After having arrived in Jonotla only one week before, the Himalayan Institute Mexico (HIM) start-up team has successfully acquired a plot of land on which to begin its Energy Farming project. The one-acre plot is only a 20-minute walk from the center of town, on a wedge of land between two roads. It is accessible by foot, car, and horse, and its position in the midst of farmland makes it an optimal location for demonstrating sustainable agriculture techniques and hosting workshops for the local community.

The Energy Farming demonstration plot was pure jungle when HIM acquired it; it hadn’t been cultivated in over 15 years, so great trees, vines, shrubs, and a number of coffee bushes gone wild dominated the property. This long period of rest is an excellent starting point for the organic energy farming work, since it indicates a rich, stable soil that has been protected from erosion and is free of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

After receiving a walking tour of the land, a local farmer was hired to organize a team to help with the site preparation, including the removal and mulching of shrubs and weedy underbrush.

In order to maintain the land’s natural integrity and to keep it protected, a four-meter buffer zone of uncut forest was preserved around the perimeter of the land. Large trees, traditional medicinal plants, and some of the coffee bushes were left standing. The plant debris will serve to enrich the plot, with branches pruned from the trees becoming fence posts and terracing supports, and leaves and shrubs serving as the foundation for the first compost piles.

In the course of exploring and clearing the land with local farmers, HIM staff quickly began to collect information on the traditional uses for native plants and trees. The farmers expressed an interest in learning more specific techniques for sustainable cultivation, as well as the desire to exchange knowledge from the different herbal healing traditions of Mexico, India, and the United States.