November/December • Issue No.
Celebrating the gastronomy of Tucson and the borderlands.
ALL GOOD THINGS
LOS BOTONES DE CHOLLA
No. 27 November/December 2017
Pivot Local: Bridging the Farm to Restaurant Divide The Movement to Save Oak Flat • A Baja Arizona Year
6 COYOTE TALKING
10 VOICES We asked tamale makers: What makes a great tamale? 16 GLEANINGS Marana’s Gastronomy Tour offers hands-on history; Fanny’s Cocina beckons downtown; try a taste of Hermosillo with Betel. 22 BAJA EATS 32 THE PLATE The one pizza they should never take off the menu. 34 EDIBLE INTERVIEW First-grade teacher Julian Barceló celebrates curiosity and discovery through his outdoor classroom. 40 POEM Wendy Burk’s Baja Arizona year. 44 GASTRONOMY Two UNESCO Cities of Gastronomy offer distinct insights on desert terroir.
80 PIVOT LOCAL Erik Stanford’s Pivot Produce bridges the divide between local farms and Tucson restaurants.
52 FOODWAYS Despite the Tohono O’odham’s long agricultural heritage, today many tribal members don’t have access to healthy traditional foods. 62 TABLE Benjamin Galaz started selling Sonoran-style hot dogs in 1994 from a trailer on Tucson’s South 12th Avenue.
68 POLLINATORS The Mariposas of the Milpa project is working to build pollinator habitat in central Tucson. 121 HOMESTEAD Growing citrus; Tucson Audubon’s Habitat at Home program brings birds to the backyard; Southwest Victory Gardens seeds change. 132 FARM REPORT 138 SONORAN SKILLET Eat Mesquite and More with a cookbook for the Sonoran Desert. 144 BUZZ Hop scientists are hunting in Baja Arizona, one of the oldest hop growing regions in North America. 98 WHAT’S AT STAKE IN OAK FLAT? Resolution Copper’s plan for a copper mine at Oak Flat faces resistance from groups concerned about the mine’s potential impact on the area’s landscape and water.
152 A DAY IN BAJA ARIZONA Exploring both sides of Naco. 154 INK Building a Healthy Economy From the Bottom Up; The Local Food Revolution; Letter to a Young Farmer. 162 LAST BITE Pulling out the mortar and pestle.
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THANKS TO IMPERMANENCE, EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE. —THICH NHAT HANH
’ m W r ItInG thIs from what I call the Sky Island Bureau, our small family cabin at 8,000 feet, near Bear Wallow drainage, in the Santa Catalina Mountains, Baja Arizona. It’s a place where I’ve spent countless hours working on this magazine. In 2003, the cabin burned to the ground, along with a good portion of our surrounding forest, in the devastating Aspen Fire. We underwent the painstaking process of rebuilding, which at the time seemed almost like an act of faith. My first notion upon visiting the still-smoldering forest after the ravages of the fire was to leave the mountain and never return, so utter was the transformation of the landscape. What we had known and loved was simply gone. But in the last 14 years, as the forest has remarkably regenerated, we’ve come to understand the power of new beginnings and the virtues of an observant patience. Where previously there was only deep forest, there is now a more open and vibrant landscape: young Arizona and Rocky Mountain ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, aspen, Gambel oak, big tooth maple, elderberry, and locust abound; the vast carpet of bracken fern in the summer and the riot of wildflowers that follows the monsoon rains are seasonal touchstones. There’s a notable increase in overall biodiversity since the fire. What was a seeming ending has become an ongoing process, where growth and change are defining aspects of what it means to be here in this island in the sky. That sense of gratitude about the creative parameters of impermanence dominates my thoughts as we publish this issue. There are changes underway that deeply sadden me: the departures of editor Megan Kimble (see her farewell note on the opposite page) and business coordinator Kate Kretschmann, both off to pursue new challenges. There are other endings in process that portend new beginnings, fresh challenges, and exciting potential for growth. These kinds of intensely liminal intervals—especially when you live according to never-ending deadlines—require a bit of faith and a hopeful confidence in the power of regeneration. As I often admonish: Onward!
ohn W ashInGton —an award-winning freelance writer we are sad to see relocate to New York City—delves deeply into the controversy surrounding Resolution Copper’s proposed mine at Oak Flat, a stunning landscape located in the Tonto National Forest about 70 miles east of Phoenix. For many members of the Apache tribe, the land has long been considered sacred, a vital part of their traditional lifeways. For environmentalists, the focus is on the impact of the mine on watersheds and habitat destruction. And for the rest of us, the difficult question remains: What are we willing to sacrifice to satiate our appetite for copper, a mineral that is almost omnipresent in our modern lives? Margaret Regan chronicles the good work of intrepid produce wrangler Erik Stanford. Pivot Produce’s mission is to bring fresh food from Baja Arizona farms to the tables of local restaurants, and do it in a way that makes sustainable economic sense for all involved. It’s a labor of love that demonstrates the amazing power of localism to change business as usual. As always, there is so much more to discover in these pages. Our heartfelt thanks to the advertising partners whose sustaining support makes our mission possible. Please patronize and thank them! Many thanks, too, to our loyal subscribers. We’ll see you around the table and in the New Year. ¡Buen provecho!
—Douglas Biggers, editor and publisher
6 November /December 2017
What we call the beginning is often the end And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from … —T.S. Eliot
At the end of autumn in Baja Arizona: Bigtooth maple leaf (Acer grandidentatum), from a stand in Bear Wallow, near the Sky Island Bureau, Mount Lemmon. Photo by Katie Gannon.
A FOND FAREWELL
J uly of 2016, I spent two days with New York Times reporter Kim Severson as she covered Tucson’s designation as a UNESCO City of Gastronomy. It was hot, as it often is, and we squinted into the sun on farms and in gardens. We gathered mesquite, shook packets of heirloom seeds, and slurped raspados in the shade. And I talked about Tucson, my adopted home of six years. The following month, when Kim’s article was published, I was reminded of what I’d told her. Once Tucson gets in your soul, it’s in there. That process happened quickly for me. Within weeks of moving to Tucson to attend graduate school at the University of Arizona, I knew that this place would shape me forever. For nearly five years—over 27 issues—I have read, reviewed, edited, or written every word that has appeared in this magazine. I have scrutinized every photograph we have published. I know who wrote what and who photographed whom and when it happened. I know which captions have typos and words were misspelled (including, but only once, the word “Tuscon”). Like a parent, I know what this magazine was like when it was little, when we were still measuring margins and evaluating endnotes. I have watched it grow up, and seen how our community of readers and advertisers has rallied around its success. It truly takes a village. After 27 issues, hundreds of articles, and more than 4,000 pages, this will be my last issue as editor of Edible Baja Arizona. Although I am excited for the adventure ahead, this is a hard job to leave. It amazes me, still, every time I see a copy of this magazine out in the world—stacked in a rack at Time Market or spread on a coffee table in a friend’s home. I watch as a couple waiting for a table at 5 Points thumbs through the latest issue. I see it displayed on tables at farmers’ markets and notice it forgotten in waiting rooms at doctor’s offices. Every time, I am amazed, and grateful to be a part of it. I’ve often said that what makes Edible Baja Arizona so successful is that our readers are proud of the magazine. We are a reflection of this place. What we’ve done over the past four and a half years is simply to put a frame around you, the readers and farmers and dreamers and business owners and teachers and harvesters—all of you who are working to make this community better, who believe that we are stronger when we eat together. I am proud of every article contained in these pages, in this issue and in the 26 issues that preceded it. Thank you to our hard-working contributors—this magazine is what it is because of your passion, dedication, and talent. I have loved being your editor. In the coming issue, we’ll be welcoming the magazine’s new editor, Debbie Weingarten. You likely know Debbie from the many award-winning articles she’s written for Edible Baja Arizona over the years, covering everything from female farmers to competitive eaters with the same grace, skill, and excellence that she has brought to her work as a farmer, editor, activist, and essayist. Stay tuned, but in the meantime, know that this magazine could not be in more capable and compassionate hands. Five years ago, Gary Nabhan called me and told me to have coffee with a guy named Doug Biggers. That coffee changed my life as, ultimately, did Doug, who gave an energetic 26-year-old the chance of a lifetime. Together, we’ve published a lot of words, and I am grateful for every single one. Thank you, jefe. And thank you, Tucson. n
What does the U.S. withdrawal from UNESCO mean for Tucson? By Jonathan Mabry
by the U.S. Department of State that the United States will withdraw from UNESCO at the end of 2018 prompts the question: How will this affect Tucson’s designation as a UNESCO City of Gastronomy? With our designation in 2015, we joined the Creative Cities Network of 116 cities around the world, recognized for using creativity for sustainable development, building partnerships, and sharing best practices. That means that the designation created a direct relationship between Tucson and UNESCO, and with other Creative Cities, that will likely be unaffected by withdrawal at the national level. We are also encouraged by statements received from the UNESCO Director General expressing the value of partnerships with the United States, and by the executive director of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO assuring that the withdrawal does not alter U.S. policy supporting UNESCO’s mission. The designation does not bring any outside funding, but has resulted in great benefits for our community, including media coverage worth more than $30 million in just the last 12 months—according to analysis conducted by Visit Tucson—and more rapid growth in jobs, businesses, and tax revenues in the food sector than in most other economic sectors. The nonprofit Tucson City of Gastronomy will continue to collaborate with other Creative Cities in the U.S. and around the world, and with community partners, to leverage the designation for broad, sustainable economic and community development. The nonprofit board is confident that UNESCO will maintain its involvement in the United States to continue fostering collaborations among Creative Cities. ✜ he announcement
Jonathan Mabry is the president of Tucson City of Gastronomy, the nonprofit organization working under the auspices of the City of Tucson.
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Editor and Publisher Douglas Biggers Editor
Director of Sales Jeff Isaac Business Coordinator Kate Kretschmann Online Editor
Senior Contributing Editor Gary Paul Nabhan Copy Editor
Miriam Davidson, Charity Whiting
Amy Belk, Wendy Burk, Kimi Eisele, Gillian Haines, Marguerite Happe, Edie Jarolim, Saraiya Kanning, Ken Lamberton, Dennis Newman, Lisa O’Neill, Karen Peterson, Jacelle Ramon-Sauberan, Margaret Regan, Kate Selby, John Washington, Joe Watson, Rachel Wehr
On the cover: Lotería of food. Illustration by Emily Costello Above: Early fall produce fills Edible Baja Arizona online editor Shelby Thompson’s sink after a trip to the Heirloom Farmers’ Market at Rillito Park. Photography by Shelby Thompson
Photographers & Artists Adela Antoinette, Scott Baxter, Andrew Brown, Julie DeMarre, Scott and Anna Griessel, Shelley Kirkwood, Barbara Massad, Steven Meckler, Julius Schlosburg, Bridget Shanahan, Moses Thompson Interns
Hannah Dahl, Monique Irish, Angela Martinez, Leah Merrall, Jake O’Rourke, Amanda Oien
Royce Davenport, Gil Mejias, Shiloh Walkosak-Mejias, Steve and Anne Bell Anderson
We’d love to hear from you
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V olume 5, I ssue 3. Edible Baja Arizona (ISSN 2374-345X) is published six times annually by Salt in Pepper Shaker, LLC. Subscriptions are available for $36 annually by phone or at EdibleBajaArizona.com. Copyright © 2017. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be used without the express written permission of the publisher. Member of the Association of Edible Publishers (AEP).
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C our ier G r aphics C or por ation
We asked six tamale makers: What makes a great tamale? Interviews and photography by Scott and Anna Griessel
I think is passion. Once you have that, your tamale is going to be great. Since I was a little girl, I had a dream to make the best tamale anywhere. Now I feel like I’m on my way. This tradition comes from my great-grandmother, she passed it to my grandmother, my grandmother passed it to my mom. It made me dream, “One day I’m going to do this myself.” I make my own masa and I use organic ingredients that I buy in Mexico. This is one of my secrets—best ingredients make the best tamale. I try to keep the same flavors using only vegetarian and vegan ingredients. Tofu with red chile. Spinach and black beans. Every other Wednesday we sell tamales at the UA. The he first thing
10 November /December 2017
students know I use the best ingredients to make them happy. I am a cancer survivor for eight years. I take care of me and my customers—that was one thing I promised myself. Sinaloa tamales are more work. We add more vegetables to the meat tamales. In a normal tamale, we put tomatoes, onions, potatoes. It’s like a complete meal in one tamale. The best way to eat tamales is when I’ve just made them. My husband says the best way to eat tamales is right out of the pot. Herminia Serino, Del Cielo Tamales Available at the St. Philip’s Plaza Farmers’ Market, Green Valley Farmers’ Market, UA Main Campus Farmers’ Market.
h e p r e pa r at i o n .
The preparation of the masa and the preparation of the meat with chile. That’s what makes a tamale delicious. My secret ingredient is … well, everything. The chile. And the preparation of the chile, when you put it into the masa. I use chile from New Mexico from Food City. The chile comes whole. I cook it and later I put in tomato and a little piece of onion. My mom taught me how to make tamales. We always made tamales in December, but they were always around. I was 15 when I started making tamales. The best way to eat a tamale is how I have it now—with rice and beans. Diana Delgado, Lorena Islava Available at Taqueria Pico de Gallo. 2618 S. Sixth Ave.
it’s the ingredients and the love you put into it. It’s a family. Being loyal to our recipe. Salvadorian tamales have been around since … a long time ago. For generations, tamales have been very important for the holidays for every family in El Salvador. We use the banana leaf instead of cornhusks. There are plenty of banana leaves and it gives a hint of a different flavor for our tamales. The way we do our masa is different than any other country’s masa. We cook it twice. We use different spices. Our abuelitas, they used to cook tamales for the holidays. It’s been through my mom. It’s important for us. Our family came up with our vegan tamale recipe. We use beans and some other Salvadorian veggies. Here there are more veggies we can use. The best way to eat a tamale? It’s great to get it from the pot to your mouth—that’s the best way to eat a tamale. believe
Selena’s Salvadorian Food Luis Gonzalez Sr., with Sandra Gonzalez, Luis Gonzalez Jr. Available at the Sunday Heirloom Farmers’ Market at Rillito Park.
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r acely :
Natural ingredients—chiles, meats. All natural. I think that’s the best way to make them. Isabella: Love. I think what makes the best tamale is who makes it for you. Aracely: The masa is prepared all by hand—we don’t use any machines. It’s the way we grew up making them, since I was a little girl. It’s a great experience when you involve all your family members—my mom, my grandma, my sister, we get together, especially for holidays. It’s a family tradition, and now my daughter is part of that tradition. It’s a great way to pass it on generation to generation. 12 November /December 2017
Isabella: When I was 5, me and my cousin were making [the masa]. We were doing the paste. We probably got ourselves super dirty. All over our hands. We tried cleaning it but our hands got super sticky. The best way to eat a tamale is when you’re with your family and then you put your fork in and you cut it. Aracely: Enjoy it with your family and friends. With a side of beans and really good salsa. Aida Sepulveda, Isabella Gonzalez (daughter of Aracely), Aracely Gonzalez Available at Crossroads Restaurant. 2602 S. Fourth Ave.
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lias: There are two main things about making green corn tamales. You want to have fresh corn. The fresher the corn, the better the tamales will taste. And having the right portion of manteca, or pork lard. That brings out all the flavors. It’s a recipe that’s been around for over five generations. Anna: My mom learned from my grandma. Even when we were young, we were making tamales and helping her. On Christmas we would help my mom make the tamales. We’d work all day on Christmas Eve. So they were ready for midnight. I must have been 14 or 15. And with my grandmother, too, before she passed away.
14 November /December 2017
Elias: My grandmother, my mother’s mom, in the ’80s she was known for her green tamales, red chile tamales, sweet bean tamales. She started handing down more of the information to my mother, to the family. We picked it up, and we’ve continued the tradition. It’s important now, our family, cousins, aunts and uncles, they come to us—they used to come to my grandmother—they ask for the tamales. They flock after the green corn. Elias Salazar (son) and Anna M. Salazar (mother) Available for friends and family.
the best tamale is all in the masando. How you mix the masa together, the ingredients together. If you don’t have the right ingredients or the right consistency of the lard, you can put too much or not enough. In my red tamales I use everything fresh. I don’t use powdered chile, I use fresh chile pods. I think that’s what makes mine the best. As my daughter tells me: You just have to make love to the tamales. We’ve always made tamales for the holidays. That’s a big tradition for our culture. Everybody does tamales for Christmas. o m ak e
This bowl belonged to my grandmother. When she passed away, they left it to me. My grandfather engraved it, he said, “Por un recuerdo.” A memory of us. The reason he left it to me is that I would always help him make the tamales. Every year. That was our tradition. I was about 10 years old when I started making tamales. Me and my nana would do the masando. The best way to eat a tamale is in the morning, with some coffee. I like the green corn. ✜ Marjava Ramirez, with Andrina Ramirez (daughter-in-law), Julian Ramirez (son) Available for friends and family.
edible Baja Arizona
Anthropologist Suzanne Fish discusses ancient agriculture systems at an agave field near Marana.
Hands-on History The Marana Gastronomy Tour spotlights Marana’s long agricultural heritage. Text and photography by Shelby Thompson
2015, when Tucson was designated a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, Marana tourism manager Laura Cortelyou knew that Marana had a role to play in supporting the recognition of Baja Arizona’s foodways. Cortelyou said that Marana grows and harvests heritage foods “in greater concentration, diversity, and total acreage than any other area” in Baja Arizona. As a way to share Marana’s 13,000 years of habitation, 4,000 years of formal agriculture, and 300 years of orchards and livestock ranching, Cortelyou partnered with Gray Line Tours Tucson to create the Marana Gastronomy Tour. As the first tour to be approved by the Tucson City of Gastronomy—the nonprofit organization that manages the designation—the Marana Gastronomy Tour is “the newest tradition in this area’s 4,000-year-old history of engaging with food,” said Cortelyou. The Marana Gastronomy Tour, a mixture of history lessons and food tastings, aims to educate the public about the area’s long-established agricultural history while also introducing them to modern culinary uses of locally grown and native Sonoran Desert foods. “Marana is situated on one of three places along the Santa Cruz River watershed that has supported the oldest agriculture systems in North America for more than 4,000 years,” Cortelyou said. To demonstrate these ancient agriculture systems, the tour begins at Los Morteros Conservation Area, located at the northeast end of the Tucson Mountains. This is where the Hohokam built the head of their agricultural canals more than 1,000 years ago, said University of Arizona Professor of Anthropology and Arizona State Museum Curator Suzanne Fish. Fish, who serves as the Marana Gastronomy Tour anthropology guide, uses the stop n
16 November /December 2017
at Los Morteros to identify large slabs of volcanic rock indented with smooth mortars where Hohokam women gathered with their pestles to process mesquite as “a social kind of activity.” The Marana Gastronomy Tour continues at Catalina Brewing Company, where brewer Hank Rowe crafts beers with local ingredients like agave, chiltepins, and BKW Farms wheat. “I’m a native Tucsonan, my mom is a native Tucsonan, and we love prickly pear,” Rowe said, as he poured tasting glasses of La Rosa—a creamy ale with prickly pear. After enjoying a few good beers and thoughtfully prepared snacks, including native-ingredient salsas, sauces, and chutneys prepared by Barbara Rose of Bean Tree Farm, guests are driven to a Hohokam agricultural field that dates back to 1200 A.D. The former agricultural field, which spans 1,200 acres, was used by the Hohokam to farm a species of agave known as Agave murpheyi. After explaining the importance of agave to the Hohokam diet and culture, Fish teaches the group how to identify former agave growing and roasting areas, which are disguised as piles of rock and dust. The last stop on the tour is not a dusty field—it’s the RitzCarlton, Dove Mountain. Seasonal dishes made with cholla buds, tepary beans, and white Sonoran wheat demonstrate how local chefs like Dove Mountain’s Robert Ziehr are using native and heritage ingredients in innovative ways. After an afternoon of hands-on history, exquisite tastings, and gorgeous landscapes, guests of the Marana Gastronomy Tour are sure to feel full—and further connected with Marana’s food culture. Visit DiscoverMarana.org.
(From left): Victoria Schneider, Samantha Thompson, Nick Carson, and Becca Light are the team behind Fanny’s Cocina, in the historic El Rapido building.
Grandma Fanny’s Kitchen
Fanny’s Cocina is bringing fresh market goods in the historic adobe home of El Rapido. Text and photography by Shelby Thompson
omething wonder ful is happening in the historic adobe dwelling that once housed El Rapido Mexican Food in Tucson’s El Presidio neighborhood. Fanny’s Cocina, a small market that carries house-made beverages, freshly baked treats, and high quality market goods, is working to serve downtown Tucson and preserve the history of the building, which had been vacant for 17 years. Jo Schneider, who owns La Cocina, Tallboys, and Bentley’s House of Coffee & Tea, opened Fanny’s Cocina in her grandmother’s name in October 2016. Fanny was an inspiration, says Sam Thompson, a manager at Fanny’s Cocina. Fanny demonstrated what it was to be an active part in her community. Just like its namesake, Fanny’s Cocina serves the people and neighborhood around it. Although Schneider owns the specialty market named after her late grandmother, she’s trusted a few ardent employees with the day-to-day operations of El Presidio’s new neighborhood market. “The Schneider family is really big on giving opportunities to the people they work with,” Thompson said. Thompson, who manages front-of-house operations at Fanny’s Cocina, does everything from making tie-dye colored raspados to running the shop’s drool-worthy Instagram account. Together with the phenomenal self-taught baker Nick Carson and a few excellent baristas, Thompson has made Fanny’s Cocina a vibrant addition to downtown Tucson. “We’re all relatively young, but they’ve trusted us to get [Fanny’s Cocina] off the ground … it feels really good,” Thompson said. Says Thompson, Fanny’s Cocina is “bringing Bentley’s to downtown Tucson” with a variety of pastries and coffee drinks. Carson, who also bakes for La Cocina, Bentley’s, and Tall
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Boys, curates a daily selection of treats for the pastry counter at Fanny’s Cocina. While the market carries a few staples, like chewy nut bars—made with almonds, peanuts, pepitas, sunflower seeds, black sesame seeds, f lax seeds, and local honey—much of the selection is seasonally inspired. All of the tender scones, chocolate-drizzled biscotti, and moist quick breads at Fanny’s Cocina go well with their specialty coffee drinks, made with an exclusive roast from Raging Sage. Thompson is particularly fond of the cold brew coffee, steeped for 24 hours, which she “can drink gallons of.” For those who wish to remain decaffeinated, Fanny’s Cocina offers a selection of made-to-order raspados and aguas frescas (all made with fresh, unsweetened juice), fruit smoothies, and milkshakes. In addition to offering vegan and gluten-free baked goods to patrons with dietary restrictions, Fanny’s Cocina is making local food accessible to the working and elderly populations in downtown Tucson. “A lot of older people who can’t drive walk here because they still want organic produce and want to support a local economy,” Thompson said. Alongside a selection of high-quality pantry staples, like Jack and the Bean soup mix, Iskashitaa lemon curd, and local greens from Merchant’s Garden, Fanny’s Cocina offers La Cocina meatloaf, veggie burgers, and lasagna in a stocked grab-and-go case. With its friendly service, high-quality food and beverages, and commitment to downtown Tucson’s history, Fanny’s Cocina is a bright spot in El Presidio neighborhood. “We’re hoping that what we’re doing here will bring some vibrancy to the neighborhood,” Thompson said. Fanny’s Cocina. 77 W. Washington Street. 520.365.3500.
