An Agrarian Land Covenant

Gary Paul Nabhan is a writer, seed saver, biologist, and sustainable agriculture activist who has been called “the father of the local food movement” by Mother Earth News. He works most of the year as a research scientist at the Southwest Center of the University of Arizona, and the rest as co-founder-facilitator of several food and farming alliances, including Renewing America’s Food Traditions and Flavors Without Borders. His most recent book is Chasing Chiles, which was profiled in The New York Times.

  • With future generations in mind, my family will never leave the land we steward poorer, nor its water scarcer than conditions were before we acquired responsibility for their care.
  • My family will seek to enrich the soil, diversify its plant cover and deepen its roots both within and beyond its harvested fields, grazed pastures, and streamside areas.
  • My family will think of how our practices affect those who live above and below us in our foodshed and watershed—not only the human lives, but all other-than-human lives as well.
  • My family will participate in the regional culture of this land, and whenever possible, engage in the community rites and calendrical rhythms that bind us to our place.
  • My family will work to link the consumers of the food, fiber, and timber we produce to the land on which it is produced, so that their values and ours are developed in harmony rather than in conflict.
  • My family will encourage our members, friends, and neighboring consumers to vote for what is best for the land at the polling booth where our choices help determine its governance, and at the table where what we choose to eat can benefit rather than harm the community at large.
  • My family will share with our neighbors not only our successes in stewardship, but cautionary words of wisdom gained from our past failures as well, so that the principles that guide us and the practices that work on the ground are spread throughout this landscape.
  • My family will not solely focus on increasing the saleable products from the land, but also on investing in the underlying natural processes which generate those products.

Read “The Fatherland of Apples,” by Gary Paul Nabhan, in the May/June 2008 issue of Orion.

In 2010, Nabhan spoke at West Virginia University about renewing America’s food traditions: