2009 Native American $1 Coin: Three Sisters Agriculture
Agriculture has always been important in Native American cultures. Without Native American fruits, nuts, and vegetables, the first groups of European colonists probably could not have survived. Both through trade and by directly sharing information, Native Americans helped provide the food that the early colonists needed. What’s more, vegetables native to the New World were soon brought to Europe and became common there.
Native Americans practiced gardening techniques that are still part of agriculture today, such as rotating crops, cross-breeding plants, developing watering methods, and companion planting. Three Sisters agriculture is a good example of companion planting, where more than one type of plant is grown in an area.
In Three Sisters agriculture, three particular crops are grown together: corn, beans, and squash. This technique probably began in Mexico, where maize was developed as corn.
In this planting relationship, the corn stalks support the bean vines. The beans add nitrogen to the soil, which feeds the corn. Squash vines grow along the ground, with large leaves that shade the ground, keeping it from drying out and discouraging the growth of weeds, which would steal nutrients from all the plants.
These plants don’t compete for nutrients and space. In fact, the corn, beans, and squash can actually produce more fruit when grown together than they can separately. That’s what makes them such good companions!