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Betel’s Jesus Islas (left) and José Lopez met at the Tanque Verde Swap Meet and decided to team up.
Sin Tomate, Por Favor
Betel’s apple- and chiltepin-based salsa brings the best of Hermosillo to Tucson. Text and photography by Shelby Thompson
at the Santa Cruz River Farmers’ Market, Jesus Islas and José Lopez are just as entertaining as the live banjoist a few feet away. As curious market-goers approach them, Islas and Lopez dole out samples and explain why Betel salsa, chips, and tortillas are the tastiest and healthiest ones around. In 2015, Islas and Lopez met at the Tanque Verde Swap Meet, where Islas sold homemade salsa and granola, and Lopez sold a hodgepodge of stuff at his neighboring booth. Over the weeks, the Hermosillo natives developed a friendship that quickly evolved into a business partnership. “This [salsa] is how it all started,” Lopez said. “[Almost] every salsa in Mexico is made with tomatoes,” Islas said. “We are trying to give people something different,” he said, “a salsa with no onions, no cilantro, and no tomatoes.” Inspired by an old quince-based salsa recipe from Hermosillo, Islas developed an apple- and chiltepin-based salsa that was an instant hit. After joining forces, Islas and Lopez sought advice from the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which provided them with a business sponsor and 80 hours of his time. “He was our guide,” Lopez said, advising them on everything from their social media presence to how spicy their salsa should be. Islas and Lopez left the swap meet behind and began selling salsa and granola at farmers’ markets across Tucson. Although Islas and Lopez initially began by selling salsa and granola, they realized that chips and salsa are a more dynamic duo. “We wanted something from our region,” Lopez said, n a busy fall day
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explaining why they partnered with I Love Maíz, a tortilla company in Mexico, to source tortillas. Before I Love Maíz partnered with Betel, their tortillas were only available in Mexico. “We opened the market for them to come to the U.S.,” Islas said. The two varieties of tortillas from I Love Maíz, which are made from non-GMO corn and either nopales or beets, were so popular that Islas and Lopez proposed that the company turn them into chips. And, they did. The green and red tortilla chips come plain or with a dusting of chile-lime flavor. “You can taste the ingredients,” Lopez said. “What we were trying to do [was] offer something healthy,” Islas said. “It was the right thing to do,” Lopez added. Betel salsa contains only apples, chiltepins, vinegar, and salt; the gluten free tortillas are 34 calories each; and the chips are baked, not fried. Together, Betel salsa and I Love Maíz tortilla chips make for a healthy snack that anyone can enjoy. “Nobody has anything like this in Tucson,” Islas said. Luckily, Betel salsa is widely available in the Old Pueblo. You can find Betel salsa, as well as I Love Maíz tortillas and tortilla chips, at farmers’ markets every day of the week. And, when the craving for a healthy snack comes on suddenly, you can find their products at local Tucson markets such as Johnny Gibson’s, the Food Conspiracy Co-op, and Rincon Market. ✜ Facebook.com/Granola.Betel Shelby Thompson is the online editor of Edible Baja Arizona.
eoPle ar e FloCk inG to a new restaurant on Tucson’s northwest side, where the food is anything but foul—indeed, it’s rather fowl. Bird Modern Provisions and Bar is the latest offering from Fukushu Restaurant Concepts, the Tucson team behind Goodness Fresh Fruit and Juice Bar and OBON Sushi Bar Ramen. More than a month after it opened in July, reservations were still a necessity for Saturday night. The Southern-food-withTucson-twist eatery was hopping, and it was easy to taste why. A plate of deviled eggs ($7), garnished with mustard seeds, offered an exceptionally creamy texture and a nice smoky flavor, thanks to the combination of bacon crumbles and bacon fat whipped into the filling. A platter of mussels ($14), tender and melt-in-our-mouths, had a distinctly regional spin with a tangy, bright green tomatillo salsa crudo, not to mention the sausage seasoned with shallots, garlic, fennel, and spices. The hushpuppies ($8) are shellfish-free and veggie-friendly, with a thick, crispy exterior and a rich, sweet corn flavor, accompanied by a colorful pepper jelly made in-house with just the right amount of heat. Perhaps most memorable was the enigmatically named F.G.T. (fried green tomatoes; $10), a modern take that features chicken-fried green tomato steaks stacked with crispy pork, salsa verde,
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savory pimento cheese, and fresh greens. The blend of flavors and textures made this appetizer outstanding. The entrées proved just as enjoyable. The seared duck breast ($29) sat on a bed of kale leaves, creamy heirloom lima beans, and house-made chorizo. The slightly dry chorizo played well against the duck, and the appeal didn’t stop with texture. Executive Chef Daniel Thomas says he tries to combine the two flavor profiles whenever possible: “The mildness of the duck with the touch of spice from the chorizo goes a long way.” Beeler’s Pork Chop ($27) is named for Beeler’s Pure Pork, a small family farm in Iowa. “The time and care Tim and Julie Beeler put into their farm is absolutely remarkable,” Thomas says. He believes that care translates into better-tasting meat. Bird’s flavorful pork chop arrived resting on tender broccolini, with a just-sweet-enough piece of cornbread tucked to the side. Thomas gives the Beelers most of the credit for the flavorful chop, saying, “The flavor comes from
Bird’s Beeler’s Pork Chop.
the pork itself.” The addition of a house marinade and salt and pepper finishes off a dish that Thomas calls “by far one of the best proteins I have ever worked with.” Of course, we had to try the food Bird is named for. Thomas says, “If there was going to be one menu item we hit out of the park each night, it has to be fried chicken.” The Fried Chicken Entrée ($19) is the result of Thomas’s travels across the country to find the perfect approach to fried chicken. He keeps the process straightforward: “We use all-natural chicken that’s brined for 24 hours and then a simple buttermilk wash and flour dredge.” With a thick crispy crust and minimal grease, the chicken hit all the right notes. With the golden brown, lightly sweet waffles, juicy watermelon cubes sprinkled with a house-made take on Tajin, and Tabasco honey for dipping and drizzling, this plate was a solid win for briners and chicken-and-waffles fans alike. Thomas says the inspiration behind Bird’s menu is “using simple, seasonal, and local ingredients.” While aiming to “stay Southern” and “stay true to what each ingredient has to offer,” Bird also aims to modernize some of the traditional dishes on their menu. Owned and operated by Tucson locals who are committed to working with local ingredients, Bird is definitely the word for an eatery worth checking out. Bird Modern Provisions & Bar. 7109 N. Oracle Road. 520.441.9509. FukushuConcepts.com/Bird.
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Pastiche’s Macadamia Mahi-Mahi.
pastiche refers to “an artistic work in a style that imitates that of another work, artist, or period.” In Tucson, Pastiche is also a proper noun and the name of a restaurant that has been serving up “a hodge-podge of everything,” says Executive Chef Tim Moore. Pastiche’s founder and owner Pat Connors was diagnosed with lung cancer and died in March. The restaurant was sold to current owners Costas and Judie Georgacas within three weeks of his passing. The couple has carried on Connors’ approach to the types of food served at Pastiche, allowing Moore to continue his work crafting Pastiche’s menu uninterrupted. His approach? Bring in bits and pieces of recipes from diverse sources, source the best ingredients he can find, and allow those ingredients to shine. We started our meal with the Smoked Heirloom Tomato Caprese Stack appetizer ($10.25). The tower of fried polenta, thick slices of sweet red beet and heirloom tomato, and housemade mozzarella, garnished with bean sprouts and resting on a bed of greens, made for a beautiful presentation. Moore emphasizes that the smoked aspect of this dish contributes a very subtle flavor—the tomato is lightly smoked with applewood chips. “I didn’t want to use mesquite on something so delicate,” he explains. My favorite part of the dish was the polenta cake, he wor d
24 November /December 2017
which was golden brown and had a nice exterior crisp; it has an extra richness of flavor thanks to the butter and white wine reduction that Moore cooks it in. Moore also suggests the fried polenta ($7) found on the Indulgences section of the happy hour menu—it’s made from the scraps created when they cut the appetizer cakes. Reducing food waste is a theme in Pastiche’s kitchen, where Moore says they “try to cross-utilize everything in every dish we can.” They make their chicken stock in-house and add in the odds and ends from vegetables used in other dishes to enhance the flavor of the broth. That extra flavor pays off in the Ancho Chile & Beer Braised Pork Osso Bucco ($26), which features a one-pound pork shank nestled in a bed of tender green beans and a flavorful mushroom risotto. The pork shank was fall-apart tender after being braised and glazed for four hours, with an ancho chile and salt rub and a glaze made from Barrio Brewing’s Rojo beer enhancing the meat’s flavor. The risotto was an explosion of mushroom flavor, made with a blend of porcini, shiitake, portobello, and button mushrooms, with light and crispy quick-fried shiitake mushrooms sprinkled over the dish. Mushroom lovers: This dish is for you. The Macadamia Mahi-Mahi ($22) was another outstanding dish, featuring delicate, flaky fish coated in panko
and macadamia nuts, and pan seared. It was served on top of “forbidden” black rice, so called because it was saved for emperors in ancient China. Moore describes the rice as having a “beautiful plate presence,” and its nutty flavor and tender grains played off well against a cluster of buttery green beans still fresh enough to squeak. The mango salsa fresca sprinkled over the plate is made from mangos, red onions, cilantro, lime juice, and honey, and along with the coconut lime sauce, added a citrusy tang to the plate. Pastiche has a large selection of libations to choose from, including an extensive whiskey list. I opted for the Nutty Jaliscan ($10.50 during happy hour), a riff on a margarita featuring tequila, orange liquor, and almond bitters. With an emphasis on both the orange and almond, it was an elegant and smooth reimagining, and would pair well with either small bites or a full meal. Moore plans to continue to build Pastiche’s eclectic menu according to the ethos Connors established 19 years ago, including taking inspiration from a variety of culinary traditions and making the dishes his own. When I ask if there is a particular direction he’d like to go next, he says, “no real direction, other than really good food.” Pastiche. 3025 N. Campbell Ave. 520.325.3333. PasticheMe.com.
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Batch’s Knuckle & Claw.
M islinsk i and Ronnie Spece didn’t intend to wind up running a doughnut and whiskey bar. When Batch Café & Bar opened its doors on Congress Street two years ago, most people focused on their made-fresh-daily doughnuts and whiskey pairings. But their menu extends beyond whiskey and doughnuts: They offer gourmet and buildyour-own grilled cheese sandwiches, a couple of impressively large salads, and bar food and small plate staples, such as pretzel bread, mac ‘n’ cheese, and a tomato bisque. That said, Batch is unequivocally a whiskey bar. With more than 120 whiskeys from an international range of producers and a handpicked selection of cocktails, local and craft beers, and eight wines, there is something for everyone to drink—especially if what they like to drink is whiskey. I sampled the Arizona Old Fashioned ($13), made with Batch’s single barrel release of unsmoked Whiskey del Bac. In addition to featuring local whiskey, prickly pear juice, and a candied slice of jalapeño, the Arizona Old Fashioned also makes use of a locally produced bitters called Mi Casa, made by Chandler-based AZ Bitters Lab, which adds an herbal element along with the cinnamon spiciness. I also sipped the Penichillin’ ($9), made with Monkey Shoulder scotch. The lemony Penichillin’, served with ade
26 November /December 2017
a candied ginger garnish, has its fair share of heat, thanks to Iconic Cocktail Company’s Spiced Honey, which is made in Phoenix and combines ancho chiles, black peppercorns, Szechuan chile pepper flakes, and cinnamon. We also tried Batch’s gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. The sandwiches are made using a panini press, so the bread stays lighter and less greasy than if they were pan fried. The Billie June ($8) features cheddar cheese, chicken, smoked bacon, and ranch dressing on ciabatta bread. A whole lot of bacon flavor mixes with the sharpness of cheddar cheese, with extra body thanks to the chicken. The Knuckle & Claw ($16) is arguably the most exotic of the grilled cheese sandwiches: Between two hearty slices of white bread lies a healthy share of lobster, complemented by mascarpone, provolone, arugula, onion, lemon, and sambal. The spice added by the arugula and sambal was a nice addition to the shellfish, as was the bright note of lemon, and the mascarpone, provolone, and onion provided a rich backdrop for the more dominant flavors. Paired with the sandwiches were house-made potato chips, which are thinly sliced with a mandolin and then crispy fried at Batch’s sister restaurant, Classic. It wouldn’t be a visit to Batch without a doughnut, and I opted for The Stud ($2.75), a yeast doughnut with chocolate icing, sprinkled
with bacon, and a thick maple and bourbon Bavarian cream filling—a rich treat that both asks to be devoured and demands to be savored. I asked Mislinski where he found inspiration for Batch’s menu. He says the restaurants’ concept is connected to his childhood memories, with the goal being to create emotionally connected, childhood-inspired food. Memories of his grandfather sneaking booze past his grandmother by adding it to breakfast cereal, combined with an interest in reimagining milk cocktails popular at the turn of the century, led to the inclusion of a boozy breakfast cereal option on the menu. He hopes to increase Batch’s appeal as a neighborhood bar, to make it not just a place that people visit for special occasions but also somewhere people can pick a sandwich up during their lunch break or stop by for a quality casual meal and drink. He has hired two new cooks and anticipates presenting a new menu within the next couple of months. Batch has also resumed lunchtime hours, opening at 11 a.m. Sunday-Thursday and 12 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Whether you come for the whiskey, stay for the sandwiches, or are drawn to the daily doughnut specials, Batch is certain to have something for you. Batch Doughnuts & Whiskey. 118 E. Congress St. 520.203.7370. BatchTucson.com.
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the University of Arizona campus reawakened in August, there was something new waiting to be discovered at the corner of University Boulevard and Park Avenue. The Dutch Eatery & Refuge opened its doors in June on a corner quiet without students in town. Now that school is back in full swing, Chef Marcus van Winden and his wife and co-owner, Nicole van Winden, are seeing business grow as people discover the hearty European Gastropub. The Dutch serves brunch and dinner daily. We began our morning meal with some of their breakfast cocktails and a plate of the “secret” menu item, Bitterballen ($9—ask for it). The crispyfried-on-the-outside, warm-and-heartyon-the-inside snack is made from sausage and potatoes, with a dose of Maggi (a German-origin fermented sauce similar to soy sauce), and served with a side of spicy Dijon mustard. While van Winden says the classic bar food pairs best with beer, it also matched nicely with our drinks: a classic mimosa ($3), a Desert Sunrise ($6), and The Urban Cowboy ($10). The Desert Sunrise was a sweet variation on the mimosa, featuring a combination of prickly pear and orange juice with champagne. The Urban Cowboy was a revelation all to itself, with St-Germaine adding a floral note to balance out the earthy whiskey. For those looking for variety, the Breakfast Board ($13) has a little bit of everything: crispy bacon, two eggs cooked to order, fresh fruit, a mini parfait, and a couple of slices of van Winden’s French toast, which is caramelized and with a sweet crunch similar to crème brûlée. The B.A.C.T.L.T. sandwich ($10), made with bacon, avocado, cheddar, turkey, lettuce, and tomato on sourdough bread, offered unfussy sandwich satisfaction. There is just the right amount of each ingredient here—the flavors were well balanced, the ingredients well distributed, and the portion generous. And, it comes with a side of crunchy made-fresh-daily sweet potato chips. hen
28 November /December 2017
Those who like to eat burgers for breakfast have a great option in the Bleu Cheese Brunch Burger ($14), another exceedingly well-balanced sandwich. The burger was cooked just right, with a flavorful char on the outside; the fried egg was soft but not too runny; and the bleu cheese, bacon, arugula, and caramelized onions combined to give the sandwich a flavor that was a little sweet, a little salty, and all good. My favorite dish was the Breakfast Flatbread ($14). The dense bread is spread with cream cheese and herbs grown in The Dutch’s kitchen herb garden and layered with melt-in-yourmouth smoked salmon, fresh avocado, and a fried egg; it arrives cut into six pieces, making this a great option for sharing. Fair warning: The dish is tasty enough, with quality ingredients in restrained simplicity, that you might not want to share.
There are exciting things on the horizon for The Dutch. A catering menu is forthcoming, along with some seasonal dishes such as Stammpot, which van Winden describes as “a hearty, cold-weather dish of potatoes mashed with escarole, vinegar, and mustard,” served with pork belly. While he stresses that The Dutch is a “modern American restaurant,” van Winden also believes that heritage should play a part in cooking. He invites visitors to come experience his “passion for fresh, classic ingredients and get a taste of my background.” The Dutch Eatery & Refuge. 943 E. University Blvd. 520.792.6684. TheDutchTucson.com.
The Dutch’s Breakfast Flatbread.
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La Roca’s Cabrilla Tacos.
ust south of the U.S.-Mexico Border, down a couple of blocks and across a bridge, tucked behind a row of shops and through a cobblestone courtyard, awaits an idyllic dining paradise. La Roca Bar and Restaurant, built into the cliffs of Nogales, takes its name from the natural rock cave walls that make up one side of the main dining room, with windows offering tableside views of downtown Nogales on the opposite side. Despite facing political and economic challenges that impact international and local guests alike, the restaurant has continued in its mission of providing “a place to create and share memories, a place that reflects a balanced harmony between the past and present, and a space in the day to be in the moment or simply a place that can take you away.” As of January, the restaurant will have been pursuing this mission for 46 years. Our server for the night, Alejandro Arreaño, has worked for La Roca for 38 of those 46 years, starting when he was 19 years old. The menu was presented on a large handwritten board. Staff at La Roca are used to welcoming visitors from north of the border, and while speaking Spanish is appreciated, it is not necessary. We started with Mochomos ($9), a crispy-fried shredded beef dish served
30 November /December 2017
with limes and warm corn tortillas, La Roca Cheese ($11), a plate of grilled queso Chihuahua, crispy potato skins, and tomatillo salsa, also served with tortillas, and a vibrant green guacamole ($6). I particularly enjoyed the novelty of the Mochomos—salty and crunchy, like a chip, but with a rich meaty flavor. Accompanying our appetizers were some highly satisfying drinks. La Roca makes a mean michelada ($5.50) with only ice, beer, lime juice, and salt, taking what I normally think of as a heavier cocktail and turning it into something effervescent. We also ordered a pitcher of margaritas for the table, which struck just the right balance between tequila and sweet. On to the main course: The cabrilla (sea bass) tacos ($13.50) were filled with rich, moist fish, with just enough jalapeño in the tomato-based sauce to give them an edge. The garlic shrimp plate ($21) included tender, well-cooked shrimp, made amazing by the slow roasted garlic they were served with. The cabrilla filet ($18) was a popular choice—three of our nine-person group ordered it—and it did not disappoint: flaky white fish with a golden brown crisp and more roasted garlic. The Tampiqueña Broiled Tenderloin ($21.50) came with two large carne
asada steaks and chile relleno doused in red sauce. The meat was flavorful and tender, and the chile relleno’s crust had an unexpected sponginess that helped it stand up to the red sauce. Sides of fluffy Spanish rice and perfectly cooked squash rounded out both the shrimp and cabrilla entrées, while the Tampiqueña came with beans and some very satisfying cheesy nopales. We finished our meal with the Delicia Mexicana dessert ($5.50), with vanilla ice cream served in a waffle cone and topped with cajeta, a goat’s milk butterscotch sauce, and roasted pecans. The cajeta was thick and sweet, the ice cream smooth and cold, and the cone and pecans added just the right amount of crunchiness—the perfect sweet note to end the evening. With rooms available for private parties, catering services, and a dedicated, friendly staff, La Roca is destination dining you don’t want to miss. ✜ La Roca Bar and Restaurant. Plutarco Elías Calles. Nogales, Sonora. 520.313.6313. LaRocaRestaurant.com. Kate Selby is a local living enthusiast and craft cocktail chaser living in Tucson. She received her bachelor’s degree in creative writing from the University of Arizona.
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ld ou sh ey th a zz pi e Th The Plate ke off the menu. ta r ve ne Plate the
Organic Oven uce, vegan Vegan crush: Red sa ne nuts, pesto made with pi olives, zucchini, kalamata roasted artichokes, broccoli, peppers. $22/pizza e Road. 7065 E. Tanque Verd
2. Ti me Market
Shiitake: Shiitake, mozzarell a, walnut and caramelized onion purĂŠe, rosemary, sea salt, e.v. o.o. $4/slice, $13/pizza 444 E. University Boulevard.
Little Chicago Pizzeria Deep dish pizza with Italian sausage, green peppers, mushrooms, and a zesty red sauce. $6/slice 2707 E. Broadway Boulevard.
