Poetry and Parables

To Be an Ethnobotanist

Now, being an ethnobotanist

Is not all that different

From being a musician,

Ballerina or chef:

 

You’ve got to practice

Your licks and chops,

Your forms and foot positions

Your dicing, slicing

And making a roux

Every day (or else)

You get rusty.

 

No one I know

Likes a rusty ethnobotanist

One who is constantly hoping

To discover some herbal WD-40

 

So make and take

Some time each day

To go on out

And eat the flowers

Drink their nectars

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Four Vows for Food Justice: An Earth Day Prayer

Although the many beings lost or wounded in our foodshed,
somehow seem nameless & numberless,
we vow to remember their names,
to hear their needs & to never forget their faces.

For the many children who are hungry daily,
while perfectly useable food is thrown away,
inundating landfills & making methane,
we vow to curb our consumption & end of our waste.

For the many immigrant farmworkers
who harvest the bounty with their sweat & blood.
but are seldom offered a place ...

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A Fresh Look at Democracy from the Desert

The owl cries out before the dawning light
To all the other desert dwellers, proclaiming
“I’m still here! Maybe you are too!”
But what a here it is,
Yuccas and saguaros marching forth
To cast their ballots somewhere out
Across the rocky, cactus-studded plains
While up above them, in high places
On Frog Mountain, clouds hold a summit
To determine the next legitimate President
Of this parched and broken terrain.
“Well, I’ll try it!” says the eager packrat.
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Water Justice

Pope Francis paraphrased:

“…access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights.”

On the bottom side
of each flat rock
that has found a way
to reach its angle of repose
on the desert’s bottom floor
a sheen of droplets
forms at night
enough to fill a single cup.

That is your daily water ration
for the rest ...

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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 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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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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The Food Crisis Is Our Energy Crisis

By Gary Paul Nabhan
for Slow Food Nation

The Earth has grown tired of making fossilized food
Tired of having to pump fossil fuel as well as
Ancient groundwater up from her very innards
To let them spill onto our fields & orchards
Where frantic crops are forced to suck it all up.
What oozed out of the aquifer and oil well
Now bleeds with additives, fertilizers & pesticides
So that we might eat.

We too have grown tired
Tired of all ...

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The Beginning and the End of the Colorado River: Protecting the Sources, Ensuring Its Courses

Dedicated to Anita Alvarez de Williams, Nuestra Señora de la Delta

During the drought year of 2002, front-page headlines in Arizona’s largest newspaper declared “Colorado River Not Doing Job.” It was one of several notices making the national and regional headlines that year that referred to the worst drought to hit the bulk of the Colorado River basin in a century or more. In reading the Arizona Republic article that morning, I presumed that the journalists responsible for it understood ...

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A Terroir-ist’s Manifesto for Eating in Place

Know where your food has come from
through knowing those who produced it for you,
from farmer to forager, rancher or fisher
to earthworms building a deeper, richer soil,
to the heirloom vegetable, the nitrogen-fixing legume,
the pollinator, the heritage breed of livestock,
& the sourdough culture rising in your flour.

Know where your food has come from
by the very way it tastes:
its freshness telling you
how far it may have traveled,
the hint of mint in the cheese
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American Terroir

Sit down at the table with your countrymen & friends
And ask your lips, tongues, minds & bellies some questions,
Questions that remind us that our bodies & spirits
Are either nurtured by place
Or swallowed up by tasteless placelessness.

Ask aloud: Just what exactly is it
That we want to have cross our lips,
To roll off our tongues & down our throats
To be transformed & conjured into something
Altogether new by thousands of gut microbes
To surge into ...

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Desert is a Homeland that Has Migrated

“Our ancestors need to hear from us.” Vivienne Jake, Kaibab Paiute elder

It is well after midnight, and I have found myself in the backseat of a rented Lexus with a driver named Ahmed who is speeding 150 kilometers per hour along the shores of the Arabian Gulf. There is desert here right up to the sea, but both dry ground and ocean water are hard to make out. There are floodlights beaming down on the eight lane super highway between ...

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