Hope for a Beleaguered Planet....

Our book Milpa: From Seed to Salsa - Ancient Ingredients for a Sustainable Future explores through a blend of essays, recipes and documentary photography how the ancient agricultural knowledge and the wealth of 1000 year-old seeds and planting practices still in use among the Mixtec peoples of southern Mexico can help us to meet the ecological and food crises of today.

The essays, written in conjunction with campesino farmers, serve as a warning about the complicated dangerous effects inherent in the rapidly expanding distribution of GMO (genetically modified organism) seeds in Mexico, the birthplace of corn. Our documentary cookbook discusses alternatives for campesino farmers across the world and gardeners and consumers who care about food safety. Using the example of the Milpa planting system in the Mixteca Alta region of Southern Mexico just north of Oazaxa City, the book supports recent studies by UN investigators that show that small plots of land, heritage seeds and sustainable practices can in fact feed the world while enriching the soils on which we all depend for life…….

Milpa contains the traditional recipes lovingly shared by the local indigenous Mixtec women, allowing readers to re-create the culinary magic that flows from this ancient agricultural system. Recipes are painstakingly tested and photographed in traditional indigenous kitchens as well as in a professional modern test kitchen. Please purchase the book, below.....

All Rights Reserved: © Phil-Dahl Bredine, © Kathy Dahl-Bredine © Judith Cooper Haden Photography, © Susana Trilling SOMH.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Learning From Our Neighbors in The Mixteca

Life here in Yucuyoco is often an experience of being out of control. The neighbors’ bulls got into our corn and destroyed a good bit of the work of the spring, the electricity has been off and on… off principally when we needed power tools to make a door or internet to finish an important communication. Getting an electrical connection from the Electrical Commission has delayed the completion of the water system for the village.

Yet even though the consequences of lack of control in our societies of the North may not be as drastic as the hunger it can cause here, we tend to be a civilization obsessed with having power and control. Nationally and individually we struggle to defend ourselves from threats real and imagined with more arms, more insurance, greater production and consumption of goods and an ever faster race to secure more comfort and security. Paradoxically, our fixation on control seems to have made us more vulnerable in many ways.  

Laundry Day
Much in the way our efforts for control in the “war against terror” have made us less secure, our efforts to defend ourselves against the uncertainties of the world through a growing cycle of production and consumption and by ever greater energy use, have also made us more vulnerable. Prolonged power outages, which are a bother in San Isidro, cause major disasters in the highly artificial, energy-dependent urban centers of the North. Our growing consumption patterns threaten the very biological systems of the planet which provide us with clean air, fresh water, rich soils, diverse marine life, etc. Morover, the waste generated by our energy use is making the very planetary environment in which we live more dangerous. In most of the oceans of the earth the incidence of severe hurricanes has doubled in the last 20 years and increased 7-fold in the Indian Ocean. Severe floods have followed a similar pattern, all attested to by skyrocketing disaster payments by the world’s insurance industries.

Perhaps worst of all, the pace at which we work to build safe spaces through increased consumption of goods, energy, and information tends to deactivate the reflective side of our personalities. As indigenous activists from Bolivia put it, “disinformation by over-information deactivates the reflective modes by which we appropriate information and construct our world.”

Preparing the Soil for Planting

Yesterday Don Narciso, one of the wise ones of the pueblo, stopped us on the street and said:
“I have been watching how you interact in our pueblo and take part as representatives of your village of San Isidro. And I really appreciate the kind of sharing that is happening between our two cultures. “   Clearly he had been doing some reflecting, and so had we.
“And we have learned that you, the Mixtec people, have something important to teach us in the North about community and individualism and about how to live well,” we replied. 

Typical Home in the Mixteca Alta
What a privilege we enjoy to be able to 
reflect together with our indigenous neighbors! Perhaps if we are to save ourselves -- we the human family -- in this time of epic crises, we need to become reflective enough to hear the voices around us, the voices of the cultures which can still reveal to us that there are alternatives to our civilization of control that is in crisis.
In such a time of crisis perhaps we need to cultivate what we could call a “dialogue of knowings”, listening and sharing with the cultures that still have not internalized the fatal flaws of our civilization of control and with the ancestors of the human family who perhaps knew more than we thought about how to live well on the planet. Perhaps we could even reestablish a dialogue with the other species in this living planet to see if they have something to tell us …if we were to listen.

With your contributions we have been able to start a kind of revolving store of corn, which we buy locally and make available to the community to buy at a much-reduced price, thus protecting their dignity, and providing local residents with food, since virtually everyone’s stock of corn was destroyed, both by the erratic weather last fall and by the Great Storm this spring.  Thank you!!

September 2011

We thank you for your letters, your prayers, and your donations, which continue to help to make this work possible.   Our aim for these letters is to share our view from this vantage point of the world.  But if you do wish to contribute to this work, you can send a tax-deductible donation to: 

Instituto Paz en las Américas, 2645 Mountain View Rd. Silver City, NM 88061.                                      Please write on the memo of the check: “for Dahl-Bredine projects”.    

                                                  We thank you very much, and we always love hearing from you.                                                           

Peace and Blessings to you all.
Phil and Kathy    

Photos © Judith Cooper Haden                                                                                                                                      

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Check out our latest YouTube video and PowerPoint.....