4. Falrioe,rmaission figs,
5. ReEilggl:ySpeck, egg,
Speck & /pizza fontina. $16 mozzarella, t. e e gton Str 101 E. Pennin
Figaro: B s, walnuts, Brussels sprout ic. $16/pizza olive oil, balsam . way Boulevard 3000 E. Broad
Bianca: Fresh mozzarella, ricotta, garlic, olive oil, basil, chiltepin on wild yeast fermented dough. $12/pizza 222 E. Sixth Street.
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A Sustaining Education At Davis Bilingual Magnet School, first-grade teacher Julian Barceló celebrates curiosity and discovery through his outdoor classroom. By Lisa O’Neill | Photography by Moses Thompson
of Señor Barceló’s classroom at Davis Elementary. While they line up at the door, Señor Barceló asks his first-graders in Spanish: “What is your favorite place?” “¡El jardin!” the students shout. Exiting the building, the students become giddy after spotting a grasshopper on the wall. Every walk is an adventure. The class ventures across the street to the garden Barceló revived and expanded in 2010 with fellow teachers, UA interns, students, parents, and community members. In the garden, there’s a chicken coop adorned with a dry-erase board with a diagram of a hen’s anatomy and a tool shed painted with the faces and names of his first students to work in this garden. In addition to garden plots, there are pomegranate, quince, fig, and mesquite trees, and a Tohono O’odham-style ramada next to a semicircle seating area, handmade from adobe, meant to promote conversation. Students seat themselves at wooden picnic tables as others pass out composition books and pencils, and Barceló goes into the coop to collect today’s eggs. “Hoy encontramos cuatro huevos,” he says and continues with the math problem in Spanish. “If we have four eggs for five days, how many eggs do we have?” Students write down the problem in Spanish and draw oval circles in quartets in their notebooks and add them, bringing their notebook over for him to check. “Gracias” he says, calling each student by name. Then the students scatter. This is their reward for completing their work. Some of them go over to a shady spot to draw. Others go off to examine ants climbing a wooden pole with magnifying lenses. They have just finished studying ants. “Look,” one student says. “He’s carrying some green stuff. That’s so awesome.” oices spill out
Why do you bring students to the garden?
The garden is always an extension of the classroom. Here we will see future biologists. This place gives you the space to develop one of your many intelligences. 34 November /December 2017
What brought you to teaching?
I started observing and helping my wife. She was teaching at that time and then I found connection with the kids. I saw the necessity of bilingual teachers because Spanish is an important part of the Latino/Hispanic culture. It’s part of this area historically. And then I went into a [bilingual teaching] program with Pima Community College, the UA, and TUSD.
Have you taught different grade levels?
I have mostly been teaching kindergarten and first grade. When you work with kids, it’s because you have hope. They take things so serious. We were finding out about insects. We study ants, grasshoppers. Every time we study or learn about animals, little creatures, they become so sensitive. They even make posters around the building that say, “Don’t hurt a grasshopper,” because we practice self-reflection. Grasshopper is the other you. You see how they are connecting things. That’s the beauty of working with kids. When you work with them and see how they react to those positive experiences, you have hope for the future. That’s how we use the garden.
Do you take them to the garden most days?
I take them every day. We just finished a unit on ants. The students observe the anthill, they observe the shape and size. They see how they are eating and working. They are using the five senses. [It’s] the difference between being in the classroom drilling and being outside using their senses and developing. The colors, the shapes, the smells of the vegetables. We are harvesting the eggs right now because our next Friday cooking is going to be burritos de huevos from our own chickens. At Davis Elementary, teacher Julian Barceló prepares a meal for his first-grade class in their outdoor kitchen and classroom.
Barceló says that by teaching students outside, they start to value nature and have empathy for the environment.
It sounds like with math and science they get the practical applications of what they learn at the garden. What that looks like and means in their life in terms of food they eat.
Exactly. We develop art, reading, math, science. And the students have more empathy with the environment. They value nature. They start connecting our environment and native plants. We have three types of berries: wolfberries, mountain hackberries, and one other—an ancient, medicinal plant. Last year we harvested mesquite pods. We arranged them, dried them, ground them, and made pancakes. From the native mesquite, we made cookies. We baked bread in the outside [adobe] oven. Having the garden expands the possible experience of the students. There are some teachers who never experienced how the wheat plant grows and turns golden before it’s ready to harvest.
Is that something you experienced growing up?
Kind of, because I grew up in a little town in Mexico. I was born in 1967. I was born in Huásabas, Sonora. I moved to Hermosillo when I was 10. Huásabas was a little town next to a river. The fields, the ranch, animals, and plants. I’m very lucky because I’m still remembering the smells of the plants when my dad used to water the field. There is a plant called estafiate—when it touches the water it has a beautiful smell. And there is a kind of bird that comes to eat the insects. These sorts of things I never forget. Next week, we are going to start opening the land and getting ready for the winter season. The students are going to find a lot of insects. I start telling them today that those insects are protein for the chickens. Everything is connected. Everything has a reason.
36 November /December 2017
How do you decide what you are going to cook for your class meals every Friday?
My dream is to have families share their culture through cooking. A family from Cuba just shared an amazing dish, Moros y Cristianos— rice and black beans. Then we are going, I hope, to have a family from Puerto Rico. From Chile. From Palestine, Argentina, France.
The families bring the recipes?
Most of the families who bring recipes bring everything. During the summer, I bought tamarindo and in the summer it was so refreshing. I said, “That’s what I’ll do my first Friday.” I bet most students don’t know what is tamarindo, the shape of the beans. So a day before I brought the pods, they observed, cleaned it, and then we boiled it and made the drink with a lot of ice. You might say: “Why tamarindo?” It’s another taste, color, flavor, everything. Then we searched: Where does it come from? Different cultures use different ways. In Mexico we use it as a snack, candy, or drink. In India, they use it as an important part of main dishes.
Is one reason you cook in the classroom to help grow students’ palates and expand their tastes?
Exactly. I put it this way: At this point, peer pressure works in a good way. When some students cook and harvest, they want to taste it and aren’t afraid. When others see their good friends are tasting something they never had, they want to try. And then we are trying to emphasize what is native: corns, fruits, plants. Using the eggs. Sometimes we boil eggs. We make cookies, breads, burritos using the eggs. And let me tell you, those eggs are tasty.
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On Fridays, Barceló makes a class meal, offering students a chance to share their cultures through cooking.
How do you talk about and explain the idea of local foods that are native with the kids?
That is one of the main reasons of having a field trip to the Desert Museum, learning about native animals and plants that adapt to this environment. How people adapted, how they take advantage of the weather in this environment. They survive—they knew how because they knew about plants and animals. That’s adaptation. That’s harmony. That is our main goal to find the harmony of the environment but at the same time the social justice.
How do you talk about social justice in terms of food, the environment, or sustainability?
In a very simple way: respecting. Using but respecting. Like we have chickens—we need to have a healthy environment for the chickens if we want to have good eggs. The same with the plants. To be aware of [our impact]. Some people in our culture relate chickens with poverty so they don’t feel proud about it. But when they see that we honor and celebrate, that for us it’s important, they feel proud.
So your students are 5, 6, 7—within that range. What do you think is important about introducing these concepts when students are in that age range? 38 November /December 2017
It’s important because they go home and start talking to their parents. Parents say, “I’m glad you are cooking and have a garden because at home they didn’t want to eat, and now they want to try new things.” In our cultura mostly women cook. I’m proud to model to them that Dad can cook too—males can make tortillas, males can make frijoles. Overall, the garden, the cooking, I’m doing this ’cause students have issues with reading and writing. When you develop curiosity, reading and writing comes by itself. Now I’m curious about insects and I want to read. I want to write about this. This is the beginning of research they’ll do in high school and college. [It’s about] developing their passion and their curiosity. Sometimes they’re so engaged with the grasshopper in the gardens and the ants it can become a problem. My classroom was full of grasshoppers. At the same time, you need to show empathy because that little thing is so important for them. [Years ago] this girl rescued a rooster. A dog was playing with it and almost killed it. She brought it to school and two interns took it home for one month and then we put it back in the garden. And I always tell this girl, “Remember the rooster you saved? Thanks to you the rooster survived.” ✜ Lisa O’Neill is a freelance writer living in Tucson. Her work focuses on intersections of social justice issues including sustainability and food security. Visit LisaMOneill.com.
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My Baja Arizona Year By Wendy Burk
What would happen if you thought of a whole year as a poem? From Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2016, I wrote a line of poetry every day in my notebook. Ever since moving to Tucson in 1997, I’ve been enchanted by seasonal shifts that differ from the East Coast climate of my childhood. I was curious whether poems written over the course of a year would reflect these seasonal shifts, as well as current events and changes in my own life. These are five poems from my year, one for each of Baja Arizona’s five seasons: spring, foresummer, monsoon, fall, and winter.
The dream protects the body as much as the mind, still green and pale brown I walked barefoot over the freeze growling fever. Every so often a deep breath overcame my ribs to crane over the Santa Cruz, if there’s water this time of year, if a friend rests there dragging cassia blooms. I would not demean myself, for all the world up slope should be blank exertion. Lights off east west blue gold should a story be told
40 November /December 2017
(May 30–June 4)
Dizzy hawk hand who tore the wings off the summer junco and left them side by side by the creekside, pollen-daubed chrysalis rolling. Chest stretches through a kissing gate, oh instinct could carry you somewhere in this suffering heat.
(July 13–Aug. 1)
Is this still heaven like 20 years ago? it’s not getting better to hear the smallest sounds through moonlit lichen fields I carry a vivid and incomplete road trip in my head always know by where the mountains are, even at night with my glasses off inchworming until I reach the doorway now you run thoughts on a friend in Michigan swimming in the late morning flick! flick! like a mockingbird, ice blue, saw four stars the bright green center, no more fig beetles— tonight the wings got torrented away giant, hard, asphalt-inflected droplets say what I want to say— alone all Friday afternoon as on most Friday afternoons summoned by a green storm she rejoined her sisters in the grass and dirt moored by green, I mean anchored by it
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Did my letter reach you? The underside of those delicate leaves, nearly dead, but not so, coming to the brink, because you’re still alive, empty and easy, and I was never so good at letting the world in, not by description, by taste: in the unassailable secret nearly silent language we speak to each other when the air is too dry to shout to each other. The wind brings dust to the valley and rain and the difference between refuge and sanctuary: a gradual reweaving written conversation in the ground begins to search for new green shoots. Some lives seem endless, can you even say where they turned? Nausea to peace. I recycled most of your letter, but I kept some, and I will write back to you. Over six hundred folded miles I understand things as I write them down.
42 November /December 2017
I can see by the time civil twilight ends I’ll have drunk my water and made my tea planted my presence facing east wind’s thought, rain’s voice I crave a day that’s different a tiny welling up of blood salmon my center string puckers when I hit the outside air needing to feel that the word has meaning love clarity meeting the world outside the window, spooning sand into a glass globe every onion skin, every eggshell comes back into our life, in another season and a new way curious about the clouds and the earth we’ve created the mountains offer friendship
Wendy Burk is the author of Tree Talks: Southern Arizona (Delete Press), a book of poetry. She is the translator of two poetry collections by Tedi López Mills, Against the Current (Phoneme Media) and While Light Is Built (Kore Press). A Tucson resident for the last 20 years, Wendy works as the librarian at the University of Arizona Poetry Center.
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Mirror Images Two UNESCO Cities of Gastronomy, located across the world from each other, offer distinct insights on desert terroir. By Gary Paul Nabhan | Photography by Barbara Massad
am sit ting in an outdoor café on a hot summer day. The café, in Zahle, Lebanon, is on the edge of a broad desert valley that stretches out between two mountain ranges, one of them high enough to capture snow every winter and suffer forest fires most summers. Out of the mountains flows enough snowmelt to allow some irrigation from a small desert river, but with climate change and urban growth, most of its water is now pumped from springs and wells. It provides irrigation to nearby pastures for livestock, vineyards for wine, orchards for nuts and fruits, and market gardens for vegetables. Yet these farms are modest in their extent compared with surrounding semiarid rangelands and the ever-expanding swaths of urban and suburban developments. As one elderly farmer lamented to me, “When I came into this valley at night when I was younger, the lights you could see were few and far between, because most of the land was in food production, not in houses and stores. Now when I come over the ridge, all I see are tens of thousands of lights.” Indeed, the valley surrounding the desert city has been home to agriculture for four to five thousand years, as the earliest home to grain production and to winemaking in the region. But despite the antiquity of its diverse food crops, the majority of farmworkers and bakers, fast food cooks and waiters are recent immigrants who have come across the border less than 50 miles away as economic or political refugees. In fact, immigrants from neighboring nations may
44 November /December 2017
outnumber the indigenous desert dwellers that were born and raised in the valley. In part of because these immigrants, the city is blessed with an abundance of cheap but delicious street food, served from pushcarts, food wagons, and hole-in-the-wall take-out restaurants. And yet the older sit-down eating establishments of the city have gained international fame, maintaining a tradition of place-based foods from desert grains, beans, vegetables, and fiery spices that are valued by both the rich and the poor. While residents with the desert city generally feel safe, tourism to the region has declined over the last decade due to political debates about immigration and fear of violence emanating from the other side of the border. And so, the city is struggling to reassert its identity by promoting its unique foods, beverages, and cultural expressions through farmers’ markets, festivals, and other venues. It’s unclear whether such promotion of a “taste of place” will change the city’s trajectory and provide both economic opportunities and health benefits to those who most desperately need them: the poorest urban residents in the oldest, most run-down parts of the city, and the burgeoning populations of undocumented immigrants in surrounding shanty-towns, farms, and pasturelands. (Clockwise from top left): Manoushe needs just a few minutes in a hot oven and it’s ready. Anise seeds from Syria give Arak its exquisite flavor. Kishk is an important staple in the Lebanese pantry. Preparing rose water.
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Kishk nibbles prepared on a hot saj.
There are uncanny similarities between Tucson, Arizona, and Zahle, Lebanon, although the cities are located halfway around the world from one another. Both are desert cities situated at the same latitude and cover the same altitudinal range, with 8,000-9,000 foot mountain ranges above them. While the city of Zahle is smaller, in size, than the city of Tucson, the valleys surrounding the two metro areas have roughly the same populations, especially since 300,000 Syrian refugees began to take refuge in the valley a decade ago. Many are undocumented and live below the poverty level. And most of them—if they can get work at all—labor in the lowest-paying jobs in the food sector, from weeding and hand-harvesting specialty crops to serving as short-order cooks, dishwashers, and waiters. And both cities have been designated UNESCO Cities of Gastronomy—Zahle in 2013 and Tucson in 2015. Like Tucson, Zahle contains a great diversity of cultures, languages, faiths, and food traditions. Sunni and Shia, Druze and Maronite, Catholic and Orthodox faiths have aggregated here. Earlier waves of Armenian and Palestinian refugees settled in the Bekaa Valley after suffering a genocide similar to what Syrians are suffering today. And no matter what else they have left behind or lost, they have kept alive their own remarkable food traditions, for these reinforce their cultural identity and capacity for conviviality like few other human activities. Their oldest restaurant district, the Berdawni—much like South Tucson’s Mexican food district—is approaching its centennial anniversary, and is considered the nursery grounds for the mezze and tapas-like small-plates tradition of the Mediterranean. ound famili ar ?
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And so, Zahle food culture is not static but dynamic. Michel Abboud, a former restaurant owner and the director of Zahle events and a leader in Zahle’s participation in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, welcomes more food festivals, cultural exchanges, and celebrations, as well as professional trainings. “Not many in the city now recognize that Zahle has received this honor,” Abboud confessed to me, “nor how it may attract visitors back to our city.” Zahle’s mayor, Assad Zogheib, an engineer with advanced degrees from the United States, agreed: “Most of our citizens have never heard of UNESCO and don’t use words like ‘gastronomy’ much, in French, English, or Arabic, but they know they have many special foods and beverages that they enjoy only here.” These regional specialties range from the artisanal araq anisettes distilled and then stored in ancient clay jars to the slightly-sour kishks of yogurt kneaded into bulgur wheat and dried in the sun before being rehydrated and mixed into a morning delicacy, to the man’oushe herb-infused flatbread sandwiches made like quesadillas from a wheat tortilla called a saj, and the healthful fruit syrups called sharab. Rami Zurayk, a prolific food justice writer and professor at the American University of Beirut, talked about using the “Lebanese terroir” of traditional foods to attract visitors back to changing desert landscapes like those around Zahle in the Bekaa Valley: “Lebanese cuisine, unlike Lebanese agriculture, is thriving, and this success may well be the last chance of the farm sector. Three cuisines are available in Lebanon: a street cuisine, a restaurant cuisine, and a home cuisine. Most of those whose eyes light up
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Spices sold in bulk at the market (souk).
at the mention of Lebanese food will have probably only ever tasted the street food and the restaurant food. The three cuisines use a lot of traditional products.” Zurayk drilled down on what foods make places like Zahle unique. “Examples of the products include burghul, which has become an international product; some breads, such as marquq and tannur; fruit-based molasses or dibs; and fat-preserved meat, qawarma. Both rich and poor eat these products; in Lebanon, we do not organize conferences to ‘save the terroir,’ and we do not talk about it much. We just eat it. We figure this is the best way to preserve it.” But Zurayk cautioned that promoting the survival and proliferation of these place-based foods does not come without certain risks. “However, as the concepts of terroir and its association with fine food and gastronomy evolve, the prices of some of these products are increasing,” he said. “Concerns are growing that the prices may reach a point where the products only become accessible to the rich and that the producers themselves will have to eat lower-quality products to maximize their cash income. In other words, our interest in terroir may render them elitist.” And yet, Zurayk is hopeful that if the promotion of such foods is done in a manner that intentionally promotes social equity, there will be economic and well as social benefits to the poor. “We need to devise ways to avoid falling into this trap … The problem, however, remains to make the leap from studies and inventories to the use of terroir food products as catalysts for rural development and as tools to
close the inequality gap. To do so, we will have to rely on local development effort, a terroir development, or place-based form of community development.” Whether Tucson or Zahle attempt to use place-based food traditions to leverage change toward greater well-being and social equity, there are daunting challenges. Both state and city governments often tend to favor “big established players” for their investments in community development, not landless immigrants with little capital assets. In both cities, food processing facilities like mills and slaughterhouses are underdeveloped, and older food supply chains (like the once-great Tucson Cooperative Warehouse) within the community have been broken or dismantled. But in both places, there are a growing number of residents—native and immigrant—who are hungry for change. They want to see innovation and appropriate scales of investment in the human assets of their communities so that their children will be fed well and not have to emigrate again to find satisfying work. Only time will tell if their designations as Cities of Gastronomy will help either Zahle or Tucson achieve such goals. But if we know that another desert city is struggling in a similar manner to use food innovations to help the poor, disenfranchised, and refugees in its midst, perhaps we will feel more confident that such a goal is truly worth setting our sights upon. The future of our food must be in our own hands. ✜
Concerns are growing that prices reach a point where the products only become accessible to the rich and that the producers themselves will have to eat lowerquality products.
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Gary Paul Nabhan is senior contributing editor at Edible Baja Arizona.
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Time to Grow Despite the Tohono O’odham’s long agricultural heritage, today many tribal members don’t have access to healthy traditional foods. Some organizations are working to fix that. By Jacelle Ramon-Sauberan | Photography by Scott Griessel
r ick ly pear - glazed chick en ,
pico de gallo with cholla buds, hummus made with white tepary beans—these were some of the foods the Desert Rain Café served in the restaurant located in Sells, on the Tohono O’odham Nation. That is, until they closed on April 28. “We closed the café because there was an opportunity to open in Tucson, rent was too high for us to afford, and it was not feasible anymore,” said Terrol Johnson, the president and CEO of Tohono O’odham Community Action, or TOCA, the organization that owned and ran the café. TOCA opened the café in 2009 as a way to get healthy, traditional O’odham food into the community and to help ameliorate diseases like Type 2 diabetes, which affects 50 percent of tribal members. Johnson said he was upset and sad that he had to close the café. “Eighty percent of our business was coming from the community,” Johnson said. “The other 20 percent was from visitors from around the world.” The café was the only restaurant offering healthy food for those working or living in the Sells area. “When we closed, we heard a lot of feedback from community members,” Johnson said. “This was a place for O’odham to bring visitors and come eat.” Now, there are few options for people to eat a traditional and healthy O’odham meal in Sells unless they cook it at home. Without cooking knowledge, options for lunch and dinner are 52 November /December 2017
a deep-fried meal from the Bashas’ deli or an Indian Taco from a local food vendor. The Tohono O’odham (desert people) have planted, grown, and harvested crops such as squash (ha:l), corn (hun), and tepary beans (bawi) in the Sonoran Desert for thousands of years. Traditional O’odham homelands extend south to Sonora, Mexico, north to Central Arizona, west to the Gulf of California, and east to the San Pedro River, an area named Papagueria by Spanish settlers. Today, the Tohono O’odham Nation (TON) is the secondlargest reservation in the United States. At 2.8 million acres, it is roughly the size of the state of Connecticut. The reservation includes 75 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border, and the Nation has 34,000 tribal members and 11 districts. Despite the size of the Nation and the Tohono O’odham’s agricultural heritage, today many people do not have access to fresh, healthy food. And some tribal members think that the younger generations are not as interested in traditional foods as they should be. However, organizations like TOCA and the San Xavier Cooperative Farm are working to make sure traditional ecological knowledge is passed on, and to increase access to traditional healthy food. Clifford Pablo ( front) and intern DeAnndra Porter work harvesting squash in the community garden at Tohono O’odham Community College.
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Clifford Pablo (right) works with intern Duran Andrews at the TOCC garden to construct a greenhouse.
