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Gary Paul Nabhan

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Gary Paul Nabhan
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Food is often among the most significant factors that affect a person’s health. Throughout history, man has always sought ways to improve what he eats, but it is quite unfortunate that the modernization of food has made artificial much of what we eat, removing many nutrients our bodies need to stay healthy. Fortunately, though, there are still people in the world that promote natural food and support natural farming – people like Gary Paul Nabhan.


Why Gary Paul Nabhan is Extraordinary

Gary Paul Nabhan is an ethnobotanist, agricultural ecologist and writer who is best known for his work in preserving the native plants of the U.S.A.’s Southwest region, as well as his establishment of “Native Seeds/SEARCH,” a research organization focused on the local food movement. Once called the “lyrical scholar of genetic diversity,” Gary has been significant in the success of the local food industry because of his advocacy of preserving traditional food and culture.

Taking a “Hands-On” Approach

As an advocate for cultural preservation since his early teens, Gary has spent his career going from place to place to encourage locals to maintain the “uniqueness” of their food cultures. He believes that the only way to save the American food/agricultural economies is by “re-localizing” the food systems and promoting local farmers:

“My great joy lately has been moving from one foodshed to the next, from Alaska to Texas, helping to reinforce existing efforts that will conserve the unique flavors, fragrances and textures of each region on the continent. By re-localizing food systems, revitalizing historic foodways and providing producers with high-value niche markets that truly pay them what they're worth, we can rescue America's imperiled agriculture and food economy. There's incredible momentum to democratize and rediversify our food system.”

Connections: The Bridge between Buyer and Seller

Gary places emphasis on building relationships, and that is why he loves travelling to different places to speak with farmers personally rather than support them from afar. According to Gary, the best way to help innovate the local food industry is by building relationships with the shops where you buy your food and encourage them to use sustainable methods for producing the food they sell.

Gary elaborated on this in an interview:

“It’s about relationship building. If we want to go back to that pork producer and say, 'I’d feel a lot more comfortable with buying your pork if you had some perennial forages rather than a dry lot with open mud there. I’d really help promote your products to my neighbors if you could improve your practices.' And then I hear, 'I’ve always wanted to do that, but I’ve never had the incentive for it.' We built a relationship that’s positively reinforcing—he’s challenging the way I eat and I’m challenging the way he farms in a positive way.”

In the process of building connections between food producers and consumers, both parties gain a better understanding of the other’s needs and, thus, can work together:

“Agricultural science and agricultural activism have become too distant from the needs of farmers and other food producers. The only way to heal the urban/rural divide that we have in this country is for more interplay, more inner-city people to be growing food on rooftops and patios, going out to work on farms during the weekend, and to have farmers in dialogue with consumers so that farmers understand why people want animal-welfare beef, or grass-fed lamb, or free-range turkeys. We've broken that dialogue. Very few urban people regularly have access to knowing what farmers and ranchers are struggling with.”

Top Reasons why Gary Paul Nabhan is Extraordinary

  1. Gary Paul Nabhan is a pioneer in the fields of cultural and agricultural preservation and the local food movement.
  2. He was a co-founder of “Native Seeds/SEARCH,” an organization dedicated to preserving cultural diversity in the food industry, as well as the native plants of the Southwest United States.
  3. He is a MacArthur Foundation fellow.
  4. His work with the local food movement has helped popularize the “re-localizing” of the food system.
  5. He is unofficially known as the “father of the local food movement” for his work in the field.
  6. He is a recipient of the “Distinguished Service Award” from the Society for Conservation Biology.
  7. He was awarded the “John Burroughs Medal for Nature Writing” in 1987 for his articles about nature preservation.
  8. He received the “Emil Haury Award” from the Western Parks and Monuments Association.
  9. He has written critically-acclaimed, bestselling books such as “Gathering the Desert” and “Where Our Food Comes From: Retracing Nikolay Vavilov's Quest to End Famine.”
  10. He is widely considered a pioneer of the local food- and agricultural preservation-movements.
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