Gary Nabhan wants to create new opportunities for immigrant populations in Patagonia while reviving a taste for forgotten desert fruits, and he needs your help.
There are 68 days left to join the effort to save our desert’s forgotten fruits – and create new green jobs in Arizona’s borderland while we’re at it.
MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Award recipient and Edible Baja Arizona senior contributing editor Gary Nabhan is leading the charge with Barnraiser fundraiser. His goal? To fund the creation of a commercial kitchen within easy reach of five orchards growing arid-adapted fruits and herbs in Patagonia, Arizona, and then work with local immigrant and refugee populations to create shrubs, preserved fruit syrups made using millennia-old recipes consisting of vinegar, fruit, sugar, and herbs.
Nabhan is no stranger the concept of shrubs, whose name comes from the Arabic word sharab, “a drink.” The beverage has been experiencing a comeback, as bartenders seek a new flavor for cocktails and traditionally preserved foods continue to rise in popularity. When considered in conjunction with the need to establish localized, sustainable food systems (another concept Nabhan is familiar with, as the W.K. Kellogg Chair of Sustainable Food Systems at the University of Arizona), shrubs offer a unique way to use the bounty of the 125 desert-adapted, heirloom fruit tree varieties currently growing in the orchards, along with a range of native herbs that are rare or threatened.
Not content with introducing modern palates to the flavors of these forgotten desert fruits, Nabhan’s project also seeks to address regional income inequality by creating new green jobs available to residents of Arizona’s border towns, where less than 1 in 3 adults may be gainfully employed and lack access to healthy whole foods. Many members of these communities have prior experience tending orchards, and Nabhan believes providing jobs that build on that experience will help create greater economic stability and further opportunity, effecting food justice in the region.
To achieve these goals, Nabhan and his partners need a minimum of $8,000 of startup capital in order to begin retro-fitting an existing canning kitchen in Patagonia so it can meet commercial kitchen requirements. The build-out of the current kitchen can be completed in less than 3 months after $15,000 of funding support is gained, which would allow training, food permitting and community use to begin even before the 2016 harvest. Another $5000 on top of that would allow the kitchen to acquire a small scale processor for pomegranate syrup, capable of producing 25 pounds of pomegranate syrup in one hour.
As a community-focused food project, it seems appropriate that Barnraiser, a food and farming -focused crowdfunding site, is the platform through which Nabhan seeks to raise the necessary funds. Of course, such a project is interesting to the editorial staff at Edible Baja Arizona, not only as a new development in the local food scene but also as an experiment in what can be accomplished using highly localized crowdfunding. Megan Kimble, managing editor for Edible Baja Arizona, explains that “Edible will be watching and helping with the Patagonia fruits campaign over the next eight weeks as means to see what crowdfunding can do for other local food entrepreneurs in Baja Arizona.”
Kate has a BA in creative writing fiction and a BFA in studio art from the University of Arizona. As an artist, foodie, blogger, and activist, she wears many hats, but particularly prefers those of the vintage variety.