P ablo grew up helping his grandfather and grandmother farm in the San Xavier District. He would help take care of livestock, plow the fields, and plant traditional foods. “I would go over to my grandparents’, whose land was divided by the freeway, and help do whatever needed to be done in the fields,” Pablo said. “I remember my grandfather made a ditch or canal so when it would rain the water would run into the fields.” Pablo took what his grandfather taught him and made a career in modern and traditional agriculture. He is one of the founders of the San Xavier Cooperative Farm and worked for the Tohono O’odham Farming Authority. Since 2008, Pablo has been working with the Tohono O’odham Community College’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Department. “I try to get young people interested in farming,” Pablo said. Pablo runs an internship program for students from Tohono O’odham Community College (TOCC) to learn about modern farming and traditional knowledge at the college’s one-acre lot. The farm is located at their campus just west of Sells, on the TON. “It is great to have someone like Clifford who’s so knowledgeable to learn from,” said Duran Andrews, who has been an intern for four years. “The internship has kept me motivated to learn about the land, plants, and how we can utilize all of it.” Andrews is in his last semester at TOCC studying life sciences with a focus on agriculture. He plans to earn his bachelor’s degree in either ecology or botany. In 2017, students planted squash, sunflowers, white tepary beans, black and white beans, honeydew melon, pomegranates, lifford
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and 60-day corn. At the main TOCC campus, east of Sells, students also planted watermelon. During the winter, Pablo and his interns will plant vegetables and wheat. Pablo’s interns are in their 20s, but still, he worries about the younger generations not learning the O’odham knowledge of farming, including how to plant, when to harvest and how to cook the traditional foods. “We are trying to educate young people to go out and [farm],” Pablo said. “I worry about the young people, especially the young men.” TOCA’s Johnson can relate. “Through my experiences with the younger generations, I think there are a lot of people interested [in farming] but I think we have to take the time to teach them,” Johnson said. He said that young people expect instant gratification, and that TOCA teaches youth that when working in a field or garden, one needs to have patience and understand it takes time to learn—and to grow. TOCA is a nonprofit organization that was formed in 1996 by Johnson and Tristan Reader with the goal of “creating a healthy, culturally vital, and sustainable community on the Tohono O’odham Nation.” TOCA started as an intern program with 20 interns. “It was planting, weeding, plowing, cleaning. The first harvest the younger ones were surprised and proud of what they did,” Johnson said. “All their hard work had paid off and it helped them on so many different levels.” Today, Johnson sees many of the youth he worked with in 1996, using what they learned from TOCA in their lives, careers, and with their families. “I think over the 20 years
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That is the reality that people are dealing with to this day,” Johnson said. Diabetes is also still prevalent on the TON. According to TOCA’s website, in the 1960s, diabetes was virtually unknown among the Tohono O’odham. Today, more than 50 percent of tribal members develop the disease, among the highest rates in the world. Phyllis Valenzuela, the events coordinator at the San Xavier Cooperative Farm, believes that if O’odham ate more traditional foods, diseases such as diabetes would be less prevalent. “There was never [diabetes] a long time ago, until the government came in and handing out surpluses,” she said. “We try to educate the kids about eating healthy, especially the traditional foods. That way they can get a taste of it and like it.” When Valenzuela is not giving tours or presentations at the co-op farm, she enjoys cooking and baking. She uses what’s grown on the farm to come up with dishes. All the dishes are vegetarian. She bakes with mesquite flour, as it has a natural sweetener. She’s used traditional O’odham squash in pancakes, waﬄes,
we’ve been doing this, it has gotten a little better,” he said. “When you learn about traditional foods you are learning about the words, songs, and legends about them.” TOCA has also worked with the schools on the TON to create gardens. TOCA goes to Indian Oasis Middle School and High School, located on the TON, once a week “to work on the garden and do cooking demos,” Johnson said. “We tell [youth] that you cannot get traditional [O’odham] food in the stores. You have to go out in the desert and get it,” Johnson said. “Having access to those foods that is something we are still trying to do since a lot of tribal members are on food stamps and you can only get certain foods.” In Sells, there is only one grocery store, Bashas’. Some people say their prices are too high. The predicament many tribal members face is paying the prices at Bashas’ or driving more than an hour one-way to a grocery store with more affordable prices. “When you are on a budget, are you going to pick a $3 head of lettuce or 10 ramen packages? (Above) Porter helps with greenhouse construction at the TOCC garden. (Below) The San Xavier Co-op Farm is one location on the TON where young people can learn about agriculture.
moving to Tucson will be a lot easier, in a business sense,” said Johnson. “It will allow us to continue our programs on the reservation and helping O’odham farmers and growers. We will need to look for more traditional foods harvested that we can buy from community members. We have always bought from community members, whether it was cilom (cholla buds), sitol (syrup), mesquite beans, or from our own farm, beans, squash, and corn.” Because the Tucson location will, they hope, increase traﬃc to the restaurant, “We will need more food supplies,” says Johnson. “I hope it will benefit the Nation again.” ✜
and even enchiladas. “You can do a lot with food. You just need to know how to cook it and prepare it,” she said. “Today, a lot of people do not know how to do that.” Valenzuela said that there are a couple of generations of O’odham who did not learn about traditional foods. However, like TOCA, the farm is trying to help change that. “We teach the kids hands on, how to pick it, clean it the traditional and contemporary way,” she said. “We also take people into the kitchen and prepare dishes for lunch.” Valenzuela said, “I tell them, all this is growing in your back yard. You will never go hungry. You just need to learn how to grow it, pick it, and cook it.” She would like to see more tribal members get involved and come to classes, and share what they learn with their families. “I always tell people my door is always open to talk food—or bring me food,” Valenzuela said. In the meantime, TOCA will reopen Desert Rain Café in Tucson in the spring of 2018. “I think
San Xavier Co-op Farm. 8100 Oidak Wog. 520.295.3774. SanXavierCoop.org. TocaOnline.org. Jacelle Ramon-Sauberan is a Tohono O’odham journalist and scholar from the San Xavier District. She is a second-year doctoral student in American Indian studies at the University of Arizona.
Andrews is in his last semester at TOCC studying life sciences with a focus on agriculture. “The internship has kept me motivated to learn about the land, plants, and how we can utilize all of it,” he says.
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Techno Tacos Benjamin Galaz has come a long way since 1994, when he started selling Sonoran-style hot dogs from a trailer on Tucson’s South 12th Avenue. By Edie Jarolim | Photography by Andrew Brown
usion cuisine ,
point-of-sale software, Google trends— these are not terms that spring to mind when you contemplate hot dog vending. But, although he is best known as the founder of BK Carne Asada & Hot Dogs, Benjamin Galaz has embraced all these concepts—and taken them to the next level. No question: The 45-year-old entrepreneur has come a long way since 1993, when he drove a food cart north from Sonora, Mexico. Galaz’s latest venture, a pan-Latin seafood restaurant called El Berraco, is a prototype for one that he plans to introduce to Miami as soon as he irons out the wrinkles in Tucson. In 2018, after he completes a warehouse that will supply ingredients to all his local dining venues, Galaz will create an app to allow locals to order directly from this commissary. Galaz, who dropped out of high school in Tucson in 11th grade, has long been fascinated by the potential of technology to increase food sales. “Twelve years ago, I hired someone full time to teach me how a computer works,” he says. He means that literally. Galaz explains, “I didn’t want to just learn how to use a computer. I wanted to understand what’s inside, how a processor functions, what memory, networking, and hard drives are, and how to integrate all that into a restaurant business.” One way he has done this is with a software program that rotates pictures of menu items across the flat-screen TVs in all his restaurants. “People order what they see,” Galaz says. “If we have an item that is not selling, we ‘expose’ it via these wall pictures. If you see a fish taco 10 times and plain fish only once, you’re going to order the taco.” Galaz calls this approach “narrow marketing,” a way of reaching a specific audience by understanding how the brain works.
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“Marketing is not only about design. It also needs to address the subconscious,” he says. “I’ve been studying this a lot for the past three years, and it’s been working really well.” He has the statistics. His restaurant software tracks the sales of each item from a remote monitor with a graph that’s refreshed every 15 seconds. After five minutes, Galaz can see the line representing the highlighted dish spiking. In total, he says, revenues have risen by 200 percent since he introduced the program. If this all seems rather futuristic, that’s the point. Once, Galaz was shown a sales report from a previous year. He says, “I thought, ‘Why do I want to see what happened in the past?’ We need reports from now, in real time. If you do that, you can make decisions that change the future.” Galaz does some of the tracking himself from his office near Park Avenue and 19th Street, where state-of-the-art computers are dedicated to each restaurant, but he also delegates the task to employees. Other staff members code the software he designs, keep on top of social media, and create graphics and videos. Galaz has eight people working on the tech aspects of his business in his main office in Tucson and another nine in Ciudad Obregón, the second largest city in Sonora. Of course, without an excellent product, all the sales wizardry in the world wouldn’t get people to bite.
Benjamin Galaz is best known as the founder of BK Carne Asada & Hot Dogs, but he’s also embraced technology and “narrow marketing” at his latest venture, El Berraco.
Above: BK Carne Asada & Hot Dogs. Right: El Berraco.
Take BK’s Sonoran-style hot dogs, which won the Travel Channel’s “Food Wars” smackdown against those of another local institution, El Güero Canelo. Although he was born in Tucson, Galaz spent his early years in Nacazori, a mining town in Sonora about 1.5 hours south of Douglas. His uncle owned a restaurant, but two or three times a week, young Benjamin would frequent a cart that sold hot dogs wrapped in bacon and topped with grilled onions, fresh diced tomatoes, mayonnaise, mustard, and Salsa Huichol. These fancy franks were a departure from the standard ballpark variety that were popular throughout Mexico; the cart’s owner, Rolando Mendivil, had brought them up from El Chinal, a small town in southern Sonora. Mendivil eventually taught Galaz how to prepare them and helped him raise the money for his own mobile unit. 64 November /December 2017
By the time he was 16, Galaz had built two food trailers from scratch, doing all the designing and welding himself. He sold seafood from one, burros and hot dogs from the other—but not the Sonoran variety. He didn’t want to compete with his mentor on his home turf, and besides, he was U.S. bound. But when he arrived in Tucson, Galaz was disappointed to learn that his mobile unit didn’t comply with local health department codes; among other things, he needed to install triple sinks. Galaz couldn’t afford to make the adjustments, so he decided to start over. To raise money, he sold the trailer to Daniel Contreras, his sister’s neighbor and a high school friend. He also taught him some of his recipes. Contreras soon started his own Sonoran hot dog and taco business, El Güero Canelo. Perhaps you’ve seen the trailer
parked in front of the original South 12th Avenue location, with the sign, “This is where we began 10-20-93.” You can also find a picture of it on El Güero Canelo’s website, fronted by a bearded, shaggy-haired young Contreras. But it’s the hot dog stand built by the owner of El Güero Canelo’s rival, BK. In June 1994, Galaz started selling Sonoran-style hot dogs from his new trailer, along with carne asada tacos; he claims to be the first in town to grill the meat on mesquite charcoal. “I was also the first one with a free salsa bar,” he says. “Normally you would pay extra for things like guacamole and jalapeños, but I didn’t charge any more.” Galaz soon built a second mobile unit where he sold caramelos and quesadillas. In 1995, he bought a vacant space on South 12th Avenue, parked both food trailers there, and built a roof
over them for shade. He eventually installed a separate kitchen, refrigerator, and restrooms. For his next BK, which debuted in 2005, Galaz converted an existing central Tucson restaurant. He offered table service, as well as a drive-through window, and beer, wine, and cocktails. It was another decade before Galaz marshaled everything he’d learned about the restaurant business, computer technology, marketing techniques, and dining trends to create an entirely new concept. El Berraco opened in 2016 in the former El Mezon del Cobre space, about a block north of the second BK, and highlights Pacific Coast seafood dishes that go from Mexico to South America—and beyond. Galaz took his culinary cue from Mexican dining trends. “If you go to Mazatlán or Puerto Vallarta, you see far more fusion cuisine,
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Think of it as an insider reference to an outlaw culture along influences from other cultures—sushi and even Italian. Tucson the lines of rap music, not as an encouragement to purchase Mexican restaurants have been serving the same seafood illegal substances. preparations for a long time. I thought we were ready for In October, the submarine became the setting for what Galaz something fresh and different.” calls an “afternoon nightclub.” Every Saturday and Sunday He chose a chef from Hermosillo, Claudia Lopez Burquez, to at 3 p.m., computer graphics create the menu. Some dishes, on the flat screens simulate a like the whole marinated, grilled submarine descent. The lights octopus, are south-of-the border dim and then refract with classics that you won’t find colors, the music amps up, the anywhere else in town. Others cocktails flow. At 6 p.m., faux are original creations: The steam and fog signal an ascent, trio of ceviches, for example, and the restaurant becomes a includes a spicy one, mixing restaurant again. scallops and shrimp in a shot Asked what demographic glass rimmed with parsley; a he was aiming at with this sweet-hot one with tropical venture, called @3, Galaz fruits; and a milder fish version says, “My age. Really, from inspired by Peruvian ceviche. the 30s to the 60s. People Even the smallest details are a who don’t want to stay up late little off the beaten path: The because they have things to do salsa, made with yellow chiles, is the next day can party in the creamy, not crudo, and the moist afternoon now.” rice that accompanies most What’s next? A third BK entrées is laced with cilantro. with an open kitchen will be The chef now comes built next to the warehouse in only a couple of times a commissary on Park and 19th month to check on the menu Street in 2018; in total, Galaz but the quality control remains says, he plans to have seven constant. All members of the BKs in Tucson. For now, the kitchen staff who prepare food Miami El Berraco is the only have a tablet with the recipes planned export, but in the for each item. This allows future “we’re going out.” them to check ingredients, He adds, “I love what I do. proportions, and cooking time. It’s not just selling food, it’s But even before you sit doing it differently, and doing down at El Berraco, you know it right. It’s having the best you’re in for an unusual expekitchen, the best recipes, the rience. The decor is as fresh best customer service, and and different as the food. Galaz also having a real view of used all the metalworking skills what’s going on, not relying he had honed on his food carts on guesswork.” to build a metallic frame and Galaz sees his efforts as interior details to transform the benefiting the Tucson restaurestaurant into a faux submarant community in general. rine, replete with portholes in “Every time I start a new the door and windows. project, I try harder to make Why a submarine? A nautical theme was a natural for a seafood The Daiquirini Marinero cocktail at El Berraco it unique, authentic. If owners restaurant, and Galaz wanted reflects the restaurant’s eclectic decor. want to top me, they have to be very creative. They have to something original (“Hard to up their game.” ✜ copy,” as he put it). A Google search led him to a submarine—and to the restaurant’s name. El BK Tacos. 5118 S. 12th Ave. 520.295.0105. BKTacos.com. Berraco, which roughly translates as “badass,” puts the underwater El Berraco. 2960 N. First Ave. 520.620.9828. theme into a context far less innocuous than, say, Disney’s Captain Nemo. The Colombian slang term “berraco” turns up frequently Edie Jarolim is a freelancer who writes mainly about food, in such narcodramas as the “Two Escobars,” “La Reina del Sur,” travel, and dogs. Her latest book is a memoir, Getting Naked and, of course, “Narcos,” which feature submarines custom made for Money: An Accidental Travel Writer Reveals All. to smuggle drugs. 66 November /December 2017
Butterfly Restaurants The Mariposas of the Milpa project is working to build pollinator habitat in central Tucson and to increase community appreciation for the services insects, birds, and bats provide. By Saraiya Kanning | Photography by Julie DeMarre
ur n t - or ange w ings speckled with white, the queen butterflies crowd a single blue flossflower plant in Las Milpitas Community Farm. Sulphur butterflies pass by on papery yellow wings. Figeater beetles drip from the branches of a velvet mesquite. Meanwhile, conservation scientist Sergio Avila and a group of students from the University of Sonora stalk, nets raised, between stands of sunflowers. They are creating a small collection of butterfly specimens to help gardeners at Las Milpitas identify those most common at the farm. Their efforts are part of a larger project called Mariposas of the Milpa, or Butterflies of the Farm, focused on creating pollinator habitat in central Tucson while increasing the community’s appreciation for the services pollinators provide in the food-growing process. A collaboration between the ArizonaSonora Desert Museum and the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, Mariposas of the Milpa connects pollinators to gardens while forming partnerships between organizations and people from diverse walks of life. Pollinators include the insects, birds, and bats that, in the process of gathering their own food, move pollen from one part of a plant to another, enabling fertilization, and thus the production of fruit and seed. Bolstered by two rainy seasons, the Sonoran Desert’s diverse plant life attracts an abundance of pollinators, including more than 700 bee species. This bioregion buzzes, literally, with life.
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Pesticide use, habitat loss, and climate change, however, threaten pollinators around the world. According to Pollinator Partnership, more than 50 percent of managed honey bee colonies in the United States were lost in the last 10 years. According to The Xerces Society, wintering monarch populations in Mexico have declined by 80 percent since 1994, with comparable losses at wintering sites in coastal California. Researchers record smaller declines in numerous other species, including the rufous hummingbird, whose successful transcontinental migration depends upon the health and timing of flowering plants. It’s a frightening trend, considering that a third of our food depends on animal pollination. Mariposas of the Milpa offers strategies at the local level. The Sonoran Desert abounds in native bee species, not to mention other pollinators, and building habitat with local flora can be vital to their conservation. According to Kim Franklin, an entomologist at the ArizonaSonora Desert Museum working alongside Avila, native bees are more specific in the plants they visit than are honey bees, which are introduced from Europe. “Native bees will not just go to any flower,” says Franklin. A male queen butterfly pauses on a blue flossflower at the butterfly garden at Las Milpitas Community Farm. The Mariposas of the Milpa project is working to attract more pollinators like this one to gardens throughout Tucson.
Project partners ( from left) Elena Ortiz, Sergio Avila, and Erick Meza from the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum relax after a pollinator workshop, next to a newly painted hummingbird mural.
Consider cactus bees, which specialize in the pollen and nectar of cactus, mallows, and sunflowers. Or squash and gourd bees, which can be found sleeping in the same flowers they pollinate, those of the family cucurbitaceae. “We are used to the European honey bee, so we think of them as the only pollinator,” says Avila. “If we focus on native bees and we give them what they need, then that ecosystem function is covered. Having a tiny garden in your home will make a huge difference for local bees.” Since its inception in 2015, Mariposas of the Milpa has connected with four schools, contributed more than 500 plants to private gardens, and planted five pollinator gardens in community spaces. Las Milpitas Community Farm provided home for one such garden, which included several varieties of milkweed, a favorite of migrating monarchs. “We grow certain plots just with flowers to attract the pollinators,” says Erick Meza, the farm education coordinator at the Food Bank. “We have learned through this project that pollinators have a really important part in the chain.” Pollinator gardens are butterfly restaurants. “If you’re a bird or a butterfly, and you see the garden from the sky, you see there’s a concentration of food right here,” says Avila, pointing to the ground. In July, Las Milpitas hosted a community night where Avila and student volunteers from the University of Sonora, including undergraduate Luis Grijalva, talked about the role of pollinators in food production. Grijalva hoped to help people realize that “insects are actually animals, alive, not just a thing eating my 70 November /December 2017
tomatoes,” he said. “The desert isn’t this wasteland of death that you usually see in the movies. It’s alive, there’s so much out there.” Grijalva would know. He grew up in the Sonoran Desert outside Hermosillo and fell in love with the variety of insects attracted to one of the few lights near his home. It’s this kind of binational interaction that Avila, himself born in the state of Zacatecas, hopes to cultivate. “Mexico also does conservation,” Avila says, “and we have young scientists like these guys, they are bilingual. It’s breaking a paradigm about Mexico. There’s a lot of value in how we grew up, how we were raised, and how we learned things in school.” Funded by a $68,700 grant from the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), a trinational government organization dedicated to protecting shared environments, the project inspired a collaborative spirit that transcends borders between the United States and Mexico and Canada. Just as butterflies need a garden of diverse plants, conservation efforts need the support of a diverse community. Avila strives to bring pollinator awareness and gardening out of the Desert Museum and into the backyards of people who may not have space or money to grow their own food, and to expand the audience beyond birdwatchers, hobby hikers, and those who already have memberships to conservation organizations. In particular, he believes tapping into the experiences of indigenous people will reveal “books of knowledge that you will never read anywhere,” he says. “They have thousands of years of observation that make their knowledge valuable and true.”
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Kim Franklin, an entomologist at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, studies native bees.
bubbles in Landon Walls’ classroom at Hiaki High School on the Pascua Yaqui Reservation. In the top tier, sprouted from porous volcanic rock, a Yoeme basil reaches toward the light, its flowers gone to seed. Next to a sign that reads “chickens are descendants of dinosaurs, respect your elders,” a door leads to a garden complete with cactus, roses, and fruit trees. For Walls, these are primary teaching tools. In 2012, students taking Walls’ Community Based Education course decided to focus on improving and raising awareness around health and diet. They started by building a garden. Through the hard labor of Hiaki’s students, the dirt lot behind the classroom transformed into a series of sunken beds n aquaponics system
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fed by a rainwater harvesting system that collects runoff from the ramada and gutters. And in 2015, Walls and Avila partnered to bring pollinator education to the garden. As part of the Mariposas of the Milpa project, Avila brought pollinator-attractive starter plants for students to put in the ground. It didn’t take long to observe the effects. “When this is in full bloom, there are so many butterflies and hummingbirds back here, it’s amazing,” says Walls. “You see anywhere from five to eight different types of butterflies, moths as well. We’ll probably get two kinds of hummingbirds.” Students also scatter wildflower seeds throughout the year. “I have a big bag and we just throw them around,” says Walls.
According to Franklin, native bees—like this native male bee, Agapostemon sp.—are more specific in the plants they visit than are honey bees, which are introduced from Europe.
Walls uses pollinator-plant interactions to bring home important lessons. “When you look at the overall world, things work together,” he says. “Humans interact with the natural environment and the natural environment interacts with the humans.” Partnerships with local organizations make the garden sustainable. “It shows the kids that there are so many people that want to help and that have expertise, too, that you’re not alone.” Encouraged by the growth of the school garden, some students began planting flowers and vegetables at home. Those who once expressed dislike for vegetables found they quite liked them after growing them from a seed and harvesting the final product with their own hands. In class, students picked tomatoes and peppers for salsa, brewed tea, and assembled bouquets of roses and
wildflowers to decorate the room. They’ve even worked to bring gardens to the neighboring culture museum and senior center. Hiaki’s students possess a deep sense of ownership and pride for their garden, reinforced by a respect for the interdependent relationship between plants, pollinators, and humans. “Teaching people how to grow their own food, I think it’s one of the most powerful things we can do,” says Avila. “The conservation of natural communities and human communities, at a local level, is an achievable goal.” ✜ Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. DesertMusuem.org. Saraiya Kanning is a freelance writer, silk painter, and birder living in Tucson.
