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  • Jennifer Jewell


FOODSCAPING - with Brie Arthur. Photo courtesy of Brie Arthur, all rights reserved.


Gary Paul Nabhan is a gardener, an agricultural ecologist, an ethnobotanist, and an ecumenical Franciscan brother based in Patagonia, Arizona. He is the author of a host of books covering a diversity of botany-based topics – from pollinators, to food policy, to love letters to his favorite landscapes.

The heart of his work is fed by his own lifelong enchantment with the world – and his nearly lifelong commitment to healing wounded landscapes from a primary objective of consciously conserving healthy relationships on all levels and planes. In all he does, Gary examines our human relationships to plants and places not just as a matter of important pragmatics but as a matter of generosity, spirit and poetics - I cannot think of a better time of year to share forward that exact kind of enchantment and hopeful work.

As a multi-decade reader and therefore student of his, I am so honored to share his voice forward today, Christmas week in the Christian tradition.

"I am constantly working to bring the wild world into our cultivated landscapes to keep them from becoming monocultures – and therefor impoverished on several levels – genetic biodiversity among them. I am interested in reciprocal restoration – as we work to restore landscapes, we are healing our selves by renewing our connections to beneficial microorganisms, tastes, or fragrances. ." Gary Paul Nabhan

As a young adult on a solo backpack trip in Southern Utah, he was called to a life as a Franciscan - not so much with people as with plants and places. He considered working to become a wildlife biologist but after learning he was color blind, he began working on mapping the relationship between declines in bird populations with declines in habitat. Those correlations led him to his longtime work in observing, understanding and conserving the many interactive relationships in healthy ecosystems or food chains rather than focusing on individual species.

IN 1983, Gary co-founded Native Seeds/SEARCH: Native Seeds/SEARCH (NS/S) a nonprofit seed conservation organization based in Tucson, Arizona, whose mission is to conserve and promote the arid-adapted crop diversity of the Southwest in support of sustainable farming and food security. Native Seeds/SEARCH seeks to find, protect and preserve the seeds of the people of the Greater Southwest so that these arid adapted crops may benefit all peoples and nourish a changing world.

Our story began in 1983 when co-founders Barney Burns, Mahina Drees, Gary Nabhan and Karen Reichhardt worked on a food security Meals for Millions project to support the Tohono O’odham Nation in establishing gardens for their sustainable food needs. Over many generations, the forces of colonization and later globalization had eroded the cultures and economies and that kept these vital foods alive in the landscape. In discussions with tribal elders they were told “What we are really looking for are the seeds for the foods our grandparents used to grow.” This sage remark inspired the formation of Native Seeds/SEARCH as a collector and preserver of endangered traditional seeds from communities in the Southwest."

Happy Winter Solstice~

You can follow Gary's work online at


you might also enjoy these Best of CP programs in our archive:

JOIN US again next week, when we end out our calendar year in conversation with Kellee Matsushita-Tseng known as Brave New Seed online, assistant farm manager of The UC Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and a member of the collective Second Generation Seed, stewarding seeds and foods of the Asian Diaspora. It’s a good seeding on the cusp of the new year.


Cultivating Place is made possible in part by listeners like you and by generous support from the American Horticultural Society. Soon to Celebrate its 100th anniversary next year, AHS has been a trusted source of high quality gardening and horticultural information since 1922.

Today, AHS’s mission blends education, social responsibility, and environmental stewardship with the art and practice of horticulture. Members of AHS receive the award-winning flagship magazine, The American Gardener, free admission and other discounts to more than 345 public gardens with the Reciprocal Admissions Program, plus discounts on books, seeds, programs and more!

Listeners of Cultivating Place can receive a $10 discount on the annual individual membership of $35, by visiting For your annual Membership to the American Horticultural Society for the special Cultivating Place rate of just $25 a year, head over to

Cultivating Place is also proud to receive support from the California Native Plant Society, on a mission to save California’s native plants and places using both head and heart. CNPS brings together science, education, conservation, and gardening to power the native plant movement. California is a biodiversity hotspot and CNPS is working to save the plants that make it so.

For more information on their programs and membership, please visit


Thinking out loud this week:

And so here we are – full solar and close to full calendar circle.

Dark and light – they are always at play, each offering their own perspective, each showing us another truth. For me in my garden as we enter to welcome dormancy of many beings, I am always happy to be reminded of those beings that are quickened and enlivened by the chill, by the damp, by the dark. The last of the now-straggly summer/fall crops and tender flowers had their hard killing frost this past week, they were ready - i was ready! And so the seasons turned a corner fully - blessedly. Blankets of leaves - oak, alder, sycamore - now cover the ground, feeding and insulating life below. Rain and cold seasonal fog fed us all these past few weeks through different channels than the long and many sunny days of summer – and the fungi among others are delighted. We all - leaves, fungi, fog –

I enjoyed the full-moon weekend, making my last few wreaths out of prunings and windfall - gray pine, native bay, rosemary, and manzanita - for family and friends – john worked on a new fence around the orchard. We are making welcome for the Solstice Season. Light and dark they are always at play - each growing us a little differently… for the better…

Given the exact time of year it is, with this episode airing for the first time on Christmas Eve Eve, in listening to Gary’s life with land and plants and animals down in Patagonia, AZ I kept wanting to sing along with something like: 1 Heirloom Orchard, 2 Greenhouses, 16 species of hummingbirds, 28 species bats, 35 Agaves, and a pomegranate and prickly pear shrub.

Gardeners are the coolest people. Keep Growing and...Merry to all of you in your garden from me in mine. Cheers!





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