Collaborative Conservation

Seeds on seeds on seeds: Why more biodiversity means more food security

It is puzzling that Monsanto’s Vice President Robert Fraley recently became one of the recipients of the World Food Prize for providing GMO seeds to combat the effects of climate change, just weeks after Monsanto itself reported a $264 million loss this quarter because of a decline in interest and plummeting sales in its genetically engineered “climate-ready” seeds.

And since Fraley received his award, the production of GMO corn has been formally banned by Mexico, undoubtedly seen as one of Monsanto’s major potential markets.

Conservation You Can Taste

OVER THE LAST three decades, more than one-hundred thousand plant and animal varieties and species have become endangered around the planet, many of which formerly provided humankind with food or beverages. At the same time, a remarkable counter trend has occurred in America’s gardens and orchards, and on its farms and ranch pastures.

Although virtually unnoticed in some circles, more than fifteen thousand unique vegetable, fruit, legume and grain varieties and dozens of livestock and poultry breeds have returned to U.S. foodscapes, farmers markets, restaurants and home tables over the last quarter century.

Our Coming Food Crisis

THIS summer the tiny town of Furnace Creek, Calif., may once again grace the nation’s front pages. Situated in Death Valley, it last made news in 1913, when it set the record for the world’s hottest recorded temperature, at 134 degrees. With the heat wave currently blanketing the Western states, and given that the mercury there has already reached 130 degrees, the news media is awash in speculation that Furnace Creek could soon break its own mark.

Such speculation, though, misses the real concern posed by the heat wave, which covers an area larger than New England. The problem isn’t spiking temperatures, but a new reality in which long stretches of triple-digit days are common — threatening not only the lives of the millions of people who live there, but also a cornerstone of the American food supply.

Can Southern Arizona be protein self-sufficient in the face of climate change?

On a hot June day in the Flowing Wells neighborhood of northeast Tucson, 45 ranchers, farmers, chefs, butchers and range ecologists met to talk about the future of meat production, processing and local distribution in Southern Arizona.

Most of the participants knew that meat prices and demand were at an all-time high in Tucson and North America as a whole,

Growing Food in a Hotter, Dryer Land: Lessons from Desert Farmers on Adapting to Climate Uncertainty

Nabhan, an ethnobotanist, cofounder of Native Seeds/SEARCH, and prolific author, draws on his longtime relationships with the land and people of the Southwest U.S., together with wisdom from farmers and gardeners in Egypt, Mexico, and other dry places, to suggest solutions for growing food and developing agricultural resiliency as climate change affects wider swaths of the planet.

Slow Money National Gathering: Diversity in Food Financing

At the Slow Money National Gathering, there was a lot of talk about sustainable food systems, local food sheds, healthy soil and healthy people.

There was also a lot of talk about how challenging it is to attain these ideal food systems. Small farmers often run into trouble finding financing. The question is, when traditional financing doesn’t offer support, where do small, local farmers go? How can these farmers grow their businesses and support their families when they only receive six to fifteen cents on the dollar for their products? The drive, passion and aspiration are there, but in so many instances, the money is not.

The Wild, the Domesticated, and the Coyote-Tainted

Folklore regarding (biological) coyotes and (the mythic) Old Man Coyote the Trickster is rich in both hunter-gatherer and farmer-herder societies in Western North America, and apparently not restricted to language group, socioeconomic status, or subsistence strategy.

To date, there has yet to be a systematic comparison of hunter-gatherer versus farmer uses of ‘Coyote’ as a modifier in the secondary lexemes used to name plants and invertebrates, or in associated oral narratives. While these folk taxa may be called “coyote’s biota” for shorthand, it is necessary to discern whether they all share some common diagnostic features or characteristic values in the cultures which name them.

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

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 staple crop. Instead, the oldest evidence of maize cultivation north of the Tropic of Cancer comes from a desert valley known as the Tucson Basin in southern Arizona, and near the Zuni and Hopi villages of northern Arizona.