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Pivot · Local
Erik Stanford’s Pivot Produce bridges the divide between local farms and Tucson restaurants. By Margaret Regan Photography by Steven Meckler
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in late summer and Erik Stanford is cruising the Santa Cruz River Farmers’ Market. Mercifully shaded from the raging western sun by the sprawling El Mercado complex, the outdoor market is awash in hot-weather veggies in a rainbow of colors. But it’s an array of cherry tomatoes that gets Stanford’s attention. “These are beautiful,” he exclaims. He’s right. The plump little veggies, most of them round and red, are interspersed with the occasional yellow specimen and even an elongated orange variety. They glisten like jewels in their humble cardboard box. Farmer Bill Stern beams. He’s grown the little beauties down in Arivaca, a lush ranching community near the border, 63 miles southwest of Tucson. Known in recent years for its No More Deaths camp and an influx of Border Patrol agents, Arivaca has also been reviving its old-time farming traditions. “There were hardly any growers in Arivaca 10 years ago,” Stern says. Now there are. “I come up once a week to sell my vegetables,” he explains, all of them grown at the Arivaca Community Garden, a farm he manages for the nonprofit Project PPEP. Stern and his co-workers harvest on Wednesdays with the market in mind, and on Thursdays he makes the trip up I-19 to the market. This week he toted not only those tomatoes, but also garlic, onions, peppers, summer squash, and eggplant. But Stanford mostly has eyes for those tomatoes. He writes Stern a check for $135—45 pounds at $3 a pound—and hefts three boxes’ worth onto a dolly, a low-rider pushcart that’s perfect for moving produce. It’s not that Stanford can eat that many tomatoes in a week. He’s a middleman, as Arizona Illustrated called him, the sole proprietor of Pivot Produce, a one-man enterprise that brings local foods from local farms to local tables in Tucson restaurants. t ’ s a wa r m a f t e r no o n
A bounty of tomatoes, grown in Arivaca and bound for tables in Tucson restaurants.
The Pivot Produce slogan, as his website puts it, is “bridging the gap between local farmers and chefs since 2016.” “I’m dispelling the myth that nothing grows here in the desert,” Stanford says cheerfully. On any given Friday, the day he distributes to his restaurant customers, “I have 40 different items.” Stanford works with about 16 small-scale southern Arizona farms, from Arivaca to Arivaipa, and from Patagonia to tiny Cochise, south of Willcox. There are even a couple of urban Tucson farms on his list, including Dreamf lower Garden, a one-acre spread tucked away in midtown near Country Club and Grant, and Rattlebox Farm, four and a half acres on the banks of the Pantano Wash. “None of them are corporate farms,” he says. “Nobody is bigger than five acres.” All of them farm organically, he notes, even though most of them can’t afford to pay the federal government for the official organic seal of approval. Every Thursday, Stanford buys freshly picked produce from these farmers and then turns around and rapidly re-sells it on Friday to a dozen or so mostly downtown restaurants that cater to locavore customers. Tomatoes picked on Wednesday can land on dinner plates by Friday evening. His biggest buyers are the highvolume 5 Points Market & Restaurant; the year-old Welcome Diner; and the Cup Café in Hotel Congress. Yet he also services smaller outlets, like the food truck Geronimo’s Revenge and Exo Roast Co. Some of his suppliers, like Avalon Farms in Tubac and Forever Yong in Amado, deliver their wares directly to Stanford, but he buys the bulk of his produce at the Santa Cruz River Farmers’ Market. The market keeps him from making too many long drives out to the farms.
Stanford checks in with Betsy Wirt at Mission Garden, one of 16 farms that sell produce through Pivot. 82 November /December 2017
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Stanford is a middleman, a broker bridging the gap between local farms and local restaurants.
“I can stay in downtown Tucson where all my restaurants are,” Stanford says. “And it’s a place for me to meet farmers.” After stocking up on Bill Stern’s wares, Stanford visits half a dozen or more booths, pivoting between shoppers on the crowded walkway. He chit-chats with farmers, writes checks, and loads his trusty dolly up with peppers and garlic and oddly striped eggplants Every so often, when the dolly is groaning under the weight, he wheels it out to the market’s parking lot and hoists the boxes of produce into his old bomber station wagon, a 1986 Chevrolet Celebrity that looks like it won’t make it over the Santa Cruz back to town, let alone to Arivaca. He heads to the table of Lorien Tersey of Dreamflower, where he reels in her specialty chives and nopales—prickly pear pads—for the popular nopal tacos at Exo. “It’s a topnotch 84 November /December 2017
backyard farm, an incredible operation,” Stanford tells me, as I tag along on his rounds. Today Tersey is touting her Asian eggplant. It’s skinny and “not bitter,” she promises. “You cut it up in a stir-fry. You don’t have to salt it.” Across the way from Dreamflower, the San Xavier Co-Op Farm is selling chiles that Stanford covets. The farm, nestled between I-19 and Mission San Xavier del Bac, lies within the Tohono O’odham Nation and hires tribal members. The stand has various prepared foods—mesquite flour, saguaro syrup—but by law Stanford deals only in raw produce. “I don’t sell any prepared food,” he explains. “It’s not legal for me. I’m just moving raw product from one person to another.”
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But he jumps at the chiles and buys 10 pounds. “If I could get 40 pounds, I would,” he says. “I could sell them. There aren’t too many this year.” At the booth for Maggie’s Farm, a Marana spread named for a Bob Dylan tune, Stanford springs for peppers—yellow, orange, red and, surprisingly, purple—along with those mysterious purple and white eggplants. From Sleeping Frog Farms, based in Cascabel, he buys watermelon graced with a rare and tasty yellow fruit, destined to be served up at Welcome Diner. At High Energy Agriculture, also in Marana, Stanford is warmly greeted by Anne Loftfield, a lively white-haired farmer who works on acreage belonging to her son, Greg McGoffin. 86 November /December 2017
“It’s virgin land,” she boasts, “never farmed before. We’re beyond organic. We grow the soil. We do crop rotation. We’re going to the old-fashioned ways with new techniques. We’re getting beautiful soil.” Loftfield says High Energy Agriculture has been getting gorgeous peppers this year, along with garlic and tomatoes. The grasshoppers that have plagued many other tomato farmers have not triumphed at their place: “We tried to make peace with them,” she says, and laughs. Like all the farmers on Stanford’s route, she's delighted that he has helped High Energy Agriculture expand its customer base. “We’re all pulling for him,” she tells me. “He’s part of the puzzle.”
Stanford ( far left) talks shop—or rather, produce—with Brian Smith, the executive chef at Maynards Market & Kitchen.
ar ly on a M onday morning, Stanford is sailing south on I-19 in a big blue minivan borrowed from his partner, Brittany Katter. The Mom van is a more comfortable ride than the station wagon, he says, and at an hour and 15 minutes each way, this is going to be a long trip. He’s headed to a couple of Arivaca farms, including the one run by Bill Stern. Stanford, who just turned 30, tries to devote Monday mornings to visiting new farms on his list, even though, in theory, Monday is his day off. Pivot Produce is breaking even after a year, but Stanford still doesn’t take a salary. So he works four days a week at restaurants part-time to keep himself afloat. At 5 Points Market & Restaurant, he’s the chef for the Sunday
brunch, and at Exo, he’s a chef and menu consultant. Between the four days he puts in at restaurants weekly, and the “four or more days” he says he’s on the job at Pivot, he easily works the proverbial eight days a week. When he started Pivot Produce, he didn’t have much trouble lining up chefs as customers. He saves them a lot of time—to source local produce they can make one call to him, instead of to a dozen different farmers. And he already knew many of them from his half-dozen years of working in Tucson restaurants. The farmers were a harder sell. “The farmers were really skeptical at first,” he says. “It took some time to win them over. A lot of trust needed to be built.”
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Jeronimo “Mo” Madril (left), the owner and chef at Geronimo’s Revenge food truck, purchases produce to prep in the commercial kitchen at IBT's Bar & Food before it is delivered to the food truck.
He volunteered on a few farms, and slowly farmers began to see how he could benefit them, especially when he began writing them reliable weekly checks. And he’s got farming in his family’s not-too-distant past. Stanford grew up in a town called Fall Creek in northwest Wisconsin, but his grandparents had a dairy farm nearby. “I spent a lot of time there but I wasn’t really a farm kid,” he says. “I could be found in the hay loft reading books. I was a city kid coming to play with my cousins.” As boy, he didn’t think about going into the family business—his brother now works with their uncle at the farm—but “at 14 I wanted a job as soon as I could get one,” he says. And a job in a tavern was what was available. He labored as a dishwasher, then a line worker, and then food preparer. After a couple of stabs at college he moved to New Orleans at 19, a year after Katrina hit. He ended up running a Habitat for Humanity kitchen. 88 November /December 2017
“I did the dinners for volunteers and for people in need. I fed 100 to 1,000 people a night. I kind of started to actually enjoy cooking. New Orleans got me inspired about food.” Moving to Tucson in 2010, he worked the breakfast line at the Cup Café for three years, then moved over to 5 Points Market. He learned a lot, he says, from 5 Points’ practice of sourcing foods from nearby farms. “Working there shows me the way it works,” he says, “It was a catalyst for me.” It helped him conceive of a business that would help other restaurants do the same thing, and at the same time bolster local agriculture. And in its own way, Pivot Produce brings him back to the land. At the far end of the winding road to Arivaca, Stanford turns south onto rutted Ruby Road and bounces the van down to the picturesque farm gate. It’s Stanford’s first visit and Bill Stern comes out to greet us with a big smile. It’s a pretty place, with four acres sweeping out from a hill, plants growing in a mix of greenhouses and outdoor beds.
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The place produces turnips, okra, bell peppers, and squash. Long, skinny cayenne peppers, Stern says, yield a ground pepper whose f lavor is “awesome.” There’s no single best seller, Stern says. “As a market farm, it’s all about variety.” Still, David Keller, a worker who’s come out to join the tour, says, “tomatoes take up most of my time.” The luxuriant cherry tomatoes—just like the ones we saw at the farmers’ market—are thriving in the greenhouse, hanging from tall vines like beads on necklace. “We don’t want to plant tomatoes outdoors because of the grasshoppers,” Stern explains. “We put them in the screened greenhouse. We used to have them all outside.” “I’ve heard it’s a bad year for grasshoppers,” Stanford says. It’s more than bad, Keller puts in. “This year is a plague cycle,” he says. “We’re four inches behind in rainfall and the insects are coming out of the hills.” And in fact the grasshoppers are jumping around outside by the dozens, by the hundreds maybe, hopping a foot high in between shrubs, their wings making a rustling sound. The leaves on the okra plants have been “shredded,” Stern says, but “they don’t eat the vegetable.” Luckily, the prize tomatoes are doing fine in the greenhouse, babied along by a swamp cooler that keeps the temperature below 90 degrees. “Between you and the market,” Stern tells Stanford appreciatively, “I sell all those tomatoes.”
After his pickup at the Thursday farmers’ market, Stanford weighs his wares and prices produce for sale to restaurants on Friday. 90 November /December 2017
F r iday , game day for Stanford. Boxes and boxes of veggies are stacked high in a borrowed backyard guesthouse in the Iron Horse neighborhood. Space has been a problem: Pivot Produce needs something bigger, but so far middle-man Stanford hasn’t found what he needs at a price he can pay. He had a multioccupancy deal going in in a large building south of Five Points, but a developer bought the property and all the small businesses were exiled. For now, the cramped guesthouse has to do. t’s
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All else is good though. Helen the hen is walking around outside, clucking contentedly while Stanford works the phone, making calls, answering texts, checking messages on Facebook, making last-minute deals like a Wall Street broker. Someone’s cancelled a tomato order, somebody else unexpectedly wants sweet potatoes. “I took photos of some peppers I had and sent it to the chef at Ermanos on Fourth Avenue,” Stanford says. “He said, `They look great. Bring them over.’”
Stanford regularly visits farms to check in with growers. Paul Buseck (left) at Rattlebox Farm offers Stanford a taste of the week’s okra.
Through all the electronic tumult, Stanford remains calm, methodically grouping the boxes by the restaurants they’ll go to. When all is ready, an hour of hard labor begins. Stanford hoists dozens of 50-pound boxes of veggies and 50-pound sacks of dried pinto beans, balancing them on his shoulder one at a time as he makes the long walk through the yard to the minivan parked by the curb, the station wagon having permanently given up the ghost. Packed with veggies, the van smells good. Bill Stern’s Arivaca cherry tomatoes are en route to 5 Points, Welcome Diner,
Reilly Craft Pizza, and Ermanos. At 5 Points, where the tomatoes will grace every salad, Stanford unloads six boxes, containing not only the tomatoes, but also Tohono O’odham squash, and a bag of pinto beans, destined for the eatery’s popular huevos rancheros. Co-owner Brian Haskins says Pivot Produce is a big help to the restaurant in sourcing foods from small farmers. “We try to keep it local,” he says. “It makes it a lot easier for us and it’s important for the farmers. This is a good thing for Tucson.”
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Stanford visits again with Madril, this time inside Geronimo’s Revenge food truck, parked on Fourth Avenue.
On Sixth Avenue, Stanford pulls the van to a stop at Exo, and carries in sweet potatoes, chiles, and squash. A huge batch of basil elicits joy from a staffer working in the kitchen. “We desperately needed basil,” Rusty Ramirez says, clasping hands over chest in a thank-you prayer. And Ramirez is delighted to get Dreamflower’s nopales, noting, “Our nopal tacos are already gone.” If Haskins is appreciative and Rusty is joyful, Jeronimo “Mo” Madril, owner and chef of Geronimo’s Revenge food truck, is downright ecstatic to get Stanford’s wares. Stanford has brought
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him cherry tomatoes, butternut squash, chiles, and bell peppers to his commissary behind Fourth Avenue. Madril takes a huge chef’s knife, slices off a piece of a San Xavier chile, and takes a taste. He laughs out loud. “Man,” he says, “that’s delicious.” ✜ Pivot Produce. 520.261.8310. PivotProduce.com. Tucson journalist Margaret Regan is the author of two books on immigration, Detained and Deported: Stories of Immigrant Families Under Fire, and The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona Borderlands, both from Beacon Press.
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What’s at Stake in Oak Flat? Resolution Copper’s plan for a copper mine at Oak Flat faces resistance from groups concerned about the mine’s potential impact on the area’s landscape and water. By John Washington Photography by Scott Baxter
N osie S r ., the former chairman of the San Carlos Apache tribe, mimed shutting off a giant water valve. “If I could go wherever you live … and shut the water off. You’re gonna ask, ‘What happened?’ Well,” he answered himself, “you gave all the water to Resolution Copper.” “Water,” Nosie said, “is one hundred percent of life.” Resolution Copper is the latest international conglomerate to darken the door of the copper triangle—the copper-toned corridor in central and southern Arizona. In 2013, Resolution submitted a general plan of operations for a nearly 7,000-acre copper mine that would dig 1.3 miles straight into the earth outside of Superior—a plan that has been met with resistance from the Apache, environmentalists, rock climbers, birders, and other groups. Nosie is concerned about the effect the mine would have on the Oak Flat area, located in Arizona’s Tonto National Forest, about 70 miles east of Phoenix, which he regards as traditional and sacred Apache land. He worries a mining operation would deplete and poison the area’s groundwater. And, because the mine would be located in the national forest, the plan necessitated the privatization of 2,422 acres of public lands in exchange for 5,344 acres of company-owned terra. Copper, the primary metal Resolution Mine will be digging for, is one of Arizona’s fabled five Cs—boosting the state economy by about $3.5 billion a year. The company has already sunk a whopping $1.3 billion into planning operations for the proposed mine and remains at least 10 years away from potentially pulling the first flecks of copper from the ground. Copper isn’t just any metal. It is the most conductive, malleable, recyclable, myriad-use, and mostly affordable metal on earth. Unless you’re a hermit or in freefall, you can’t live a few minutes without using something containing copper. Copper is in your computer, your cell phone, your car, your walls, your toaster, your solar panels, your cook pots, your door knob—copper is a natural antiseptic—and every single new electronic gizmo you buy, plan to buy, or add to your overcrowded junk drawer. Altogether, the world uses about 20 million tons of copper a year. And, with more cars, more computers, more cell phones, and more houses—all of it “smart,” wired, and copper-dependent— being built all the time, demand for the metal is increasing by the second. Resolution Copper, hungry to get digging, disputes the deleterious environmental impacts of the mine, claiming effects on the water table would be minimal and would leave the surrounding land safe from contamination. The company even disputes, or at least politely declines to acknowledge, the sacredness of the Oak Flat area, known to the Apache as Chich’il Bildagoteel. Nosie, meanwhile, told me that Oak Flat is for Apaches what Mount Sinai is for Jews and Christians.
At the Oak Flat campground, Wendsler Nosie, Sr., the former chairman of the San Carlos Apache tribe, holds an abalone shell and feathers that are used in prayer.
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o s i e i n v i t e d M e into his home one evening in mid-July. He wore blue jeans, a black T-shirt, and a black bandana; his black hair fell straight down the side of his face. He is one of the few Chiricahua Apaches in the San Carlos region; his great grandfather rode with Geronimo. His wife, Theresa, presented us with bowls of acorn stew—made with acorns harvested from Oak Flat. The three (and only three) ingredients in the stew were acorn, beef, and water. Theresa brought out a Maxwell coffee can filled with ground acorns, explaining that it was enough to feed hundreds of people. I took a pinch. It was powerfully delicious, almost warm in my mouth, like ground walnut, but earthier, denser, and without quite the sting of walnut. The stew (thick, with the hunks of beef cooked
An old stack from the original Magma Copper mining operation in Superior.
to cut-with-a-spoon tenderness) was probably the most flavorful meal I’d had in weeks, and there wasn’t a single spice. “This is what they’re destroying,” Nosie said. “We got these acorns at Oak Flat. These acorns don’t grow in San Carlos,” he said, referring to the reservation. I asked him what Oak Flat meant to him. “Now,” he said, pausing, “it means death.” Reacting to the serious concerns expressed by Nosie and others, Resolution Copper counters with a lot of promises. They claim the environmental impact won’t be nearly as destructive as some fear. There are aquitards—natural fault barriers deep inside the rock—that basically compartmentalize the zone they will be mining, which means groundwater outside of the aquitard-isolated
area will not be affected. And the rare, beautiful, and critically endangered hedgehog cactus, which grows in the area Resolution will be digging, is being cultivated by the company in nurseries and planted back into the desert. “We can help save a species,” Vicky Peacey, senior manager of permitting and approvals, told me. And as for mitigating factors: As many as 1,000 jobs may come to the area, the company claims, though it’s unclear how many of those jobs will go to locals. Resolution is also investing in STEM education and has already hired local youth. The defense goes on. Undoubtedly, the mine will lift Superior’s short-term economy. With about 200 miners kicking up the dust in town (Resolution is already digging exploratory shafts and building infrastructure), a downtown hotel is under restoration, a steakhouse is being
built, and there seems to be a perpetual line of large men holding giant Styrofoam cups at the local Circle K’s soda fountain. Peacey trumpeted how skills learned by these miners are easily transferable to other industries. The campground itself, the sacred Apache grounds, the company promises, will remain open as long as it is safe, and after it’s not safe they’re offering to build another campground close to Picketpost Mountain. The promises are grand, but there are still serious and unresolved issues. And a promise is only a promise. As Bill Carter, author of Boom, Bust, Boom, wrote, “No large-scale copper mine has ever not had an adverse effect on the surrounding groundwater.” Not to mention adverse effects on the landscape, the endangered plants, animals, and sacred indigenous sites.
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Randy Serraglio is the Southwest conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), which advocates against both the Rosemont and the Resolution mines.
to use the block caving method to extract the copper, which means they will dig a 7,000to 10,000-foot shaft—and then start carving out a horizontal corridor to extract the ore (mineral-rich rock) from below, carting it back to the vertical shaft and then elevatoring it up to the surface. It’s sort of like liposuctioning the earth, but sucking out rocks instead of fat. There are only two active block cave mining sites in the United States, both of which are tiny compared to what Resolution will be, which is one reason it’s hard to predict the effects on the land and watershed. Resolution estimates that the ground surface will eventually sink around 1,000 feet—into what is termed a “cone of depression.” Before any rock is extracted, however, the mining zone needs to be dewatered—it’s hard to mine while you’re esolution Plans
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swimming—which is cause for some concern. Resolution is already sucking water out of the proposed site at the rate of approximately 500 gallons a minute, or about 600,000 gallons a day. Resolution claims that pumping all that water out will have minimal effect, due in part to the natural aquitards, those fault lines that act as a sort of underground levee—barriers that might protect the surrounding area from being dewatered. The water they’re currently siphoning out is treated, piped 27 miles away, mixed with water from the Colorado River, and then used to irrigate farmland. “It’s fair to ask the question: In the arid Southwest, could it be that certain ore deposits are so impactful and require so much water that they should be left in the ground?” said James T. Wells, an independent hydrologist with L. Everett & Associates, who counseled the San Carlos Apaches on the environmental impact
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Tents in the Oak Flat campground are part of the Apache Stronghold, a grassroots group of organizers protecting Oak Flat.
of the proposed mine. He studied the project for three years, wrote a report, and issued a long letter describing his findings. According to Wells, the mine would demand much more water than Resolution would be able to take out of the local water table (approximately 5 billion gallons a year) requiring them to tap deeper into the Colorado River water supply, which could have consequences for all of Baja Arizona. “In an era of immensely limited water supply,” Wells asked, “with scientists projecting even more limited water supply to the Colorado River basin, does it make sense to commit to a 40-year project?” The mine, Wells estimated, would need the equivalent water supply of a city with a population of about 150,000 people, roughly the population of Tempe. Wells also described the potential danger of “acid mine drainage.” When minerals and metals buried deep in the earth are exposed to water or oxygen, they form sulphuric acid, which “mobilizes metals remaining in the rock” and contaminates any remaining water. Wells described “a significant threat of acidification” from the Resolution mine, which would continue for potentially hundreds of years. Though Resolution claims that surrounding watersheds are protected, Wells notes that groundwater is dynamic. “We don’t have enough information to know how decades of disturbance will affect the area,” he told me.
f controversy wer e gold ,
Resolution would be a rush. Everywhere I dig in this story I seem to strike it rich. Example: the Land Exchange bill, which granted the 2,400 acres of copper-rich federal land where Resolution hopes to start digging, failed to pass 11 times. Senator John McCain tried for seven years, and finally succeeded in passing the bill only in 2014, after slipping it in with a $500 billion “must-pass” omnibus military funding bill. Republican Representative Rick Renzi was indicted and sent to federal prison for corruption related to previous attempts to pass the land swap. Dig a little further: Senator Jeff Flake worked as a lobbyist for Rio Tinto—Resolution Copper’s majority owner—and Rio Tinto affiliates have contributed to McCain’s campaigns. Another lode: Rio Tinto spent years in a back-and-forth court battle fighting charges of genocide for their role in a 10-year civil war in Papua New Guinea, where they operated a copper mine. The charges were eventually dropped. Historically, mining in Arizona has long been linked to the murder and forced removal of native peoples. Mines are noisy, dirty, and destructive. Mines bring congestion, headaches, and occasionally disaster. And, without mines, you wouldn’t be reading this. The bulb above your head wouldn’t glow. Your refrigerator wouldn’t be cold. And the car in your driveway would be about as useful as a yard rock.
