Essays for Hope and Reflection

Let’s nurture Tucson’s burgeoning food-production initiatives

There is something exciting going on with Tucson’s food economy. Not only are new locally owned restaurants, food trucks and community kitchens proliferating, but these are creating new jobs in the eight areas of metro Tucson that the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared “food deserts” in 2010.

One goal of the social entrepreneurs involved in food and farm start-ups in our community is to work toward reducing poverty and food insecurity in these food deserts.

Eating local isn’t just trendy – it can help stop poverty

It’s been 50 years since President Lyndon B. Johnson declared war on poverty. Might it be time for our state to figure how to best target its resources for the alleviation of poverty and hunger within our own borders?

That’s the question being asked by a hundred Arizonans — and hopefully answered through novel strategies.

Food Chain Restoration: Reconnecting Pollinators with Their Plants

At dawn on this year’s spring equinox, a group of people gathered in Patagonia, Arizona, to declare the Sonoita Creek – Upper Santa Cruz River watershed the Pollinator Capital of the United States. An interpretive sign, erected in a pollinator garden on Patagonia’s village green, noted that hundreds of species of native bees, dozens of species of butterflies and moths, fourteen species of hummingbirds, and two species of nectar-feeding bats regularly frequent the native flowers in this semi-arid landscape.

But the Patagonia community has not merely been interested in how much pollinator diversity has been recorded throughout this watershed. Its citizens and its nonprofit and for-profit organizations have joined forces to catalyze the Borderland Habitat Restoration Initiative, which aims to ensure a safer place for pollinators, their nectar sources, and, in the case of butterflies and moths, their larval host plants.

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.

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.

Listening to the Next Generation

For decades, Aldo Leopold’s writings have been assigned readings on college campuses across the country, in classes across a wide range of disciplines. Generations of students have read Leopold to gain a solid footing in conservation science,
history, and ideas.

He serves, perhaps uniquely, as a common link across time. The background and legacy of the land ethic is passed along from one generation to the next—for them to analyze, criticize, and extend according to their own insights.

Honoring Achievements of Hispanic Food Producers, But No Engagement With Their Struggles

Earlier this month, when Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar designated 27 new National Landmarks, five of them were meant to honor America’s historic legacy of Hispanic engagement in agriculture and natural resources.

While the César E. Chávez National Monument at Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz in Keene, California, rightly honored one of the twentieth century’s greatest advocates for the rights of Hispanic food producers and harvesters in the United States, Hispanics may wonder about Salazar’s inclusion of the Drakes Bay Historic and Archeological District on the Point Reyes Peninsula.

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.