Milpa Garden

The First Acre Program

Milpa harvest

What’s Milpa?

The Milpa technique originated in Central America where the Maya used the three sisters: corn, squash, and beans alongside other native and cultivated plants to improve the soil and grow food in their forest gardens

Inspired by this concept, we’ve created a mix of over 40 different seeds including multiple varieties of Squash, Cucumbers, Watermelons, Beets, Turnips, Sunflowers, Okra, and many more. 

By planting this diverse mix altogether, we can grow healthful food that builds healthy soil. Harvesting the Milpa garden is an adventure in experiencing the power of natural diversity firsthand. Not only does Milpa produce delicious food, it attracts beneficial insects, reduces pressure from pests, and increases organic matter in the soil.

The First Acre Program is closed for the 2024 season.

Inspired by the Maya Milpa tradition, the First Acre Program provides up to one acre of Milpa Garden seed mix to growers who commit to donate at least 50% of the harvested produce to their local food banks, community, and neighbors. This is an opportunity to see first-hand the benefits of encouraging diversity in your soils through cover cropping, all while growing food for your local community.

Please note: Free seed orders will include a shipping charge. 

The First Acre Starter Packet has all of the details on Milpa Garden mix and the First Acre Program.

1. Apply

Fill out our application form to get started. To qualify for the free seed, you must agree to donate at least 50% of the produce from your Milpa Garden to a food-bank or charity of your choice.

2. Order Seed

Once you’ve filled out your application, we’ll review it and let you know how much free seed you’ve been approved for. You’ll also receive a coupon code you can use when you place your Milpa order. At our online store, select the quantity of seed you will plant, add to cart and use your coupon code when checking out— you only have to pay for shipping. Once you've placed your order and we'll ship your seed as soon as we can. Please expect it to take a few weeks to process your Milpa order.

3. Donate

When your produce is ripe and ready, gather the crew and begin the harvest. Donate the produce to your local community.

4. Feedback

All throughout the growing season, we will be reaching out to each of the First Acre participants for feedback and photos of their Milpa garden. We especially want to hear about your volunteer hours and how many pounds of produce you've harvested and donated.

What is the Maya Milpa Garden?

The Milpa farming tradition originated in Mesoamerica where the Maya people use sophisticated techniques to cultivate a variety of annual crops such as corn, squash, and beans as well as various perennials. The ancient Milpa system of intercropping regional vegetables continues to be used in contemporary Maya culture, providing multiple benefits to the grower and the community, as well as the soil and the broader ecosystem. The highly diverse polyculture planting helps to support a balanced, healthy ecosystem, providing natural sources of fertilizer, attracting beneficial insects, reducing harmful pest pressure and increasing organic matter in the soil.

We aim to honor, elevate & celebrate this Indigenous wisdom as it is shared with our

First Acre Program participants.

Plant A Milpa GardenPlant A Milpa Garden
Narciso and Alfonso, Master Forest Gardeners in Belize

Sacred Reciprocity, life in harmony & equilibrium.

The concept of sacred reciprocity has its origins in many Indigenous cultures and it is described as a mutual exchange of energy that restores balance and creates harmony among all life. If we pay close enough attention, we can see sacred reciprocity at play in our Milpa Gardens. For example, you may observe that the number of harmful insects decreases in your diverse Milpa Garden. That is because diverse plant systems create habitat for predator insects who control and balance the number of harmful insects. The two opposing forces, the predator and prey, naturally reach a point of equilibrium, or balance in a healthy, diverse ecosystem.

Comunidad Maya Pixan Ixim (CMPI) 501 c 3

Comunidad Pixan Ixim is an organization of the Maya community in the United States, headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska.  They estimate that there are approximately one million people of Maya origin living in the United States, including eight thousand in Nebraska. Learn more about the Maya Regeneration Project and their mission to restore their traditions and culture in Nebraska.

Maya Regeneration ProjectMaya Regeneration Project

How It Began

Our experience with Milpa began in 2017 with a partnership between Green Cover and the Farm to Food Bank in Oklahoma. Green Cover donated Milpa Garden seed to several regenerative farmers throughout Oklahoma who partnered with the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. The simplistic beauty of the system is that all the seeds were mixed together and drilled with a regular grain drill, turning a small field into a large garden with very low labor inputs…

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Milpa Garden Donation
First Acre Milpa Garden

4 Great Reasons to Plant a Milpa Garden:

  1. More plant diversity = healthy & balanced ecology which helps attract beneficial insects & reduces the number of harmful insects!

  2. Plants can actually communicate with one another through what’s called the rhizosphere. This means plants can share essential nutrients and water with one another! 

  3. Legumes in your Milpa Garden will fixate nitrogen, improving overall soil health!

  4. Plant diversity increases microbial activity within the soil.

Pro Tip: Achieve the Six Soil Health Principles by cleaning up the leftovers of the Milpa Garden with your livestock!

Flower Hill Institute

Flower Hill Institute


“With the help of Green Cover, the Native American Agriculture Fund, and various Tribal Organizations, we were able to donate all the Milpa seed. All the produce and vegetables were grown and consumed on Indian lands for Native peoples.

We highly recommend to anyone wanting to make a difference to consider joining the Green Cover Milpa project and invite others to help support growing their own food!”

Flower Hill Institute

MILPA Articles

Milpa Garden SunflowerMILPASoil Health
March 30, 2022

Green Cover and Partners Expand Free Seed Program to Encourage Crop Diversity on U.S. Farms

Green Cover and Partners Expand Free Seed Program to Encourage Crop Diversity on U.S. Farms First Acre program aims to…
Milpa Garden DonationMILPA
March 9, 2022

Milpa Garden FAQ’s

MILPA FAQ - How Can I Be Involved? We get a lot of folks coming to us saying that they…
January 25, 2021

Flower Hill Institute – MILPA Garden

Many of the 577+ Federally recognized American Indian Tribes that transverse across 33 States in the US have more than…
September 5, 2020

How About a Milpa Garden? (And, maybe some free seeds?)

Article By: Joanna Will Check out the Link below to read the article.


Have Questions? We’re always here to help, but check out our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) to gain insight and learn about the Milpa Garden process.

How do I be Involved?

Can I add my own seed?

How do I harvest?

How do I set my drill?

How do I plant?

How do I control weeds?

More FAQ's
I want to be contacted when Milpa Garden mix is back in stock in 2023(Required)