"Growing Food in the Southwest Mountains"

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Growing Food in the Southwest Mountains


By Dr. Gary Nabhan 
Director, Northern Arizona University Center for Sustainable Environments and author of
Coming Home to Eat: the Pleasures and Politics of Local Foods

Some gardening books simply give readers a formula for combining crops and planting times for a particular locale, but Lisa Rayner's new edition of this little masterpiece provides you with principles for living and eating in harmony with northern Arizona's natural habitats. While this book is rich in detail about the ways weather, soils, plants and gardeners interact in the Flagstaff environment, it offers us more than that. It is a primer on how to change our food production and consumption strategies to sustain the natural and cultural heritage of our region. The gardener, in this model, becomes co-designer with nature, and therefore a naturalist observing the ecological interactions between crop and insect, mulch and soil temperature. Instead of merely remaking the environment to fit what vegetables we desire to grow, Lisa offers strategies for better selecting what we grow and when we grow it to fit the prevailing conditions of our home ground. As a writer, she is a match-maker; as a gardener, you will be one too.

And so, this book speaks to a larger purpose: to value, celebrate, utilize and conserve what is local, as an antidote to an increasingly globalized inefficient food machine that spews out contaminants as it marches across the landscape, impoverishing soils, streams, floras, faunas and cultures wherever it goes. Since 1981, the amount of produce grown outside the U.S. that Americans eat daily has doubled, so that more than a fifth of all the vegetables and fruits our neighbors put into their mouths are now grown overseas. Because of the great distances that much of our food travels before reaching the kitchen table, we hardly have a means of discerning who or what is impacted by the way it is grown. At the same time, Arizonans have failed to offer much support to the six thousand farms remaining in our state, ones that can indeed visit to inspect their ecological conditions as well as the health conditions of their farmworkers. Instead, by attempting source just 10 percent more of our food from sources within fifty miles of our homes, a community our size can save as much as 350 thousand gallons of fuel now used to bring food to us, resulting in an annual reduction of millions of pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. What's more, our food will be fresher, more nutritious, and more of a means of connecting with our neighbors.

Ultimately, this book will of greatest value to you if it inspires you to put it down, go outside, and expand your garden and orchard, extending their seasons and productivity beyond what you could have imagined before reading Lisa's advice. Abbie Hoffman may have wanted you to "Steal This Book," but my advice to you is "Plant This Book." Plant its principles in your mind so deeply, that you no longer need its pages; mulch them and make them part of your body and spirit's connection with this land.


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