“Just one actor has an incredible impact on our water security. It’s unfair and it’s foolish.”
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“This huge mine is just too dangerous to get a free pass,” the is at the heart of the controversy over CBD wrote in a statement. another Baja Arizona mining project, the Rosemont In 2012, the EPA similarly skewered the Forest Service for not Mine. The Canadian mining company Hudbay “adequately assess[ing] the potentially significant environmental Minerals’ quest for copper would carve an enormous hunk out impacts of the proposed project,” calling its Environmental of the Santa Rita Mountains. Instead of block cave mining, the Impact Survey one of the worst ever published. The EPA wrote Rosemont mine would use the cruder and more traditional that the “proposed project will method—open pit—which result in significant degradawould excise a load of mountain tion to waters.” Likewise, in near Barrel Canyon, only about 2015, a Maricopa County 30 miles south of Tucson. Superior Court judge ruled “Cienega Creek provides that the Arizona Department 20 percent of Tucson’s waterof Environmental Quality was shed,” said Randy Serraglio, “arbitrary and capricious” in its Southwest conservation decision to give clearance to the advocate for the Center for mine. An appeals court, in 2016, Biological Diversity (CBD), however, reinstated the permit. whi ch a d v o c a t e s a g a i ns t Serraglio tried to sum it up both the Rosemont and the for me: “Modern mining is Resolution mines. Writing incredibly destructive … they are in the Arizona Daily Star, going so deep they are impacting UA hydrology professor regional aquifers … changing Jennifer McIntosh asserted hydrology at a fundamental that Cienega Creek contains level. And that is profoundly “some of the highest quality dangerous. They are creating a riparian woodland, riverine, perpetual drain on the aquifer. and cienega wetlands in I mean [in] perpetuity,” he said. Arizona.” Depending on who “The sum total of water they you ask, the creek will either will remove is equivalent to tens be sucked dry, contaminated, of thousands of family homes. or left pristinely untouched. Just one actor has an incredible Serraglio, thin and goateed, impact on our water security. with a knack for both old-timey It’s unfair and it’s foolish,” sayings (“like shooting the Serraglio said. broad side of a barn”) and I asked him and others distilling complicated environadvocating against the mine mental studies into ear-perking what we would do without apothegms (“Mining companies the copper that these mines are part of a global gambling provide. Roger Featherstone, syndicate—basically organized of the Arizona Mining Reform crime”), has been fighting to Coalition (which advocates derail the Rosemont mine against the mine), explained that project for 20 years, first as the existing mines across the world campaign coordinator for Save are operating at less than full the Scenic Santa Ritas, and now capacity. “Until they [increase] with the Center for Biological operating capacity, and we do a Diversity. In the summer of better job recycling, we don’t 2017, the Forest Service issued need more mines,” he said. He a final Record of Decision, Archaeologist John Welch said, of the area around Oak Flat, “The creator blamed a lot of the copper craze greenlighting the mine, though made no mistake: Every single plant here is either edible or medicinal.” on commodity manipulations. Serraglio and others promise Copper prices are set by an antiquated, twice-daily, Masonican ongoing legal battle to stop it. The 20-plus-year back-andseeming meeting of the London Mercantile Exchange, in which forth legal slog reflects what many mining companies have to go a dozen financiers from Barclays, J.P. Morgan, and other metalthrough before starting to dig. “The impacts of these projects trading companies (part of what they refer to as, no kidding, “the are so broad, so deep, so dangerous,” Serraglio explained, ring”) buy, sell, and set the global copper price. “that we need to take our time evaluating them sufficiently.” Shifting the conversation back to Oak Flat, Serraglio told me, Which is exactly why he, along with other groups against the “There are places where you could put a mine, and places where Rosemont mine, sees the Forest Service’s decision as premature you should not put a mine. Period. Oak Flat—it’s sacred land.” and “motivated by politics and corruption.” roundwater
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he P inal M ountains , one of the few areas of the world where piñon trees and saguaros share habitat, may be one of the last American homes to the ocelot. Along with that rare, lithe, and beautiful feline, the Arizona hedgehog cactus, the black-chinned sparrow, Costa’s hummingbird, Lewis’s woodpecker, and the gray vireo are all threatened by the proposed mine. “Getting an ocelot on camera would be frosting on the cake,” Featherstone said to me, as he opened the security box
on his wildlife camera in a canyon in Oak Flat in late May. Featherstone is a nimble, large-bellied man with a bushy gray moustache and soul patch. He’s a veteran of Earth First! and other environmental movements and curses like a pirate, though he has a soft spot for nature. He told me, “When I hear a canyon wren, I know I’m in a place I should be.” Featherstone has spent six years placing wildlife cameras and tracking nonhuman visitors in the area, trying to establish a
baseline for which and how many animal residents make the Oak Flat area their home. I joined Featherstone one hot day in May with archaeologist John Welch, who quipped, “The creator made no mistake: Every single plant here is either edible or medicinal.” At one point we came across what Welch thought were the remnants of an Apache livestock corral, probably in use sometime in the late 19th century. We found numerous rhyolite shards and potsherds. Welch showed
me first-hand evidence of long-term Apache presence in the Oak Flat area. And on Featherstone’s cameras, near a spot where we three stripped our clothes and took a dip in a natural pool, we saw a bear who, the morning before, had taken her own dip, and then shook herself dry for the camera. “In the end,” Featherstone told me, “I just want to protect this special place.” (Below) Rock formations near the base of Apache Leap, east of Superior.
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A peeling mural on an old building on Main Street depicts the heyday of mining in Superior.
e f f B u n k e l m a n n , the interim dean of Science, Business, and Math at Central Arizona College, is a member of the Superior Community Working Group, which was formed by Resolution Copper to address various sticking points about the proposed mine. He is cautiously in favor of digging. Or, as he put it: “I’m not one hundred percent against the mine.” He described his concerns—about the environment in general, the watershed, and the tailings—but also knows how hard it can be to live in a mining town that doesn’t have a mine. Bunkelmann moved to San Manuel, just east of Oracle, only six months before the San Manuel Mine began shutting down operations, in 1999, and witnessed the exodus of its residents left suddenly unemployed, the shuttering of schools, and the decline of the local economy. I also spoke with Mila Besich-Lira, mayor of Superior and a fourth-generation resident, whose great-grandparents came from Croatia and Mexico to work in the mines. A mine supporter, she has taken a political approach, trying to work with Resolution on establishing a code of conduct for the mine-community relationship. She told me the two parties are engaged “kind of like in an arranged marriage,” which, in my understanding, may mean wreckage as much as abiding bliss. In 2013 the previous mayor and city council took an official position against the mine. Currently, the city is not picking a side, but with the mayor personally in favor and “the average person hopeful,” as
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Besich-Lira told me, she is working with Resolution to “create a better community.” (Resolution claims that more than 80 percent of Superior residents support the mine. The handful of residents I chatted with—all of whom either worked in mining or had family in the industry—were all in favor.) Besich-Lira hopes to help Superior become not “just a mining town, but a town with a mine”—a town that has an arboretum and research facility, ecotourism opportunities, a national forest, as well as hiking trails. A town that could survive with or without the quest for copper. Another local group has a different approach. A proclamation signed by San Carlos Apache Tribe Chairman Terry Rambler states, “We must remind the world that Resolution Copper represents a dark and pernicious force of foreign interests, one that seeks to justify their mine as a matter of economics and jobs, but that no matter what they say they cannot justify the spiritual and environmental harm the mine will have.” The proclamation refers to the project as a “nightmare,” as well as a threat to religious freedom, and “our beliefs, our spiritual lives, the very foundation of our language.” It is signed by leaders not only of the San Carlos Apache but also the Tohono O’odham Nation, Yavapai-Apache Tribe, Havasupai Tribe, Kaibab Paiute Tribe, Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians, Hualapai Tribe, the Navajo Tribe, and religious organizations and leaders from around the country.
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television in Nosie’s family room hangs a framed 1881 photo of his grandparents, titled “Chief Nosie and wife of the Chiricahuas.” The other walls are covered in large photos of his daughters participating in sunrise ceremonies—elaborate coming of age ceremonies in which girls go through rituals, including being sprayed with a mixture of cornmeal and clay. In recent years, Apache girls are starting to have their sunrise ceremonies at Oak Flat. Apaches have spent centuries pushing back against colonial policies of extermination and assimilation. Archaeologist John Welch traces the correlation between the rise of mining in Arizona and the decimation of the Apache and Yavapai. The Apache “occupied the GlobeMiami mining district up until the 1870s, and then they didn’t. They were extirpated,” Welch told me. Mining magnates in the 19th century, Welch explained, “wanted clear and unencumbered access” to mineral rights—a desire that translated into the killing and relocation of Native people in order to entice essential capital investments from Europe. This has been what Apache people have been struggling against in Arizona since the 19th century. Nosie referred to his parents and grandparents, forced onto the reservation, as POWs. I asked Nosie if he thinks Resolution will eventually dig a mine. “No,” he said. “There’s too much. The water. The animals. The religious aspects. The contamination. I have faith in all the people.” He paused. “If Arizona people put pressure on our leaders … the mine can be stopped. There are too many wrongs. It’s that simple.” When I asked Nosie about the long legacy of Apache resistance to colonialism, he described his changing attitude toward the government. They’re no longer his principal adversary. Rather, it is the corporations, he explained, who are tearing apart the environment and traditional life. You have a choice between living a corporate life, he told me, or a community life. In his view, the mine will be another step in the dismantling of community life and the advance toward corporate life. It is, he said, the “corporation which destroys the future.” Nosie explained the Apache distinction between male mountains—which are bare, rocky, have no water and little life—and female mountains—areas like Mount Graham and Oak Flat, where there are natural foods and medicines. “If you’re going to dig a mine,” Nosie said. “At least do it on a male mountain. Not a female mountain.” bov e a flat scr een
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out of Superior, after passing through the Queen Creek tunnel, you burst into view of a skyline of variegated hoodoos, which stand as if in guard of Oak Flat. The surrounding umber red of the rock and the startling green of the spring-drenched piñons and mesquite, the occasional arm shafts of saguaros or the yellow spike of agave—it all adds up to the feeling of something holy. When I tried to clarify Resolution’s position on whether Oak Flat was sacred ground or not, I was met with consistent dithering. On a conference call with three Resolution employees, including Vicky Peacey and Tara Kitcheyan, Resolution’s senior adviser on Native American affairs, Peacey told me, “Some say it’s sacred and some say it isn’t. We don’t really get involved in that conversation.” She continued: “If some people say it’s special, then can we avoid some of the areas they believe are special? If not, can we minimize the impact?” Special, however, is not the same as sacred. I had to ask multiple times for a direct response from Kitcheyan. Finally, Kitcheyan responded: “I don’t want to speak on behalf of anybody.” There are multiple clans which make up the people generally referred to as Apache, and she said in her tradition, Oak Flat was not a sacred site. Later, I spoke with Kitcheyan’s cousin, Karen Jones, one of the few Apache members of the Superior Community Working Group, who, though concerned about the environmental impacts of the mine, repeated to me that, as she was taught, Oak Flat is not one of the traditional sacred sites. Peacey told me: “Who are we to dispute what people believe? Don’t all views get respected and have a voice?” I pointed out that digging the mine would be disputing a belief—it’s either saying that the claim Oak Flat is a sacred space is invalid, or that it is valid but not sacred or significant enough to stop Oak Flat’s destruction. “All land is important,” Peacey replied. “And all water is important.” Vernelda Grant, director and tribal archaeologist of the San Carlos Apache Tribe Historic Preservation and Archaeology Department, told me that Apaches have been using Oak Flat and the surrounding area for food and medicinal purposes, as well as holding various tribal and personal ceremonies there for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Only in the last few centuries have they been called upon “to prove that we have been present in Oak Flat for all these years,” Grant explained. “Our ways of life did not include documenting and keeping records of areas or property. We roamed free within the area bound by holy mountains that are alive with prayer. Mountains that we believe our creator made for us to live within.” riving east
A proposed drilling site in the Oak Flat area.
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wa s s ta n d i n g on an overlook platform next to Resolution’s No. 9 and 10 shafts with Mike Beton, admiring the stunning view of the boulder strewn chaparral of Oak Flat. Beton, Resolution’s native affairs coordinator, is a large, chummy, young employee who stars in cheery promotional videos for the company. When I first met him and started taking notes in Resolution’s Superior headquarters, a PR employee stopped me and requested that I ask each time I wanted to have a comment on the record. As we were going to spend the next few hours together, touring the mining facilities, I asked if all of it could be on the record. My request was denied. When I followed up, after our interview, asking if some of Beton’s seemingly candid comments about the mine and the state of the Apache tribe could be included on the record, my request was again denied. On a reservation with soaring unemployment and a poverty rate of about 40 percent, jobs seemed to be the mine’s biggest boon. “A lot of the individuals [on the San Carlos Reservation] live a hard-knock life,” Kitcheyan told me. “I had some hard knocks just like my fellow tribal members. I realize the need for employment and education. I understand they want to stop surviving and start living.”
The mine would bring significant financial opportunities to the Apache people, but it would also, perhaps, bring devastating environmental impacts, as well as the destruction of a sacred site. Once more, Apaches are forced to choose between two bad offerings. Mine or don’t mine. Assimilate or be marginalized. Run or fight. While Beton was kept mum by Resolution’s PR machine, Nosie had an answer for me. Education and agriculture, he said, are two paths to the future. And, as he sees it, an untouched Oak Flat is necessary for both—for cultural and spiritual continuity, as well as for the necessary clean water for their crops. Even as the sacredness of the site remains in dispute, there are numerous cultural and archeological sites in peril in the Oak Flat region. According to Scott Wood, the Tonto National Forest archaeologist, Oak Flat contains “the single largest Apache archaeological site currently known,” as well as hundreds of other nearby sites. Vernelda Grant said, “The entire place is significant and holy.” As I was leaving Nosie’s home, after hours of conversation, he tried to squeeze in one more description. “Oak Flat is a grocery store, a hospital, a church. It’s a community of its own. For 40 years of [mining], they want to destroy it forever.” Wells, the hydrologist, said, “the consequences” of digging one of the largest copper mines in North America “are permanent. There is no reclamation for a mine like this. The reclamation for the collapse zone is a big sturdy fence.”
at Oak Flat or in the Santa Ritas? Either way, some people will lose—and lose either billions of dollars or priceless religious grounds. Is Oak Flat as sacred as Nosie insists? Or has Oak Flat been synthesized into a symbol of centuries of marginalization, oppression, and extermination? Either way, the symbolic value of Oak Flat is encouraging in those against the mine expressions not of rage but of a deep sympathy toward the earth—as well as a critique of extractive capitalism. “Capitalism,” Serraglio said, “has so distorted our perception and relationship to the land that it’s become profoundly dangerous. It just breeds irresponsibility.” If we continue down the path of intensive consumption— gobbling and trashing resources, burning oil, scrapping metal, and clear-cutting trees—we will need more and more copper. The Resolution team is right: All land is sacred, not just Oak Flat. But Nosie is also right: All environmental sacrilege is devastating, and devastating to what makes us human. Serraglio described mining as the “profligate consumption of resources.” We buy and discard, buy and discard. Cars, phones, computers, and houses today are all electronic, plastic, and copperfilled whizbangs. Maybe the question is simpler, and much more difficult, than the question of to mine or not to mine. And maybe the answer does not lie in the question of to dig or not to dig, but: how does the way we live affect the planet we live on? ✜ hould ther e be a mine
John Washington is a writer and translator. He is a contributor for The Nation, where he writes about immigration and border politics. Find him on Twitter @jbwashing.
The drilling rig installed by Resolution will drill approximately 7,000 feet down, and one mile out horizontally.
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Skills for self-sufficient living & eating
Growing Citrus Here’s hoping that life gives you lemons. By Amy Belk | Illustrations by Adela Antoinette
hen I talk to gardeners who are new to Arizona,
they’re often most excited about finally getting to grow citrus trees. For years, they’ve been dreaming of plucking lemons—and oranges and kumquats—from their own backyards. Arizona is one of only four states in the United States growing citrus commercially—indeed, one of the first things that we learn about Arizona history is that this tangy fruit is one of the five C’s that played a crucial role in our state’s early development, along with copper, cattle, cotton, and climate. Around 1970, at our state’s production peak, Arizona had 80,000 acres of commercial citrus orchards across low-lying, frost-free areas of Yuma, Pinal, and Maricopa counties. Many of the groves in the Phoenix area were lost to urban development, and Yuma is the center of our state’s citrus industry today. California, Florida, and Texas produce the bulk of most types of citrus, with Arizona making moderate contributions here and there, mostly of lemons and tangerines. We come in second place (of two contestants) with our lemon production. California still tops us there by around 20 million boxes a year. Arizona’s commercial production may be relatively modest, but judging by the number of citrus trees in our landscapes and the boxes of free fruit that begin showing up in breakrooms every November, home production in Arizona is doing just fine. Some say it’s our amiable winter, with its hint of cold weather, that makes our citrus taste sweeter than the rest. But in some parts of Baja Arizona,
the winter can bring more than just a hint of cold weather. It’s easy to be caught unprepared for that first cold snap because it often comes without much warning. Our plants can get sideswiped, too. Since we don’t always get clues from Mother Nature that things are about to get chilly, you may need to coax your citrus trees into dormancy by slowly reducing how often you water in the months leading up to your area’s first winter freeze. In Douglas and Bisbee this happens around Nov. 3, in Tucson around Nov. 25, and in Ajo around Dec. 25. We want our citrus trees to be dormant when it freezes because fresh, new growth is more sensitive to cold temperatures. Older growth, older trees, and dormant trees are hardier, but younger trees and trees with lots of new growth can take quite a hit. Each frozen branch becomes a wound, and the tree must use stored energy to seal off lots of these little wounds at once while fighting off bacterial and fungal opportunists. Older trees are likely to have enough stored energy to produce more foliage and recover, but young trees may not have enough “storage space” to be so well prepared. Those of us in areas prone to freezing may want to read the University of Arizona publication “Protecting a Citrus Tree From Cold” for detailed information about frost protection, or Tony Sarah’s article “Winterizing Citrus” at EdibleBajaArizona.com for the short and sweet version. A couple of points that both articles make are worth repeating here. The first is that the various types of citrus have different cold tolerances. Kumquats are the hardiest,
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down into the high teens. Mandarins (tangerines), sweet oranges, limequats, and Meyer lemons are hardy to 24-26 degrees, while tangelos and grapefruits prefer 26-28 degree lows. Lemons and limes are the least hardy, and will suffer damage when exposed to temperatures below 30 and 32 degrees, respectively. The other point is that a well-hydrated tree will tolerate cold temperatures better than a thirsty one. Watering recommendations often seem counterintuitive, and this is one of those cases, but you should water your plants a day or two before a freeze. If leaves are curling and the branches are limp it’s likely to take more significant damage. There’s an important distinction to be made here between water amount and water frequency. Watering frequency changes regularly with the seasons and other environmental conditions, while watering amount changes slowly (increases) as the tree ages. To promote deep rooting, the experts at the University of Arizona recommend watering to a depth of two to three feet every time you water an established citrus tree. Soils with high amounts of clay must be watered slowly to get water down to this depth, but they dry out slowly, too. Water moves more freely through sandy or gravelly soils, requiring less time to water to the proper depth, but more frequent water and fertilizer applications. Getting to know your soil is one of the first steps to determining the watering needs of your tree. A soil probe is a great tool for figuring out how deep the water is going and where the soil is dry. It’s a long, smooth rod with a pointed end that moves easily through damp soil and stops where the soil is dry. Once you’ve determined how long it takes for water to get to the proper depth in your soil with your watering method of choice, you can determine how frequently to water by allowing the top six inches of soil to dry out between water applications. Much of Baja Arizona sticks to feeding citrus trees around Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day, and Labor Day. There are fertilizers that are specifically formulated for citrus trees, and the standard balanced fertilizers (like a 10-10-10 formula) can be used as well. Avoid using a slow-release fertilizer in September if you live in a frost-prone area, as it may encourage new growth through winter. New trees don’t need any fertilizer until they’re established, and only limited amounts, if any, for the first year after planting. If a properly planted citrus tree is being watered and fertilized correctly, it should require minimal maintenance otherwise. Except for occasional removal of suckers that sprout up from the roots (or anywhere else below the graft point) very little pruning is necessary. Lower branches are left alone to help protect the trunk from sunburn, and the canopy maintains a naturally rounded form on its own. There aren’t many pests to worry about, either. The most common citrus pests that I see in Tucson (thrips and leafminers) cause mostly ornamental damage. There are a few caterpillars that may eat up a small branch or two, most notably the orange dog caterpillar, which fools potential predators by disguising itself as bird poop. I’ll usually leave them alone if it’s a large tree that won’t miss a few leaves. If the tree is young or taking too much damage then you can knock caterpillars back by hand-picking them or spraying them with an organic pesticide that is safe to use on edibles. 122 November /December 2017
The No. 1 pest to watch out for right now is the Asian citrus psyllid. This tiny insect can spread a disease called citrus greening, which would wreak havoc on our citrus industry as it already has in Florida, Texas, and California. The Arizona Department of Agriculture is asking those of us with citrus trees at home to learn the signs and symptoms of the pest and the disease, and refrain from bringing citrus into Arizona from any other state. The Asian citrus psyllid adult is tiny, about the size of an aphid, with mottled brown wings. The nymph stage of the insect is probably easier to notice because it produces white, waxy tubules that begin to build up on tender new leaves and branches where the insects are gathered. Insects shouldn’t be taken to a nursery for identification. Instead, call your county extension office or the Arizona Department of Agriculture for help. Citrus greening, the bacterial disease known as Huanglongbing, hasn’t been spotted yet in Arizona, but it can take a tree up to two years to show symptoms of the disease. If you’ve identified the Asian citrus psyllid on your citrus tree then you should watch for asymmetrical yellow splotching on leaves, and lopsided fruit that tastes salty and bitter. The symptoms of citrus greening can be confused with other more common problems, such as nutrient deficiency, but these symptoms are often the same on each side of the leaf, while the mottled yellow spots caused by citrus greening are completely different on the left side of the leaf than they are on the right. Infected trees will decline over five years, and there is no known cure, so it’s important that we stay vigilant to protect Arizona’s citrus. Another good reason to buy citrus locally is for the rootstock. Like most fruit trees, citrus trees must be grown from cuttings to get reliable results. You can plant a Meyer lemon seed, but it won’t grow into a Meyer lemon (it will likely have entirely different traits). Unfortunately, a parent tree might not like the soil that we want to grow it in. Our soil has a high pH, which makes many plants unhappy. We get around this problem by grafting cuttings (called scions) onto the roots (called rootstocks) of plants that tolerate our problematic soil conditions. John Babiarz, co-owner of Greenfield Citrus Nursery in Mesa, sees a big difference in the performance of trees grown on anything other than the Seville sour rootstock, which tolerates the soil of the Salt River Valley. The trees out of Yuma are more often on a Carrizo C35 rootstock, a trifoliate hybrid that tolerates sandy, rocky soils, but doesn’t do well in the Salt River Valley. Citrus trees purchased at big box stores are likely to have come from a nursery growing trees for an entirely different market, and Babiarz suspects this is often the culprit when homeowners have major problems getting their nonlocally purchased trees to grow. He recommends purchasing from a reputable nursery that purchases or grows trees for the local market. Greenfield Citrus Nursery will host an annual Master Gardener Citrus Clinic on Jan. 20. It’s worth a day trip to Mesa for the experts, speakers, beekeepers, plant sales, and tasting table. The University of Arizona also has detailed publications on growing citrus available online, and our county extension agents and master gardeners are extremely helpful and knowledgable. ✜ Amy Belk is a garden writer and photographer, a certified arborist, and a certified nursery professional who has been learning from her garden for 16 years. She and her husband homestead on a little piece of the desert in the heart of Tucson.
