Essays for Hope and Reflection

Take Your Vows: To Farm is To Be Married

We are not alone in our struggle to achieve food security in the face of climate change. We are all in this together, growing food in partnership with diverse seeds, breeds, soil microbes, pollinators and other beneficial insects. But we need to acknowledge our interdependence with these other lives, because our fates are intertwined. In a sense, we are married to them, cohabitate with them and cannot physically or spiritually live separate from them. That is why I suggested that everyone at ...

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Coming Home to Eat Revisited

By: Gary Nabhan

Our mouths, our hearts, our bellies and brains
have been ruminating for centuries
over the same few simple questions:

Just what exactly is it that we want to have cross our lips,
to roll off our tongues, down our throats,
to fill our nostrils with hardly described fragrances,
to slide to a brief halt within our bellies,
to mix with our own gastric juices
to be transformed into something new
by the myriad microbes cohabitating in our guts,
to ...

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Agrarian Ecology

One might wonder whether any 21st century preoccupation with agrarian values, agrarian ecology and agrarian ideals comes as too little, too late.  Less than two percent of the North American public lives in rural areas outside towns, cities and suburbs, and less than half of the world’s population now lives outside cities. But the New Agrarianism which is emerging globally is not restricted to the rural domain, nor is it necessarily a romantic desire to re-enact social behaviors and morays ...

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Chapalote Corn – The oldest corn in North America pops back up

Article & Photo by Gary Paul Nabhan
Heirloom Gardener • Winter 2012-2013
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It is a truly remarkable irony that most Americans have never even heard of the name of the oldest heirloom maize variety on the continent, Chapalote, let alone tasted its earthy, flinty cornmeal. Corn farming in the foodscapes within the present-day United States did not begin in the Midwestern or Southern “Corn Belts,“ nor along the East Coast where Pilgrims first encountered this new ...

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Listening to the Next Generation

Youth are the most highly adaptable and exquisitely sensitive portion of the human population. They are wired perfectly for the job of moving us forward.

The Leopold Outlook  – Winter 2012
by Rick Knight, Curt Meine, Gary Paul Nabhan, and Stan Temple

For decades, Aldo Leopold’s writings have been assigned readings on college campuses across the country, in classes across a wide range of disciplines. Generations of students have read Leopold to gain a solid footing in conservation science, history, and ideas. ...

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Honoring Achievements of Hispanic Food Producers, But No Engagement With Their Struggles

Gary Paul Nabhan | Huffington Post

Earlier this month, when Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar designated 27 new National Landmarks, five of them were meant to honor America’s historic legacy of Hispanic engagement in agriculture and natural resources. While the César E. Chávez National Monument at Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz in Keene, California, rightly honored one of the twentieth century’s greatest advocates for the rights of Hispanic food producers and harvesters in the United States, Hispanics may ...

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Agrarian Poetry: Why We Need Its Prophesies and Imagery Now, More Than Ever

Agrarian poetry? Agrarian prophesies? Agrarian urgencies? One might wonder whether any 21st century preoccupation with agrarian values and agrarian ideals comes as too little, too late, for less than one in six of all Canadian and U.S. citizens live in rural areas outside of towns, cities and suburbs.

But listen up. Look again. The New Agrarianism is emerging in Western Canada and the United States, and it is not strictly restricted to the rural domain. Nor does it a necessarily stem ...

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World Food Day: A Franciscan Prayer Service on Behalf of Farmers, Farmworkers & Fishers in a Year of Drought & Immigration Debate

By Gary Paul Nabhan

Call to Worship

Let us remember the words of Saint James:

“The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of Our Creator, Our Lord of Hosts” (5:4).

During this season of harvest, in the year in North American history when 71 percent of our rural communities saw their crop seeds and livestock breeds damaged by drought, let us call all cultures, faiths and nations together to celebrate that which the earth did yield, and to ask for repentance for ...

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Healing the Lands of the Border

By: Gary Paul Nabhan

Around the time that Joe Quiroga turned 60, he began a new endeavor that has ultimately had more land conservation impact than most of us will ever achieve over in our lives.

Joe looked out over the uneven cover and ailing forage quality of the Sonoita Plains in Santa Cruz County near Elgin, AZ, and decided that he wanted to try to heal the landscape. He built stone check dams called trincheras wherever he saw watercourses down-cutting into ...

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Going with the Grain, Occupying Our Food Supply

As someone who grows nearly a dozen acres of heritage grains in the desert—including the oldest corn and oldest wheat varieties in North America– I recently learned a fact about cereal commodity trading that knocked me off my feet.

The most powerful transnational corporation you’ve never heard of—Glencore International PLC, the world’s largest diversified commodities trader—currently controls one tenth of the world’s wheat supply, and one quarter of the global harvest of barley, sunflower and rapeseed. You may have never heard ...

