden at their Maya Community Center in South Omaha.

A hub for communities, producers, and organizations across Nebraska to collaborate and build a unified and intersectional regenerative movement.

Small Scale Milpas

across United States

Milpa gardens are versatile and can thrive in a variety of environments. They can be smaller in size as shown by growers like Mark Knopp and Islesboro Island Trust. These pictures are by Green Cover.

Farmers that bring regenerative agriculture, permaculture design, and plant medicine to their fields and beyond.