Urban Birds Tucson Audubon’s Habitat at Home program is working to build a community that flocks together. By Karen Peterson | Illustrations by Adela Antoinette
he upland region of the greater Sonoran Desert is a
rain-infused oasis teeming with plants and animals. Our slice of this magnificent desert, we generally assume, begins just beyond the boundaries of Tucson’s paved urban jungle. City dwellers are comforted by thinking about how lucky we are to have all that wildness just a short drive or bike ride away. Not so. Birds in particular are willing and pleased to join us exactly where we live. Our homes and buildings, yards, patios, and decks—when properly designed—are well suited for what helps birds thrive in the city: shade, water, flowers for nectar, insects for protein, trees, and saguaros and other such green and woody places for hiding, breeding, nesting, and fledging their young. This peaceable coexistence is possible with minimal physical or financial output, and it is exactly what Tucson Audubon Society is hoping to inspire through their program, Habitat at Home, a participatory educational DIY program—complete with workbooks, checklists, and access to experts—designed to encourage avian interaction for all who live in our sprawling valley. While focused on city residents, the program is also aimed at guiding anyone with outdoor spaces devoid of, or in need of, more natural native growth. Tucson Audubon hopes Habitat at Home will also encourage interaction between human neighbors on behalf of our region’s birds as a first and important step in protecting and sustaining what we have long admired from a distance. “Large needs start on a small scale,” says Maddox Wolfe, the Arizona field organizer for the national Audubon Society and a Tucson resident.
For the national organization, the Tucson Audubon-initiated program is a poster child for change it believes is sorely needed. According to Audubon’s 2014 groundbreaking study, nearly half the bird species in North America are “seriously threatened” by the impacts of climate change on their habitats. Within the study, adds Wolfe, are estimates that 41 percent of migratory neotropical songbirds are at risk. “Many of those birds come through Tucson,” says Wolfe. “Southeast Arizona is an extremely important bird migration corridor. The question is what can we do now, immediately, to help protect them.” One answer is to expand livable habitats—to share our space through simple alterations to our human-built landscapes. As important as it is to help protect avian populations, there is another benefit to inviting birds into our yards. Having birds singing and cavorting around us is just plain joyful, and there are plenty of opportunities for Tucsonans to reap the good cheer. Tucson and southeastern Arizona are world-famous for hosting roughly 500 bird species, hummingbirds among them, which either live here yearround or drop by as they migrate along the Central Flyway. “Birds do good things for our psyche and soul,” says ecologist Jonathan Horst, Tucson Audubon’s director of conservation and research. As the Habitat at Home program promotes, it is as easy as choosing the right kind of plants—those with red, nectar-producing, trumpet-shaped flowers like penstemon or desert honeysuckle—to attract hummingbirds, whose hyper-flight antics and curiosity can make even the most cynical among us crack a smile.
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“Plant it and they will come,” says Wolfe. “It’s uncanny how birds can find plants.” The Habitat at Home program is organized into four tiers, from hummingbird level, the most basic and accessible in terms of cost and space limitations, to cardinal, the gold standard. Each level builds on the other in terms of modifications needed to attract birds, starting with the obvious—native plants—as well as water harvesting techniques, the addition of biomass material to replicate wild growing spaces, even outdoor lighting. “We’re encouraging people to be dark sky-compliant,” says Wolfe, referring to recommendations from the Tucson-based International Dark-Sky Association on how to reduce light pollution. “Outdoor lights should point downward, not upward,” she says. “Light can have a disorienting impact on migrating night birds, which can be thrown off course and fly into buildings.” 126 November /December 2017
For Horst, Habitat at Home allows Tucson Audubon Society to incorporate underpinnings of “reconciliation ecology,” a field of conservation that embraces in situ human-wildlife coexistence, championed by Michael L. Rosenzweig in his 2003 book, Win-Win Ecology: How the Earth’s Species Can Survive in the Midst of Human Enterprise. A biologist at the University of Arizona and the recently retired director of Tumamoc Hill, Rosenzweig cofounded the Tucson Bird Count, now managed by Tucson Audubon. “Reconciliation ecology instantly resonated with me as it makes an intuitive leap forward in engaging people with conservation,” says Horst. “You can actually do some cool things in your yard to support biodiversity.” Like creating a minihabitat by stashing wood debris and rocks under creosote or other native shrubs and letting the natural grass, even seasonal weeds, grow.
This simple arrangement will almost instantaneously attract desert finches, small, sociable, colorful birds that gather in flocks and sing as they chase each other around. Finches appreciate these minihabitats, using them as a home base to hide from predators like hawks. Another bonus, says Horst: Debris will likely attract lizards, which in turn, depending on the layout and location of your property, attract our most famous birds, mad-dashing roadrunners. Just as minor tweaks to our human landscapes can exponentially increase the number of birds in our yards, the same can be said of the Habitat at Home program: One household takes the Habitat at Home challenge, then another, and another. Pretty soon, an entire neighborhood could unite itself behind the concept. Neighborhoods could even band together to create their own urban bird corridors. To help inspire community activism, the fee to join the Habitat at Home program ($12 for Audubon members and $15 for
nonmembers) includes not only instruction material but also an official Audubon placard identifying individual yards for their birdfriendly landscaping—conversation pieces that just might inspire passers-by to join the effort. “The community aspect is one of the most important aspects of the program, the deeper meaning behind it,” says Wolfe. “Birds are great communicators. They bring people together.” ✜ For more information on Habitat at Home, visit TucsonAudubon.org. To learn how climate change is affecting North American birds, read the Audubon Climate Report at Climate.Audubon.org. Tucson-based writer Karen Peterson has written extensively on issues of sustainability and climate change adaptations.
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Victory Begins at Home Southweﬆ Victory Gardens aims to bui�d a more se�f-re�iant community, ﬆarting in the backyar�. By Joe Watson | Photography by Andrew Brown
egetable gardens aren’t just business to Brandon
Merchant, the founder and owner of Tucson’s Southwest Victory Gardens. They’re peacemakers—symbols of community, American idealism, and civic pride. “When I was first thinking of a name for the business, I had a bunch of generic ideas—things like Tucson Raised Bed Gardens, and so forth,” says Merchant, who is 33. “But I kept coming back to the victory gardens concept because, for me, it evoked something more than just a backyard garden. What I do is a backyard garden with a purpose.” Victory gardens, or war gardens, were grown during both World War I and World War II to aid the American war effort by reducing stress on the nation’s food supply. Propaganda posters proclaimed that “seeds of victory assure fruits of peace,” and implored citizens to “dig on.” The message was successfully communicated. At the height of WW II, around 20 million victory gardens, according to historians, produced approximately 8 million tons of food, which—at that time—was more than 40 percent of all the fruits and vegetables eaten in the United States. “There was a very real, very palpable, very apparent benefit to having a garden,” Merchant says. Nearly 75 years later, Merchant and Southwest Victory Gardens (SVG) are part of a nationwide resurgence of self-suﬃciency via local, organic farming and sustainable agriculture. Merchant, who launched SVG in 2013 after moving to Tucson from Phoenix following the stock market crash of 2008, sees backyard gardening much like jury duty, he told me one recent morning over breakfast at Casa Santa Rosa in South Tucson. “Growing a garden is a patriotic thing, like being a part of civil society,” says Merchant, a Southern California native who grew up 128 November /December 2017
in Yuma. “If all of us knew where our food came from, there’d be greater appreciation for it, we’d be less wasteful. We’d be more, sort of, in touch with plants and nature.” Juliana Piccillo says that’s exactly why she hired Merchant back in 2014 to install an organic vegetable garden in her backyard in midtown Tucson. “I wanted to grow everything that I consumed,” says Piccillo, a local documentary filmmaker whose home includes lush gardens in the back and front of her house. Piccillo says she found out about SVG through a Facebook gardening group and decided that Merchant—who frequently posted tips on improving one’s soil quality—could help her grow more of the vegetables she likes to eat and buy less of at the grocery store. “I really liked that when Brandon was working with me he wanted to know what my goals were, how much of my produce would come from the garden, how much I wanted to work at it, things like that,” Piccillo says. “I haven’t gotten to growing 100 percent of what I eat, but I’m getting there. I eat from my garden year-round, and I credit Brandon with that. He helped me plan for that season and for upcoming seasons.” Merchant, a punk rock guitarist in high school, says that during the recession he was inspired by the DIY culture of punk rock to pursue gardening. “Honestly, I just sort of taught myself. I read books, and I started gardening,” Merchant says. “I grew up a punk rocker and we had this do-it-yourself attitude. If you wanted a T-shirt, you made yourself a T-shirt. If you wanted tight pants, you stitched yourself some tight pants. You wanted a record, you put it out.” Brandon Merchant founded Southwest Victory Gardens to help people “backyard garden with a purpose.”
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Merchant teaches gardening classes across Pima County, including at the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona.
He worked part time at a bookstore and read Peter Singer’s The Ethics of What We Eat and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan’s 2006 eye-opening best seller surveying the landscape of the American food system. Merchant moved on to gardening books, including Dave Owens’ Extreme Gardening. He attended gardening classes at the University of Arizona’s Garden Kitchen in South Tucson and the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona— classes he eventually started teaching himself. And, finally, after hearing a story on NPR about two men who had started their own backyard garden installation business, Merchant thought, Hey, I can do that! With small business loans and crowd funding, Merchant says he started SVG “from the ground up.” His first client, Anne Barrett, says she heard of Merchant through local farmers’ markets and the Food Bank. Initially, she says, she just wanted to help someone grow his business. “I started asking around about someone who might know something about vegetable gardens, and Brandon’s name kept coming up,” says Barrett who has a sprawling property in midtown’s historic Blenman-Elm neighborhood. Four years later, Barrett has a lot to show for her faith and good will, including five three-feet-high planters—with tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, and other vegetables—a large chicken coop, and a compost bin, all of which were built and installed by Merchant. When Barrett—who travels frequently for her job with a Fortune 500 tech company—is out of town, Merchant stops by at least twice a week to maintain the gardens, monitor her high-tech irrigation system, cultivate soil, and feed her chickens. When Merchant first designed Barrett’s beds, she says, “Brandon would pull strings across the whole garden bed. He would perfectly plant seeds in those boxes. He computer graphed everything. And I loved it!” 130 November /December 2017
Piccillo echoes Barrett’s sentiments. “He was meticulous, for sure,” Piccillo says. Merchant says he pays such great attention to detail because so many of his clients are “brand new gardeners, or perhaps a gardener that is new to the area.” “I think, ‘Now, what is this person doing?’ They’re reading books, they’re Googling, they’re joining groups on Facebook, and they are getting all of this information and it is going to be super overwhelming,” he says. “It’s my goal to take all of that information and organize it in a way that makes sense to people, to offer it up in a practical way that they can apply in their gardens immediately.” To that end, Merchant teaches gardening classes across Pima County, from the Food Bank to public libraries in Tucson, Sahuarita, Green Valley, and Ajo. He says that even though he teaches the same classes every season, he’s inspired by the enthusiasm of gardeners who are just starting out. “If I see a picture of someone’s garden, and it’s huge, and bountiful, and lots of big plants and fruit, I sort of just shrug. That doesn’t inspire me very much,” Merchant says. “But when I see someone’s picture of their first dinky little pepper or tiny little tomato, and it’s their first one, and they’re so excited that they just had to take a picture, and their whole dinner will be centered around that one shriveled up little zucchini … To me, that is the most amazing thing, because I remember how I felt when I grew my first dinky little tomato and how great that feeling was. Teaching classes allows me to experience that enthusiasm season after season and I love it.” Victory for America, one dinky little pepper at a time. ✜ Joe Watson is an independent journalist who writes about communitybuilding and social justice. Follow him on Twitter at @heyjoewatson.
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Farm Report What’s in season on Baja Arizona farms.
By Rachel Wehr • Photography by Shelby Thompson
ovember and December bring the fall’s first freezing nights in Baja Arizona and denote a clear end to summer. Leafy greens and root vegetables are characteristic of the season’s harvests. First frost dates range from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31 throughout the region, with earliest frosts falling in southeastern Arizona, and the latest frost dates in the low deserts of the southwestern region of the state. By this time, farmers are well on their way to growing and harvesting fall and winter crops. “We pretty much move inside into our cold frames and we start cranking greens and turnips,” says Bill Stern, manager of Arivaca Community Garden. Arivaca Community Garden has three full-time staff members who focus on food security through growing and local distribution. This area is considerably colder than Tucson overnight in November and December. “We go weeks and weeks in the teens every night,” says Stern. Cold frame greenhouses help protect plants from extreme temperature swings and freezes. “We could be 14 degrees at night and 70 during the day,” says Stern. “That’s a huge change that the plants don’t totally appreciate.” Arivaca Community Garden uses evaporative cooling in greenhouses through November and December to mediate daytime highs. “Things really do well in there especially after the solstice,” says Stern, after which daytime temperatures mellow out. Stern’s success has come about through a series of adaptations to changing conditions over time. “Farming is a constant reaction to what’s going on,” says Stern. “All farmers are inventors at the same time.” 132 November /December 2017
Arivaca Community Garden will be growing kale, chard, turnips, carrots, lettuce greens, arugula, spinach, onions, and garlic through November and December. Among the most popular crops this time of year are spinach and turnips. “Japanese turnips are amazing, and once people realize how good those are, we can’t grow enough,” says Stern. Arivaca Community Garden sells at the Santa Cruz Valley Farmers’ Market and the Arivaca Farmers’ Market and is most recently selling to Pivot Produce, who sources to local restaurants. A common storyline told by Baja Arizona farmers is that this time of year brings a feeling of immense relief. Farmers have been working hard to suppress weeds and insect infestations in the heat, and they get a break with the onset of cool weather. “It’s the easiest time of year for us,” says Alex Atkin, farm manager of Tucson Village Farm, which is part of the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension. “Freezes encourage sweetness of our greens and clear out weed and insect populations.” “If we get deep freezes below 27 degrees, we cover crops that are susceptible like peas and greens,” says Atkin. A “deep freeze” or a “killing freeze” occurs when temperatures are a few degrees below freezing for a longer period of time than a simple frost, about four hours or more. Draping frost cloth over susceptible crops can prolong their life and flavor for the season. At Tucson Village Farm, insect infestations are few and far between this time of year. “The cabbage looper eats our brassicas,” says Atkin. “That’s really the only pest.” The cabbage looper is a small green inchworm that does extensive damage to crops in the
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cabbage family, including broccoli, cauliflower, and kale. Keep an eye out for this pest even in smaller scale winter gardens. Tucson Village Farm will host two public events in November and December: the Harvest Festival on Saturday, Nov. 4, and the Holiday Market on Friday, Dec. 15. Tucson Village Farm hosts a U-Pick Market on site every Tuesday and will sell produce at the Santa Cruz Farmers’ Market starting in early November. The Best Day Ever Garden is also preparing for a bountiful cool season harvest. The garden, located in South Tucson, is an urban farming project focused on empowering children through growing their own food. “We usually get started at about 10 a.m. on Saturday mornings,” says Taylor Moore, the garden coordinator of the Best Day Ever Kids Community Garden Project. A group of kids, most from nearby neighborhoods, will harvest vegetables throughout the day to sell at the farmers’ market on Sunday morning. “The minute that kids can do it on their own, it changes their whole mindset,” says Moore. 134 November /December 2017
“We’re growing a lot of gourds, and we’re using these gourds in projects at schools,” says Moore. “We’ll leave the gourds in the ground until the fi rst freeze, which is usually around Thanksgiving.” The Best Day Ever will sell the gourds at the market and use them in art projects at Hollinger K-8 School, where Moore also volunteers in the school garden. Throughout November and December, The Best Day Ever Garden grows leafy greens like arugula, kale, and chard, root vegetables like beets and turnips, along with cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli. The young gardeners sell their harvest at the St. Philip’s Plaza Farmers’ Market on Sundays. The Best Day Ever Kids Community Garden Project is also searching for mentors to help young gardeners share stories of their experiences with the community. ✜ Rachel Wehr is a Tucson-based freelance journalist. She spends her free time in nature among cactus and pines.
A Cookbook for the Sonoran Desert By Kimi Eisele • Photography by Shelley Kirkwood
I picked a mesquite pod, I was with Brad Lancaster, who minutes earlier had handed me a messenger bag, strapped a ladder onto his Xtracycle bike, and led me to a velvet mesquite tree a few blocks from my house near downtown Tucson. “Taste it, first,” he said. I put the pod in my mouth and bit down. “Is it sweet?” he said. It was. “Good, let’s pick then.” Tasting first is a lesson Lancaster learned from Clifford Pablo, a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation who’d learned it from his grandfather. It’s one Lancaster has since shared with hundreds of people through his work at Desert Harvesters, the grassroots organization dedicated to educating and inspiring people to harvest indigenous, food-bearing plants of the Sonoran Desert and also to plant them in rain-fed gardens. A sweet mesquite pod means a sweet batch of mesquite flour, which you can eat in as many ways as your creative culinary mind can conjure. To help you along in that imagining is a fat new Desert Harvesters cookbook. Eat Mesquite and More: A Cookbook for Sonoran Desert Foods and Living is an expansion of Desert Harvesters’ first publication, Eat Mesquite!: A Cookbook (2011), which included 50 recipes using mesquite flour, culled from community contributions. The new cookbook features mesquite and 16 other wild, native foods, including saguaro fruit, ironwood, acorn, prickly pear fruit, devil’s claw, wolfberry, hackberry, chiltepin, barrel cactus, nopal (prickly pear pad), cholla, desert chia, palo verde, desert flowers, wild greens and desert herbs, and meats (yes, packrat) and insects. HE FIRST TIME
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The book’s 170 recipes were contributed by community members, celebrated chefs, and innovators, including Lori Adkison, Carolyn Niethammer, Barbara Rose, Amy Valdés Schwemm, Joanne Schneider, Patty West, and Janos Wilder. A team of volunteer reviewers sampled nearly every contribution and selected the most replicable and representative ones. “The book is not a regurgitation of recipes and traditional dishes,” Lancaster says, “but a collection of new recipes, many of them representing hybrid creations of different culinary heritages.” Organized by season, the book helps put readers in the frame of mind of a harvester. “It’s a way of celebrating each time of year and the foods that come then,” says Jill Lorenzini, one of the book’s primary authors. The book includes innovative harvesting techniques not previously documented in the ethnobotanical record (at least as far as the Harvesters’ have found), such as the sprouting of bean tree legumes like ironwood and palo verde, contributed by Rose. And while it celebrates innovation, the cookbook is rooted in centuries-old harvesting practices developed by the region’s longest residents. Included in the book are profiles of tradition bearers like Clifford Pablo, Terrol Dew Johnson of Tohono O’odham Community Action, and Stella Tucker, who runs an annual saguaro fruit harvesting camp. These stories reveal the depth of Desert Harvesters’ longtime collaborative practices with indigenous tribes, sharing information, equipment, and staff to educate the public about wild, native foods. While rich in substance and story, this new cookbook is also a manual for how to create public corridors of water, food, wildlife, and shade, and make life healthier for humans and other species in the watershed. And, did I mention the chiltepin flan?
