by Kiah Easton

While Gary Nabhan’s website describes him as a pioneer in the local food and heirloom seed saving movement, the statement barely encompasses the wide impact Nabhan has had in the Borderlands region that includes the Southwest US and Mexico.

Raised in Indiana, Nabhan serves as an agricultural ecologist, ethnobotanist, ecumenical franciscan brother and as an author with over 30 books under his belt. Beyond the academic discussion of ethnobotany, Nabhan has created and participated within countless projects surrounding the preservation of crops native to the Borderlands region.

One of Nabhan’s most notable working accomplishments is the creation of Native Seeds/SEARCH, an non profit organization based in Tuscan, Arizona that focuses on the preservation of seed diversity. During widespread lockdowns in the region, Native Seeds/SEARCH is a crucial resource. Native American communities have often been left in food deserts, without access to sustenance or help from the outside world. That’s why, according to Lauren Gilger from KJZZ 91.5, “it’s become an essential resource for many.”

Much of Nabhan’s work examines the political and socioeconomic aspects of food and culture. In 2019, he released an essay entitled the Mesquite Manifesto: A Collaborative Vision for the Borderland, which identifies long term solutions to border issues. Rather than continuing down the highly political and topical discussion of border security, more specifically, “the wall”, Nabhan suggests that a collaborative effort to increase the use of Mesquite tree seed as food, the issues of poverty and a lack of resources, would be improved.

Nabhan has not slowed down in this work and the passion that drives him is clear. To find out more about his work, see his article in this issue and visit the Gary Paul Nabhan website HERE.