Tucson, Arizona is using food and farming innovations to fuel the recovery of a lagging urban economy.
Gary Paul Nabhan is an internationally-celebrated nature writer, food and farming activist, and proponent of conserving the links between biodiversity and cultural diversity. He has been been honored as a pioneer and creative force in the “local food movement” and seed saving community by Utne Reader, Mother Earth News, New York Times, Bioneers and Time magazine.
As the W.K. Kellogg Endowed Chair in Sustainable Food Systems at the University of Arizona Southwest Center, he works with students, faculty and non-profits to build a more just, nutritious, sustainable and climate-resilient foodshed spanning the U.S./Mexico border. He was among the earliest researchers to promote the use of native foods in preventing diabetes, especially in his role as a co-founder and researcher with Native Seeds/SEARCH. Gary is also personally engaged as an orchard-keeper, wild foods forager and pollinator habitat restorationist working from his small farm in Patagonia, Arizona near the Mexican border. He has helped forge “the radical center” for collaborative conservation among farmers, ranchers, indigenous peoples and environmentalists in the West.
He played key roles in establishing the Ironwood Forest National Monument, community-based seed banks, land reserves for conserving wild crop relatives, and restored habitats for migratory pollinators throughout the West.
Agricultural historian Peter Hatch of Monticello has called Nabhan “the lyrical scholar of genetic diversity.” As an Arab-American essayist and poet, he is author or editor of twenty-four books, some of which have been translated into Arabic, Spanish, Italian, French, Croation, Korean, Chinese and Japanese. For his creative writing and its influence on community-based conservation, he has been honored with a MacArthur “genius” award, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a Southwest Book Award, the John Burroughs Medal for nature writing, the Vavilov Medal, and several honorary degrees and lifetime achievement awards.
He works most of the year as a research scientist at Tumamoc Hill and the Southwest Center of the University of Arizona, but he is also engaged with several food justice and farming alliances, including Sabores Sin Fronteras, Santa Cruz Valley Heritage Alliance, Wild Farm Alliance, Renewing America’s Food Traditions, and the Borderlands Habitat Restoration Initiative. Nabhan is humbled and honored to serve as a professed Ecumenical Franciscan brother, helping the Franciscan Action Network in shaping ethical responses to environmental injustice, to immigration issues and to climate change.