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Pollinators as Social and Ecological Capital in the Pollinator Capitol of America

When most people think of the “birds and the bees,” they are inevitably thinking about relationships… romantic or otherwise. But what few conservationist advocates remember is that their neighbors, friends and kin who may be unschooled in the details of conservation biology almost intuitively “get” that the conservation of relationships may be as necessary as the conservation of species or of habitats. Most people will agree that the relationships between pollen-carrying animals and plants are worthy of our respect, protection ...

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What are the Heritage Foods of the Rio Santa Cruz and Why Do They Matter?

by Gary Paul Nabhan, Kellogg Endowed Chair in Southwest Borderlands Food and Water Security, University of Arizona

The cultivation and harvest of domesticated foods began in the Rio Santa Cruz watershed began more than 4100 years ago, making it one of the oldest continuously-farmed cultural landscapes in North America. Surprisingly, some of the same crop varieties that were prehistorically cultivated in the watershed continue to be raised nearby. In addition, Avalon Gardens and Tumacacori National Monument as well as Tubac Presidio ...

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Agrarian Poetry: Why We Need Its Messages and Beauty Now, More Than Ever Before

Quite literally, from Biblical times to the 1950s, agrarian poetry, story and song helped to shape the underlying values of any culture, society or community which had strong ties to the land.

Now, with less that 1.5% of Americans self-identifying as farmers or ranchers, not only has the value of their poetic expressions been marginalized, but their overall contributions to American culture have also been marginalized as “nostalgic, romantic or retro.” Nothing could be further from the truth; in fact, as ...

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High and dry: Southwest drought means rising food prices

Very few urban dwellers have paid attention to the catastrophic drought in the Southwest that began nearly a year ago. But last month, as farmers and ranchers assessed the year’s harvest, it became clear it had knocked back their yields and sales, while driving their costs higher than they have ever been. As the drought continues to drive both meat and vegetable food prices up over the next year, urbanites in the region and beyond will likely notice the change ...

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The Levantine Connection to the Southwest’s Flour Tortilla

The Levantine Connection to the Southwest’s Flour Tortilla

by Gary Paul Nabhan

While at a Palestinian café in Ramallah on the West Bank recently, I was surprised to find the waitress was bringing me a flour tortilla much like the pale, medium thin ones used for burritos throughout New Mexico, Arizona, Chihuahua and Sonora.

“Did I order these?” I asked my Palestinian hostess. “I thought I ordered a purslane salad with some saj flatbread on the side.”

“To the right of you is your ...

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High, dry, and up against a wall: Why water and food justice are key to ending border conflicts

Grist.org / Gary Nabhan

For someone who lives within 12 miles of the infamous wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, it was an odd feeling to travel along the wall between Palestine and Israel last week just as Osama bin Laden’s death was announced to the world. Odd, because the parallels between the two desert regions are so remarkable. Palestinian farmers I spoke with were not interested in talking about the wall itself, nor the killing of bin Laden, nor the ...

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Chile crisis of 2011 reveals need for more resilience and diversity on the farm

by Gary Nabhan

What a difference a few days of aberrant weather can mean to our food security, our pocket books, and our penchant for hot sauce. The record freeze that hit the U.S. Southwest and Northern Mexico in early February is still affecting vegetable availability and food prices in general more than 6 weeks after the catastrophe. Restaurants across the U.S. are rationing peppers and tomatoes on their sandwiches and in their salsas. Prices for peppers have jumped as much ...

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Kyl, McCain could boost economy with Santa Cruz heritage area

Gary Paul Nabhan Special To The Arizona Daily Star

With elections behind us, I hope politicians will get out from behind the rhetoric and actually help Arizonans – especially rural Arizonans – overcome the problems of poverty, hunger and limited economic opportunity. There is one immediate way to do this – by jump-starting rural economic recovery and creating jobs through a Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area designation.

In Southern Arizona, all local, county, and tribal governments and ...

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An Agrarian Land Covenant: Food for Thought, For Becoming at Home in Our Place, For Thoughtfulness in Producing Food

With future generations in mind, my family will never leave the land we steward poorer, nor its water scarcer than conditions were before we acquired responsibility for their care.

My family will seek to enrich the soil, diversify its plant cover and deepen its roots both within and beyond its harvested fields, grazed pastures, and streamside areas.

My family will think of how our practices affect those who live above and below us in our foodshed and watershed— not only the human ...

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Gary Nabhan remembers Stewart Udall

By: Gary Paul Nabhan
Published: March 29, 2010

On Saturday, March 20, the West lost Stewart Udall, one of the greatest conservationists this region has given to the world. The man exemplified vision and decency, conservation and consilience, in an era when conflict and entrenchment have become all too common.

As Congress fought bitterly over health care reform that same weekend, voting almost entirely upon party lines, I remembered a story that Udall told me as we celebrated his 80th birthday ...

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