Essays for Hope and Reflection

An Apology to Young Agrarians

Before anything else, I want to apologize for previously failing to acknowledge your value to our society at large, and to more fully support you in gaining traction with your endeavors. In four decades of writing about farming and ranching, I am afraid I have missed the mark by not writing about the issues most critical to your health and well-being.

I have been so attracted to helping save the seeds, breeds, soil, and water of food-producing land that I failed to notice that, first and foremost, those resources need bright, passionate, energetic, and innovative farmers and farmworkers if they are to survive and thrive.

Stalking Oregano in the Wilds of Mexico

Few American gourmands realize that most of the oregano they use to spice up sauces, meats, salads and vinegars—whether it be Greek or Mexican in origin—is hand-harvested from wild habitats. Although many varieties of oregano can be cultivated and irrigated as perennial crops, their aromatic oils become diluted as their leaves enlarge under well-watered conditions.

These same aromatic oils—called thymol and carvacol— become more concentrated, intensely flavorful and pungently memorable when the crisp, dry diminutive leaves of oreganos are harvested from deserts or from salt-sprayed coastal landscapes.

Reading Pope Francis on Peace, Justice & Caring For Creation

One of the more remarkable features of Pope Francis visit to North America was his request that we remember and reflect upon the lives of certain charismatic Americans whom few U.S. citizens would have placed into the same category of greatness: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, and the newly sainted Junipero Serra.

What do these five persons have in common? Why has each of them been either vilified or ignored by certain Americans?

Becoming “Laudito Si” Franciscans of the Rivers and Seas in the Era of Mining Spills

The recent toxic spill of 3 million pounds of mine wastes in the Animas-San Juan watershed is roughly I received my “call” year ago to become a Franciscan after days of solitude and prayer in the wilderness of the Four Corners region.

It is also the same watershed where I once caught five catfish for breakfast while co-leading an Outward Bound-style rite of initiation in tributaries to the east of Lake Powell.

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.

A True Keeper of the Desert’s Treasures Passes On

Amalia Astorga one of the most charismatic and quixotic singers, storytellers, artists and visionaries of the Comcaac (Seri) passed away in Desemboque this week, stranded by the hurricane damage to Sonoran coast and left without medical help.

One of several daughters of Jose Astorga, the artist who began the Seri ironwood carving tradition, Amalia grew up in the desert at Pozo Coyote and Desemboque, but later lived for periods of time near Puertecitos, Baja California and on the midriff islands in fishing camps.

Ann Haymond Zwinger, 1925 – 2014

I am sorry, but I cannot comment on Ann Haymond Zwinger unless I tell you how I met her and how she sent many of us on altogether new trajectories.

Imagine yourself a scruffy, somewhat lazy and spacy seventeen year old trying to make sense of the world at a time when the country is immersed in regrettable wars, when race riots are erupting on the streets, and when drugs and demons are plaguing your closest friends. That moment is now, but it also describes what was happening in the spring of 1970

Dr. Barney Burns, Native Seeds/SEARCH co-founder, passes on, leaving us a legacy of hope and humor

In the second week of August, the Tucson community, the Greater Southwest, indigenous peoples and farmers everywhere lost a good friend, an extraordinary seed saver and a historian of Southwest food and farming folkways.

Dr. Barney T. Burns was far more than a co-founder of Native Seeds/SEARCH. He spent over four decades linking native farmers and artisans to the audiences, human rights support networks, and applied scholars who cared about them and their future.

Coping With Heat in the Garden: Drought-Tolerant Crops, Resilient Perennials and More

If we’ve learned anything as food growers in recent decades, it’s that climate change has placed not just one but many kinds of stress on our gardens and farms.

“Global warming” does not adequately describe the “new normal,” given that many food sheds and farms have suffered from a variety of catastrophic floods, freezes, droughts, wildfires, heat waves, grasshopper infestations and crop diseases over the past few years.