Agroecology from A to Z

Adventures in Agroecology and Food Systems

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Native Seeds/SEARCH, Patagonia, AZ

As part of the 2012 Border Food Summit, I had the opportunity to visit the Native Seeds/SEARCH conservation farm in Patagonia, AZ. Fun fact, Native Seeds/SEARCH was co-founded by Prescott College alum and prominent food systems scholar and advocate, Gary Nabhan, now at the Southwest Center  (University of Arizona).

On this tour with NSS staff Chris Schmidt, we learned about Native Seeds/SEARCH’s crop conservation work where they manage and curate a collection of traditional landraces in the Southwest. Corn, panic grass and chia seed are crops covered in the video along with basic seed saving practices. We also enjoyed the music of Aztral Folk and the tasty catering of Muñueca Mexicana.

Later in the fall, I assigned a Robin Kimmerer piece to my Land Stewards students that had a nice profile of Native Seeds/SEARCH and their role in conserving traditional ecological knowledge. The paper is Weaving Traditional Ecological Knowledge into Biological Education: A Call to Action. I had the pleasure of meeting Robin at a talk she gave for the American Indian Program at Cornell a few years back. I highly recommend this paper for all educators who cover traditional ecological knowledge in their courses.


Chris Schmidt gives a tour of the Native Seeds/SEARCH Patagonia farm


Panic grass


Conserving traditional landraces of corn


Erin Lingo (former Prescott College CSA Coordinator – Prescott Farmers’ Market manager), Gary Nabhan (U of A, Native Seeds/SEARCH) and me. Who wears white pants to a farm tour? Lesson learned.


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Las Milpitas de Cottonwood Farm, Tucson, AZ

While attending the 2012 Border Food Summit in Rio Rico, AZ, I got to participate in an urban agriculture tour of Tuscon, where we visited Las Milpitas de Cottonwood Farm, a project of the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona. I’m so thrilled to see this innovative project featured on NPR today! You can learn more about the farm on their Facebook page and view some video I took of the tour where we learned about management of desert soils for vegetable production, chicken keeping, composting and a composting toilet pilot project.

As a manure-o-phile I’ll be closely following the news on the composting toilet project that Las Milpitas is participating in. Check out the urban agriculture blog [chik-uh n dik-shuh n] for more detail on this exciting project. I think making well-designed composting toilets legal in Pima County will provide a huge benefit in both water and soil conservation. My friend Sasha Kramer co-founded a non-profit in Haiti focused on composting human waste and using the finished compost for food production. If SOIL can safely compost human waste during a cholera epidemic, then composting toilets should be a viable option everywhere!

Las Milpitas de Cottonwood Farm September 2012

Las Milpitas de Cottonwood Farm September 2012

Urban chickens, a creative use of 5 gallon buckets

Urban chickens, a creative use of 5 gallon buckets


Keyhole bed preparation in desert soils (rain catchment in background)

Composting toilet pilot project, initial construction phase

Composting toilet pilot project, initial construction phase




Respectful Revolution – a film project

Last year in August I got a phone call from a guy with a cool French accent who said he was traveling across the US on a motorcycle and filming people along the way who he considered to be part of the Respectful Revolution. I looked Gerard Ungerman up on IMDB and it definitely seemed that after doing hard hitting documentaries on Desert Storm, Plan Columbia and the War on Terror, he needed a break to focus on people making positive changes in their communities. So he and his wife Stacey Wear teamed up on this film project and unique website where the video vignettes are embedded in an interactive map of Gerard’s journey.

To show how small the world is, I had visited my friend and colleague Scott Perez who does farm and ranching friendly land conservancy work in Durango earlier in the summer. Scott and his family took my husband and I out to lunch at Linda’s Local Food Cafe and introduced me to Linda Illsley, the owner.  Gerard had contacted Linda to include her in the project and asked her if there were other folks she could point him to heading west from Durango. She suggested he call me.

I was technically supposed to be out of town on a field course with the Prescott College agroecology students, but my dissertation revisions were dragging on (as dissertation revisions tend to do). Then Gerard’s Harley got a flat tire on the way out of Sedona in a tremendous monsoon thunderstorm, the Prescott Harley shop was closed on Mondays and he ended up as a house guest at Chez Jack for a few days until he could get back on the road. So this is what you get when you combine way to many zoospores to imagine, a flat motorcycle tire and a filmmaker on a unique mission across the continent. Thanks again, Gerard, it was an honor to be involved in this project.  Keep an eye out for Gerard coming back to Prescott to host some local screenings and community discussions on the power of working towards positive change.

In the comments section below, please nominate someone for Gerard to profile when he returns to town. There are so many great projects going on to pick from!

The Harley is road ready again!

The Harley is road ready again!

Other folks profiled in our region:

And the two places I visited in Durango with Scott Perez. Linda’s Local Food Cafe and Twin Buttes Sustainable Development Project:

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Natural beekeeping in the SW – ReZoNation needs your support

I met Jaime DeZubeldia at the Border Food Summit this week in beautiful Rio Rico, AZ. Jaime gives beekeeping workshops and I’m hoping to host one at Jenner Farm in the future.
His farm, ReZoNation Farm, is running a Kickstarter campaign to crowd source finance natural beekeeping projects in the SW. Check out his slideshow and please help spread the word!

Newly established beeyard at Deep Dirt Farm Institute, Patagonia, AZ

I thought about Jaime when I saw this amazing natural beehive at Montezuma’s Castle

Here’s another, you can see the natural comb hanging from the ceiling of this opening in the limestone.

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Rabbit Run Farm at the Prescott Farmer’s Market

Matt Hyde and Sarah Wertz of Rabbit Run Farms

Congrats to Matt and Sarah of Rabbit Run Farm for this great August cover photo in Mountain Living magazine!

Matt and Sarah farm commercially at Prescott College’s Jenner Farm as part of a land sharing agreement. In addition to running their business, they manage the campus farm and take care of our research plots throughout the summer agroecology course.

I had the pleasure of helping out at the Rabbit Run stand at the Prescott Farmer’s Market earlier in the summer. It’s a lovely outdoor market with a nice variety of vegetables, grains/pastas, preserved foods and prepared food. The steady stream of customers were definitely fresh food enthusiasts and it was fun to hear their cooking plans for different crops. One couple even brought some canned bread and butter pickles as a gift for their favorite farmers! They made the pickles from cucumbers they had bought at the stand the week before. Now that’s farmer appreciation!

The market in full swing

Armenian cucumbers


Eleanore, a student in the summer agroecology course, spent the day helping out at market too.

I’m considering having students work a stand at the market at least once during the summer course as a way to gain a deeper understanding of the economics of small-scale farming. Rebekah Doyle had the students carry out rapid farmer’s market assessments this summer and I learned a lot from their final reports and presentations.

The first box from the Prescott College CSA share, grown by Rabbit Run Farm

My husband and I are enjoying the Prescott College CSA, managed by Erin Lingo. Each week is just the right amount to last us until the next pick up. The perfect option when you can’t garden for yourself. I’m in food heaven in the desert!