Gary Paul Nabhan is a gardener, an agricultural ecologist, an ethnobotanist, and an ecumenical Franciscan brother based in Patagonia, Arizona. He is the author of a host of books covering a diversity of botany-based topics – from pollinators, to food policy, to love letters to his favorite landscapes.
The heart of his work is fed by his own lifelong enchantment with the world – and his nearly lifelong commitment to healing wounded landscapes from a primary objective of consciously conserving healthy relationships on all levels and planes. In all he does, Gary examines our human relationships to plants and places not just as a matter of important pragmatics but as a matter of generosity, spirit and poetics – I cannot think of a better time of year to share forward that exact kind of enchantment and hopeful work.
As a multi-decade reader and therefore student of his, I am so honored to share his voice forward today, Christmas week in the Christian tradition.
"I am constantly working to bring the wild world into our cultivated landscapes to keep them from becoming monocultures – and therefor impoverished on several levels – genetic biodiversity among them. I am interested in reciprocal restoration – as we work to restore landscapes, we are healing ourselves by renewing our connections to beneficial microorganisms, tastes, or fragrances." -Gary Paul Nabhan
As a young adult on a solo backpack trip in Southern Utah, he was called to a life as a Franciscan – not so much with people as with plants and places. He considered working to become a wildlife biologist but after learning he was color blind, he began working on mapping the relationship between declines in bird populations with declines in habitat. Those correlations led him to his longtime work in observing, understanding and conserving the many interactive relationships in healthy ecosystems or food chains rather than focusing on individual species.
IN 1983, Gary co-founded Native Seeds/SEARCH: Native Seeds/SEARCH (NS/S) a nonprofit seed conservation organization based in Tucson, Arizona, whose mission is to conserve and promote the arid-adapted crop diversity of the Southwest in support of sustainable farming and food security. Native Seeds/SEARCH seeks to find, protect and preserve the seeds of the people of the Greater Southwest so that these arid adapted crops may benefit all peoples and nourish a changing world.
Our story began in 1983 when co-founders Barney Burns, Mahina Drees, Gary Nabhan and Karen Reichhardt worked on a food security Meals for Millions project to support the Tohono O’odham Nation in establishing gardens for their sustainable food needs. Over many generations, the forces of colonization and later globalization had eroded the cultures and economies and that kept these vital foods alive in the landscape. In discussions with tribal elders they were told “What we are really looking for are the seeds for the foods our grandparents used to grow.” This sage remark inspired the formation of Native Seeds/SEARCH as a collector and preserver of endangered traditional seeds from communities in the Southwest.”
Happy Winter Solstice~