Family, Community & Place

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.

Desert wisdom and agriculture

A miller’s daughter spun gold thread from hay. Stone soup fed an entire town. A farmer grew tons of juicy melons in one of the harshest desert climates in the Americas. In each story, something is created from nothing. Of the three, only the story of the Chihuahuan melon farmer is neither fairy tale nor parable.

Centuries-old technology known as olla irrigation breathes life into acres of melon vines, enabling them to thrive in an otherwise inhospitable environment.

Rose to Damascus: A book about spices, their trade routes, and more

Gary Paul Nabhan weaves a fascinating story in his new book, Cumin, Camels, and Caravans: A Spice Odyssey. He tracks the pathways along which traders carried spices — piquant and pungent, delicious and dreamy — from their places of origin to the rest of the world. His account is peppered with recipes as well as essays on cardamom, cloves, Damascus rose, saffron, vanilla, tuocha pu-erh, and 20 other spices.

Nabhan delves into the origins of globalization; the “ecological imperialism” that began with Old World-New World trade in the 15th century; and recent lapses of cross-cultural civility, especially involving ethnic groups that collaborated to transport spices to far-flung locales for the pleasure of all.

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.

Arizona Food and Farm Finance Forum 2014

I’d like to personally invite you to join us January 13th to 15th 2014 for a gathering that just may change the way Arizona feeds itself and does business locally.

The upcoming Arizona Food and Finance Forum will feature naturally-acclaimed speakers to help Arizonans foster new farms and food micro enterprises as means to jump start the recovery of our local economies.

Pioneer of the Local Food Movement Gary Paul Nabhan Speaks Oct. 31 at Appalachian State University

Oct. 25, 2013. Gary Paul Nabhan, internationally celebrated conservation scientist, writer, food and farming activist and proponent of conserving the links between biodiversity and cultural diversity, will speak at Appalachian State University Oct. 31 at 4:30 p.m. in the McRae Peak Ballroom in Plemmons Student Union.

Nabhan’s lecture is sponsored by the Goodnight Family Department of Sustainable Development with support from the Appalachian Studies Program. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, call 828-262-7248.

Fly-Fishing for Overland Trout

Can the freshwater fish of desert streams and dry overland channels embody the flavor of the desert itself, or is that very notion a contradiction of terms? The answer, I suppose, depends upon how you define terroir, that multi-faceted French term which has become international shorthand for “the taste of place.”

If your definition of terroir only describes the influence of soil chemistry and climate on the flavor of the flesh of a fruit or an animal, then one might be grasping for straws.

Four Tangible Federally-Funded Programs You Can Support for Climate Change

In response to the widespread and overwhelmingly positive responses to the opinion-editorial by Gary Nabhan in the Monday July 22nd New York Times, “The Coming Food Crisis,” we have been asked what concerned citizens can do in addition to applying the heat and drought adaptation strategies mentioned in Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land.

We feel that one of the most critically-important efforts you can make is ensuring the wild and cultivate plant diversity is available to heal our foodsheds and watersheds after climatic disruptions and to adapt to hotter and drier conditions.

Lessons from the Desert

Recent years have brought spikes in the frequency of strange weather patterns and severe storms, with many blaming the increase on human-caused climate change. If this new normal, as it’s being called, is here to stay, it will have profound implications on food production.

There are two basic ways that this threat to food production is being addressed. One is to develop new crops and agricultural methods tailored to withstand increased heat and water stresses. The other approach is to look to the past for solutions, at crops and techniques used in regions that have historically endured this kind of weather.