Though industrial agriculture has made us used to seeing rows and rows of the same type of crop, in reality, plants naturally want to grow alongside different species.

This is something that Indigenous farming populations have long known, as evidenced by the Three Sisters growing method. “This Indigenous agricultural practice exemplifies the positive outcome of reciprocal relationships promoted by diversity,” Montgomery writes in her book.

You see, when you place corn, beans, and squash together to grow, they all share resources with each other: The tall corn provides space for the bean vines to climb, the beans impart the soil with essential nutrients, and the stout squash keeps the ground cool and moist. Every plant has something to bring to the exchange, and together they form a complete, harmonious system.

The Tree Sisters remind us that when a diverse group meets in community, the whole can become greater than the sum of its parts: an essential lesson now and always.

When we take time to really learn about the natural world around us, we find it to be a source of profound wisdom. And plants are only the start of it. As Montgomery says, “All of us are sitting with some knowledge that has lessons for us about how to be better humans on the planet.”

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