This Time in Human History is "Our" Time....

 June-July, 2012

Dear Friends and Family,

As many of you know, we recently left behind the hillsides and fields of Yucuyoco for a time to celebrate the wedding of our oldest son, Chris, and his love, Lisa, in New Mexico, with all the family gathered from near and far, and of course to enjoy the five grandchildren. While there we did a few talks about Yucuyoco and how it has stimulated our imagination as to what is to be done in the crises of our day. Yet we found a certain discouragement and disillusion among friends and family there that we don’t feel back here in the rarified atmosphere of change in Mexico and Latin America. What to do?

A few weeks ago an indigenous friend reviewing the ecological, economic and social crises of today proclaimed, “They’ve had their turn and have created a disaster. Now it’s our turn!” Perhaps the first thing we need to do is recognize and proclaim that this time in the history of the human family is “our” time. It is the time of indigenous communities and of all of us who believe that the purpose of life is not to consume but rather to create harmony within the human community and the larger community of life on the Mother Earth. It is the time of those of us who will not accept a future of resource wars and ecological disaster for our children and grandchildren.

Time Honored Method of Threshing Local Heritage Wheat - It Works!
 In the face of irrational growth in resource use that has brought us to the limits of the only planet we have – and to income gaps that have become totally socially unsustainable, we proclaim a way to a hopeful future for the planet. And we need to proclaim this as loudly as some profess their allegiance to the ecologically and economically outdated vision of free markets, consumerism, radical individualism and the injustice, racism and war that it breeds.

We cannot be intimidated by those who claim that there is no other way and maintain that our ideas are impractical. Certainly, we have learned from indigenous communities that are putting our values into practice in Latin America, that there is another way. The social chaos, bankruptcies, and recessions of today proclaim that it is the current model that is impractical. And when our analyses begin to scratch under the surface of what is supposedly the only model, we find such anomalies as a U.S. food system that requires 10 calories of energy to get one calorie of food on the table, while in Yucuyoco we can get 3 to 7 calories of food on our tables for one calorie of energy input!

If we can’t have immediate impact on national politics, at least local governments and civic groups can put into practice the new agenda:
·       Reduce energy use (look what an opportunity our food system presents)
·       Produce locally
·       Decommodify our production systems and our households by using fewer products that we need to buy
·       Rezone for local food production (the city of Havana, Cuba produces 40% of its vegetables in urban garden areas and lands that surround cities, zoned for organic food production)
·       Reassert community with concepts that can reduce our need to depend on the cash economy, with mutual aid (gueza), community work projects (tequio), and a careful and responsible use of all the resources that make up our communities’ commons
·       Recognize and enforce the rights of our Mother Earth.

We have a platform to put into practice in the North as well as in Yucuyoco!

Here are some of the projects your donations have helped support in the Mixteca Alta during this past year:

v  Piped Water Project for the Village – we are close to finishing this effort now.  The system will pipe water from our mountain spring, by pumping it up to a level above the highest house, then piping it now by gravity to every house in the village.  This has taken an enormous amount of work, with the whole village turning out to do the digging of all the ditches, laying of pipes, covering them, etc. 
v  Children’s Preventive Health Education - our Mixtec version of the international Child to Child (Niño a Niño program) of working in village groups with a local guide to empower children and teenagers to create and work on projects to improve community health and wellness and protect the environment.
v  Children’s Mobile Library – promoting reading skills and enjoyment by providing access to literature for children in remote rural villages.
v  Sustainable Farming: Biological Pest Control – production of organic fertilizers and biological control of the Japanese beetle larva (very destructive to corn).
v  Promotion of Native Seeds and Agricultural Technologies – the Museum of the Milpa and experiments with family seed reserves. 
v  Nonviolent Conflict Resolution – Enabling training workshops for leaders in the theory, background, and practice of methods for nonviolent, peaceful change.
v  Aid to Indigenous Villages – in times of scarcity and natural disaster, such as crop failure, this effort gives emergency support for food and basic necessities.  

We thank you for your letters, your prayers, and your donations, which continue to help make this work possible.   Our principle aim for these letters is to share our view from this little corner of the earth.  But if you do wish to contribute to this work, you can send a tax-deductible donation to: 

 Instituto Paz en las Americas, 2645 Mountain View Rd., Silver City, NM 88061. 
 Please write on the memo of the check:  “for Dahl-Bredine projects”.
Many thanks, and we always love hearing from you. 
Please send us your email address, if we don’t have it!  We will continue to postal-mail to those we know prefer it.

Peace and Blessings to you all,
Phil and Kathy

Oaxaca mailing address:
Kathy & Phil Dahl-Bredine, Apdo. 29, Nochixtlán, Oaxaca, 69600, Mexico
Tel. 52-951-440-8951, kpdbmx@gmail.com

Friday, July 6, 2012




This is so worthy of a read, or a re--read as the case may be, and explains in a nutshell what we are up against with our food supply issues and our national food agenda. Obama is readying for a second term; this was written right as he was readying for  office in October of 2008....

"Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is recycled."  Amen!  From the Oaxacan village of Etla, which features one of the all-time great markets on Wednesdays.....