“We believe we can build a better life together than on our own.”

When I was deciding whether to start Johego, I chanced across the Iroquois story of The Three Sisters, which relates to the ancient practice of companion planting squash, corn, and beans in order to increase their yields. As you may already know, companion planting involves carefully controlling the spacing of seeds and the timing of their planting, so as to maximize their various physical and chemical compatibilities. Physically, the corn provides a vertical structure for the beans to climb, while the squash prevents sunlight from reaching the soil, thereby making it harder for weeds to compete against the desired crops. Chemically, the beans pull nitrogen from the air and store it in the soil, where the corn and the squash are able to utilize it.

Squash, corn, and beans
Companion Planting: Squash, Corn, & Beans

As interesting as these biological insights may be, their philosophical implications were, for me, even more profound: with a little careful planning, these plants grow considerably better together than they do separately. After all, that is the function of human community itself: we organize ourselves into groups, in large part, because we believe we can build a better life together than on our own.

Inspired by this story, I reached out to a scholar of Iroquois languages, and he indicated that the Seneca people, who are one of the six Iroquois nations, refer to The Three Sisters in ceremonial speeches as Jöhéhgöh, which literally translates to “what we live on.” In order to make our name easier to spell, but still wanting to honor the story of The Three Sisters, I decided to name our organization Johego. It was my hope that, by leveraging our backgrounds in data science and software development, Johego will be able to help people in need more efficiently connect with social and medical services throughout the United States.

— Michael Kehoe, Founder & CEO

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