In honor of Earth Day, I am posting a series of videos from Canadian filmmaker Stephen Smith and journalist Ilona Kauremszky. (Two of my favorite people.) The couple went to Mexico City this year and interviewed Antonio Murad, the founder of Proyecto Yolcan, a sustainable agricultural cooperative.
Murad left his high-powered financial consulting job to pursue his vision of sustainable agriculture, which supports small local farmers using an ancient Mesoamerican artisanal farming method known as chinampa.
Located in Mexico City’s Cuemanco-Xochimilco Ecological Reserve, Proyecto Yolcan’s chinampas, or floating gardens, are artificial islands built on the shallow lake beds separated by channels wide enough for a dugout canoe.
The chinampa beds are constructed by layering topsoil with biodegradable materials such as mud, grass, leaves, and shells of different fruits and vegetables, eventually bringing the beds above the level of the lake. Willow or cypress trees are then planted in the corners of each chinampa to firmly secure the floating beds in place.
Proyecto Yolcan’s vast complex of chinampas are fertilized with manure and rich earth from the bottom of lakes. This method produces organic, pesticide-free fruit, vegetables and flowers that are sold at local markets and purchased by some of the finest restaurants in Mexico City.
Murad is certain that Proyecto Yolcan is making a difference socially and environmentally. Mass produce grown with intensive farming methods may be cheaper than organic fruits and vegetables, but they contain toxic chemicals that damage our bodies. Studies also show that for every $100 pesos spent on local products, almost half returns to the community, as opposed to just $14 pesos when produce is purchased at a corporate supermarket chains.
“I am not just waiting for a chance to jump somewhere else,” Murad says. “I am very proud of what we are doing and I am convinced that we are having an impact and maybe we can change something. That’s the reason I am doing this.”
Image courtesy of Proyecto Yolcan