Nabhan’s New Drier Land Book

There is a good new agricultural book out, titled “Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land: Lessons from Desert Farmers on Adapting to Climate Uncertainty” by Gary Paul Nabhan. I discovered it last weekend in the Boulder Bookstore, the day before it hit the big time via his Opinion piece for the NYTs. The article was one of the NYTs top 10 most E-mailed articles for a number of days thereafter.

I met Nabhan when he spoke to a group of people on an organic farm here in Boulder County two years ago. See: “Gary Nabhan in Boulder at Abbondanza and the Importance of Seed Diversity.” He loves everything about chili peppers and heritage seeds, is a first generation Lebanese-American, and the author of multiple books. Nabhan wants to better the world by sharing what he has observed through his own desert farming experiences, and that which he’s learned from indigenous people. Living in Arizona, he knows how to maximize what you can grow with little water.

When Nabhan spoke here, I took note of his statement “I don’t feel comfortable being around people who share all the same values that I do.” If everyone had that attitude, wouldn’t this world be a better place?

This subject is one of my favorites, as I put much effort into my series of 35 water saving technologies for use in agriculture, which I posted on this site in February of this year:

● 35 Water Conservation Methods for Agriculture, Farming, and Gardening. Part 1.
● 35 Water Conservation Methods for Agriculture, Farming, and Gardening. Part 2.
● 35 Water Conservation Methods for Agriculture, Farming, and Gardening. Part 3.
● 35 Water Conservation Methods for Agriculture, Farming, and Gardening. Part 4.

Many of the technologies on my list are discussed in Nabhan’s book, but he also goes into his characteristic earthy, real life farming narratives about the desert, and he is a wonderful voice for agriculture in the face of a drier Southwestern U.S. and other regions of the world.

One of the methods on both my list and in Nabhan’s new book, is the use of ollas as a source of water for garden plants. On an interesting note, this spring I decided to try to incorporate a few ollas into our own vegetable garden here in Boulder. This is not so easy to do because I was unable to find any, not even in Santa Fe, much to my surprise and amazement.

Ollas, used by desert food growers for many centuries, are porous terra cotta water storage pots in many sizes and shapes, which are buried in the ground in the garden. Vegetables such as tomatoes can then be planted around the olla and the roots gravitate towards it to take advantage of slowly seeping water. Then, the gardener refills the olla every few days and places a loose cover over the top to keep it clean and prevent evaporation.

It seems to me that making ollas regionally in areas such as Boulder, Denver, Pueblo, Santa Fe, or anywhere else in the dry Southwestern U.S. would be a good start-up business idea for someone looking for a business idea. They might be very popular items at farmers markets and garden supply stores, if they were available. When I couldn’t find any in the whole city of Santa Fe this spring, it really made me wonder why. Though the city is filled with imported clay pots from Mexico, I suppose there are not enough local food growers to create demand for them. If any readers here know where ollas are sold, please leave a comment.

2 thoughts on “Nabhan’s New Drier Land Book

  1. G. D. have ollas, but only sell them wholesale. You could ask your local nursery or Whole Foods to start carrying them.

  2. Nilgun Tuna

    Just ordered his book on Amazon. Did you know he is also a MacArthur “genius grant” recipient? One of my favorite books of his is “The Forgotten Pollinators”, which he wrote almost 20 years ago. Sorry I missed him at Seed Savers conference 2 weeks ago when I was in Omaha.


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