Apple Nut Muffins Contributed by Carlos Nagel Ingredients: ½ cup mesquite flour ½ cup whole wheat flour ½ cup unbleached flour 2 teaspoons baking powder ¼ teaspoon salt 6 tablespoons sugar 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ 1 3 1 ¾ ⅓ ¼
teaspoon ground cloves cup chopped or grated apple eggs teaspoon vanilla extract cup milk cup vegetable oil cup chopped nuts Optional: Barrel cactus seeds, desert chia seeds, or finely chopped nuts.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease muffin tin or use paper liners. In a large bowl, sift and combine flours, baking powder, salt, sugar, and spices, then add apple. In a separate bowl, beat eggs. Add vanilla, milk, and oil to eggs and combine well. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix only until incorporated. Gently fold in nuts. Do not overmix. Pour into muffin tin. Sprinkle chia seeds, barrel cactus seeds, or finely chopped nuts on top of muffins. Bake 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Makes 12 muffins.
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Mesquite Macaroons with Mesquite Flour Dust Contributed by Aaron Wright Ingredients:
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut 1 cup mesquite flour ¼ cup maple syrup or raw honey 3 tablespoons coconut oil 1 teaspoon vanilla (or almond) extract ½ teaspoon sea salt
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix with your hands until a crumbly dough forms. Squeeze small amounts of dough in your palms and then roll into balls or desired size. Refrigerate in an airtight container. Variation: Garnish by rolling balls in flavorful dusting of cacao powder, mesquite flour, coconut crumbs, or something else. Makes 18 to 20 macaroons.
Cholla Bud Fennel Asian Pear Salad Contributed by Ian Fritz Ingredients: 1 cup cholla buds 1 medium fennel bulb 1 medium Asian pear, chilled 5 cups young arugula ⅓ cup grated Parmesan or other hard cheese Olive oil Sherry vinegar Sea salt to taste
De-spine and blanch cholla buds for 60 seconds and drain. Trim the fennel bulb, quarter it lengthwise, and slice it into paper thin slivers. Quarter and core the Asian pears and cut them into thin slices. Combine all ingredients and toss with oil and vinegar to taste. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
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Prickly Pear Chia Gel-O Contributed by Jill Lorenzini This colorful snack or light dessert is loaded with crunch and nutrition and helps keep the body hydrated in hot, dry summer conditions.
8 ounces prickly pear fruit juice concentrate 2 tablespoons raw agave syrup (or more) 4 to 6 tablespoons chia seeds Barrel cactus seeds to garnish 142 142 November November/December /December 2017 2017
In a medium bowl, mix prickly pear juice and agave syrup. Add chia seeds to thickness desired. Divide mixture into 4 small glasses or wine glasses (about 2 ounces per glass). Refrigerate at least 30 minutes or until chia seeds absorb liquid and create a gel. Soaking for 2 to 3 hours or overnight will result in a thicker gel. Garnish with crunchy barrel cactus seeds. Makes 4 servings.
Secret Mesquite Chocolate Chip Cookies Contributed by Gail Ryser Ingredients: 2 ¼ 1 ¼ 1 ½ ½ ¼ ½ ⅔ ⅓ ¼
tablespoons butter cup brown sugar egg cup cooked sweet potato, peeled and mashed tablespoon plain yogurt teaspoon vanilla teaspoon baking soda teaspoon salt teaspoon xanthan gum cup rolled oats cup mesquite flour cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until blended. Add egg and mix until blended. Add sweet potato, yogurt, and vanilla and blend. Add baking soda, salt, xanthan gum, oats, and mesquite flour and mix until all ingredients are well blended. Add chocolate chips and mix until incorporated. Let sit for 30 minutes. Spoon dough onto a clay baking stone or cookie sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned.
Prickly Lassi with Grated Ginger Contributed by Barbara Rose, Bean Tree Farm Ingredients:
1–2 ounces prickly pear juice (use more depending on desired color and flavor) 1 tablespoon (or to taste) lemon or sour orange juice or kombucha 1 pint plain yogurt, kefir, or Greek yogurt Salt, to taste Ginger, freshly grated, to taste 2 tablespoons stevia or other sweetener, to taste 10–12 ice cubes
Blend all ingredients together in blender or by hand. Garnish with drizzle of yogurt. Makes about 20 ounces. Kimi Eisele is a Tucson-based writer and multidisciplinary artist. A peripheral Desert Harvester, she helped edit and write Eat Mesquite and More.
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Hop Hunting Hop scientists, concerned about climate change and seeking genetic diversity, are hunting in Baja Arizona, one of the oldest hop growing regions in North America. By Dennis Newman | Photography by Julius Schlosburg
igh above T ucson , researcher Taylan Morcol steers an old Ford pickup over the roads of Mount Lemmon on a quest reminiscent of Charles Darwin aboard the HMS Beagle. Armed with a GPS device, maps, and botanical records dating back to the 1800s, he’s on the prowl for Humulus lupulus L. var. neomexicanus, the wild hop of the West. Of all the places to go hop hunting, why Arizona? Despite the state’s strong craft beer scene, almost none of the hops used to brew those beers are grown here. Arizona’s hop industry is so small, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) doesn’t bother to report on it. The Hop Growers of America, meanwhile, notes that only one acre of hops was grown here in 2015 and 2016. It’s tempting to think of “Arizona hops” as an oxymoron. Except that Mount Lemmon and the other sky island mountains of Arizona and New Mexico are one of the areas where hops didn’t go extinct during the Ice Age. That puts Baja Arizona in the heart of one of the oldest hop growing regions on the continent.
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Just like the Galapagos Archipelago where Darwin developed his theory of evolution, the sky islands have some of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world. For hop scientists, the isolated populations of neomexicanus that cling to these hillsides are like a treasure map. “These hops are special,” says Paul Matthews, a senior researcher with Hopsteiner, one of the global players in the hop business. Two years ago, Matthews began sending teams of researchers on wild hop hunts in the sky islands. He says that after 150 years of hop breeding, it was time to bring new genetic material in from the wild. If you want to diversify hops, this a great place to start. “We’re always looking for new traits, things that are new and different,” says Matthews. “The origin of hops is in the wild.” He rattles off a list of what they hope to find in the DNA of neomexicanus—new flavors, aromas, and disease resistance. Researchers suspect Arizona’s native hops, which are suited to a hot, dry climate, might provide important genetic diversity as the climate changes.
Despite being more than 1,000 miles from the major hop growing regions of the Pacific Northwest, the grassy plains outside of Elgin are home to Arizona’s first commercial hop farm.
One area of promise is the adaptability of Arizona’s native hops to hot and dry conditions, traits that will come in handy as the climate warms. In the Yakima Valley of Washington, home to three-quarters of the U.S. crop, farmers have been warned to expect less water for irrigation because of climate change. Two years ago, Germany lost 27 percent of its crop to drought and hailstorms. Climate change is a serious issue for hop growers everywhere. Morcol, a student at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, approaches his work with the ethics he learned as a wild crafter, someone who forages for food and medicine. They include always collecting less than 10 percent of a plant, leaving more than enough behind for it to survive. “In the sky islands, these plants are fairly rare,” says Morcol. “We were at the largest known population in the Catalinas and there were maybe no more than 10 plants there.” When USDA researchers came here a decade ago, wild hops were missing in about half the places where they had previously 146 November /December 2017
been found. Matthews suspects climate change as a cause. The irony is that, while Arizona hops have the potential to help their siblings further north adapt to a warmer world, they may not be adaptable enough to survive the changes underway in their native territory. The cones, seeds, stems and other material collected by the teams will be analyzed and tested for disease and the DNA sequenced before they’re added to the USDA Germplasm System. Once in the system, they become public, available to any researcher, breeder, and even homebrewers. The process takes years and Hopsteiner has to wait in line just like everyone else. “We’re anxious to use these hops,” says Matthews. “But we realize they’re a national resource.” With research in Arizona winding down, one of the teams moves to Colorado next year while others continue hunting in the countries of Georgia and Kazakhstan. Eventually Matthews wants to collect samples of wild hops all over the globe.
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Researchers with Hopsteiner have come to Arizona to hunt for Humulus lupulus L. var. neomexicanus, the wild hop of the West.
is to make a quick leap from wild hop into a hopyard, it’ll be because of growers like the Copper Hop Ranch in Elgin. Mel and Tom Pyle settled on the grassy plains in a bright red farmhouse three years ago. Their dream was to open a farm brewery and grow their own ingredients. “We like beer,” says Mel. “I had a winery before and it was a good living. But I didn’t want to buy other people’s stuff. I wanted to take responsibility for what we grew.” Elgin is more than 1,000 miles from the major hop growing regions of the Pacific Northwest. Mel and Tom heard from the naysayers. “They said you could not grow hops down here because it’s too far south,” recalls Mel. “I said ‘bullcrap.’ I like a challenge.” f neomexicanus
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They constructed a hop trellis and planted their first crop, installed a three-barrel brew system, and converted a small barn into a tasting room. Neighbors drop in and help out with chores, while others come by with freshly picked fruit for the Pyle’s farm-made ciders. Today, they grow nearly a dozen domestic varieties of hops as well as their beloved neomexicanus. It hasn’t always been easy. “You can grow them down here,” says Mel, referring to the hops they brought in from the wild. “But it takes a lot of work to make them produce well and be a healthy plant.” The hard work is paying off. Mel shows off plants that, despite being late in the season, are brimming with cones. The Pyles want to grow more and plan to set aside an entire section of the hopyard just for the neomexicanus hop.
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Craft brewers approach wild hops with a wary eye. Neomexicanus and the other wild hops of North America are viewed as unpredictable, with harsh flavors and strong bitterness. One convert is Chris Squires of Ten 55 Brewing in Tucson. “It was delicious,” he says, describing the batch he and his business partner, J.P. Vyborny, brewed with wild neomexicanus that were picked by family friends. “They hand-picked several big garbage bags,” recalls Squires. “We wound up with eight or nine pounds of cones, enough for a pale ale.” Squires and Vyborny were foodies and friends long before they became brewers. They cooked meals together and talked about food and where it comes from. “That fed our development as brewers,” says Squires. “We started asking ourselves those questions. Why can’t we make a beer with ingredients that a farmer has grown here?” Along with native Arizona hops, the recipe for their beer made with all local ingredients included barley grown at BKW Farms in Marana and malted at Hamilton Distillers in Tucson. The yeast came from a previous batch at the brewery. They called it Valentine, a love letter to Arizona. “Our intent was to show off the terroir of Arizona and to use the ingredients that the dirt gave us,” says Squires. Patrons loved the story and Squires says the unique and complex flavors of wheat, grass, and citrus took everyone by surprise. Valentine sold out quickly. “Customers appreciate local,” he says, “and that starts a conversation. ‘You mean no one grows hops here, or they’re hard to find here?’ It starts people asking those questions and that was the goal.” In five years, hop acreage in the U.S. has doubled, largely because of craft brewing’s almost insatiable thirst for more hops. If that growth is to include Baja Arizona, it may depend on craft beer drinkers’ desire for local ingredients and if growers are willing to add acres and grow more varieties of hops. “I would like to see more Arizona hops on the market,” says Squires. “We would use them.” “But we need to see diversity,” he adds. “One or two farms, I don’t know if that’s going to cut it. I think we need to see five, six, or seven. I’d love to see that.” ✜ Copper Hop Ranch. 5 Fairview Lane, Elgin. 520.455.4673. CopperHopRanch.com. Ten 55. 3810 E. 44th St. 520.461.8073. 1055Brewing.com. Hopsteiner. Hopsteiner.com Dennis Newman is a freelance writer in Tucson who has written extensively about farming and how crops become food and beverages.
Mel and Tom Pyle grow nearly a dozen domestic varieties of hops, including neomexicanus. 150 November /December 2017
A Day in
Naco By Ken Lamberton | Photography by Chloé Tarvin
B isbee , where the famous Jimmy’s Hot Dog Company serves up authentic Chicago hot dogs, Naco Highway makes a beeline through the mesquite grassland for the U.S.-Mexico border. A dark line bisects the twin communities of Naco, one in Arizona, the other in Sonora. The place is shotthrough with history. On the Arizona side, just north of town, take West Newell Street to Turquoise Valley Golf, the oldest continuously operated golf course in Arizona. “We’ve been going strong for 109 years,” says Jim Soriano in the pro shop. “Since they used oil on the greens instead of grass.” Gone also are those early days of gravel fairways and hazards made of cactus and ore cars. Today, green grass and pines reach toward the distant Mule Mountains. Call ahead to schedule a outh of
tee time (520.432.3091) to play 18 holes where Pancho Villa marched and Black Jack Pershing camped. If golf isn’t your thing, try The Rattler—named after an infamous 747-yard hole on the course—for breakfast, served all day at the Turquoise Valley restaurant. Pancakes, eggs, and three slices of bacon, served with photos of Jackie Gleason and Arnold Palmer, and a ceramic rattlesnake. Farther west on Newell Street find what remains of Camp Naco, a U.S. Army post built in 1919 as part of a “human fence” along the border. There’s no public access while preservation work continues, but you can still see the camp’s 21 buildings, one of the best examples of adobe architecture of the Mexican Border Defense Construction Project. Naco, Arizona, is the only town in the continental U.S. to be bombed by a foreign
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power. It happened in 1929 during the Escobar/Topete Revolution when rebels had trapped the federales against the border. A one-legged Irish barnstormer named Patrick Murphy agreed to blow them from their trenches using suitcases loaded with dynamite. The problem was that Murphy also frequented Bisbee’s Brewery Gulch. On several occasions, he flew over the wrong Naco, tossing bombs through the roofs of a mercantile and a garage, blowing automobiles and canned goods from their trenches. The buildings still stand. Park your car on South Towner Avenue and walk around the abandoned mining store, past the boarded up windows and doors. Where the stucco has slipped away, look for chips the size of silver dollars in the red brick. Bullet impacts? Hotel Naco once advertised bulletproof rooms for $2 a day.
When you cross, take note of the hand-painted tile art, especially the wall giving tribute to the 1929 Naco Blitzkrieg. Studio Mariposa is a short walk along Avenida Libertad. Look to the left for a building with bright blue colors. Bisbee artist Gretchen Baer worked with Naco children for six years on a mile-long, borderwall mural. Although the artwork was destroyed when officials replaced the painted corrugated metal, Baer has moved on with an art center for local youth. “Art doesn’t stop,” she says. On Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons, you can find Baer and her “Hillary car” parked outside as she teaches art and music to as many as 70 children. Next, you might visit the Historical Museum of Naco (Tuesday-Friday, 9-12 a.m., 3-6 p.m.). Walking south along Avenida Francisco Madero, you’ll pass the
excellent restaurant Asadero los Molcajetes and the statue of Father Miguel Hidalgo with his bald head, crazy eyes, and fists holding the broken chains of Mexican independence. Continue past the children selling candy (bring lots of $1 bills) and the old men pushing food carts under red and blue umbrellas. The museum is in the white government building across from the Super Mercado. Check out the murals in the courtyard and then wander through the museum’s three wings to peruse the old photos of the Revolution, exhibits of Naco’s past native cultures, and the fossil tracks and mastodon bones dug up in the area. The newly remodeled museum, which is nonprofit and citizen-run, “tells the story of the community,” says its director, Elena Maria Borquez. “The border wall doesn’t divide the history of the region.”
Restaurante el Coyote is two blocks south of the museum. Order the carne asada, but if you start in on the chips and salsa, you’ll need two people to finish it. The plate is piled with fried potatoes and a whole roasted green chile, with the freshest guacamole this side of anywhere. Eat it all with warm tortillas so thin you can almost see through them. After lunch, you’ll want a dozen more tortillas to take home, so slip next door to Jireh’s Fabrica de Tortillas de Harina and meet Aida and Agustin Fuentes, owners of the flour tortilla factory. They’ll happily hand you samples and tell you that their flour is non-GMO from Hermosillo and that they sell their tortillas to Santiago’s Mexican Restaurant in Bisbee. Maybe buy dos docenas. When you return to Naco, Arizona, step inside the Gay 90’s Bar and check out the photos of Ronald
7 and Nancy Reagan with Leonel Urcadez, the Gay 90’s owner. Then, peek into the backroom that’s big enough for a Mexican quinceañera, slide past the pool tables, and have a seat at the bar. Someone may buy you a beer. Someone like Jaime Valenzuela, who has lived in Naco his whole life. Bartender Teri Tumbleweed will spread out old photos of the Army general Black Jack Pershing, along with others of Pancho Villa, Brigadier General Tasker H. Bliss, and a rapidfire cannon called Panchito. Urcadez will tell you about when the Reagans arrived. “We always took the day off for it,” he says. “They came several times. They taxidermied the horse that threw Ronald Reagan. They still got that stuffed horse at the ranch in Mexico.” They talk about the way it was when you could leave your door open and people took
care of your place while you were gone. “We had family across the line,” Valenzuela says. “My great grandmother was from Mexico.” The Gay 90’s Bar is Naco’s oldest watering hole (since 1931), and continues to be the center of the community in more ways than location. True West Magazine called it the “Best Name for a Hetero Bar in a Redneck Border Town.” But you won’t find many rednecks here, just friendly people. On both sides. ✜ Ken Lamberton’s latest book, Chasing Arizona, was a 2015 Southwest Book of the Year.
1. The “Hole from Hal” at Turquoise Valley Golf course. 2. Sweet treats in Naco, Sonora. 3. Naco, Sonora’s main plaza. 4. Interior of Restaurante el Coyote. 5. Adobe buildings at Camp Naco. 6. The Gay 90’s Bar, a dive bar in Naco, Arizona. 7. Chips & salsa from Restaurante el Coyote. edible Baja Arizona
INK Reviews by Marguerite Happe
Building a Healthy Economy From the Bottom Up: Harnessing Real-World Experience for Transformative Change By Anthony Flaccavento
University Press of Kentucky 2016
he aRt oF distilling labyrinthine public policy into digestible, utilitarian information is not a facile one. The challenge heightens when an author also attempts to address comprehensive global history, provide thoughtful economic analysis, and maintain readability that allows readers to survive past the first hundred pages after a long day of work. In Building a Healthy Economy From the Bottom Up: Harnessing RealWorld Experience for Transformative Change, Anthony Flaccavento masters all of the above, and exceptionally. Flaccavento’s résumé is both broad and credible. Farming, food, and health issues were brought to the forefront during his 20-plus years as a small-scale, commercial organic farmer in southwest Virginia. During those years, Flaccavento also conducted experiments in central Appalachia in arenas from forestry and wood products to place-based economic development, affordable housing, and more, in attempts to define and refine his conception of a “bottom-up” economy. In 2012, Flaccavento ran for Congress in Virginia’s 9th district, was unopposed for the Democratic nomination but lost in November. Moreover, he is currently working with “national-level progressive economic and political organizations to elevate the issues and concerns of working people, practitioners, and rural communities.” Beginning with a quick, yet thoughtful foreword from Bill McKibben, the book acknowledges the fundamental truths of the earth: “There is more than enough to be depressed about on our planet—if you gave me an hour, I’d still be listing bullet points when the clock ran out,” McKibben writes. However, he notes that what Flaccavento does truly well is not only to identify the depressing things about the economy, public policy, and the perceived futility of change but also to find and elucidate the good: “It’s a moment for connections, and it strikes me that that’s what these wonderful stories that Flaccavento is telling have in common. There’s every reason to despair, but there’s also reason enough to hope that some alternative exists.”
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In some ways, the book is just that: A collection of short stories. It isn’t titled as one, but Flaccavento’s chapters weave in stories of local communities and people undergoing economic and systemic movement: “At their core, all of the transitions share this central characteristic: They are emerging from the bottom up, from small groups of people, local communities, and innovative businesses and organizations.” Flaccavento begins with a tremendously useful and concise economic history, assessment of current economic thinking and practice, and analysis of myths that underlie our fundamental beliefs about the economy. Beginning with Adam Smith and working into today’s economic landscape, the book reads like an economics primer for those who need to brush up on their classical training in Marx, Ricardo, and Smith. For Flaccavento, it is impossible to understand the obstacles our systems face without understanding the economy they exist within. Above all, it is crucial to recognize the power that individual citizens hold in changing those systems: “The economy is really a mix of many economies, beginning with what we do at home and in our communities. It is not an inscrutable or immutable force that cannot be changed by ordinary people like you and me—unless we let it be so.” Once we release the idea that our food systems, and our economy are somehow driven by natural laws that steer it in ways that are “both inevitable and ultimately, good for us,” change can occur. In each of the following sections, Flaccavento identifies a community working to change, shares a story from his own personal life, or reviews an anecdote from his experiences in Appalachia. What the book does particularly well is to write these tales into the narrative, but then structure related public policy analysis into brief and digestible sections. Clear headings and tight organization make the reading experience enjoyable as he traces the transitions that must be made in order to allow the economy to stop solving policy issues from the top down, and instead, let the economy function from the bottom up: The community becomes the heart and soul of the economy. Each section concludes with a helpful bibliography and suggestions for further reading, suggesting that this book is not meant to be the one and only manual of its kind on this topic. Rather, it is meant to begin the conversation from the bottom up, enabling readers to take the rest of their search for information into their own hands. After all, change is up to us.
Letter to a Young Farmer:
How to Live Richly Without Wealth on the New Garden Farm By Gene Logsdon
Chelsea Green Publishing 2017
L ogsdon ’ s book is titled Letter to a Young Farmer, and there can be no doubt that his essays fulfill their titular promise. However, as with many subject-specific books, there is much to be gleaned for any reader regardless of profession. As a love letter to small-scale farming, Logsdon’s stories run the gamut from personal anecdote to philosophical meditation. Grandfatherly tips on saving money while traveling mingle with analyses of the ripening “rurban” (rural/urban) culture and, moreover, what the purpose of our lives actually is. The dexterity with which he transitions from comedic story to sharp economic or philosophic analysis is astonishing, and provides the book with an energy and control often missing in modern books of disjointed, fragmented essays. Logsdon’s thesis is clear: For farmers of any shape and size, the agrarian decentralization movement makes it more possible than at any other time in the past century to live happily, healthfully, and prosperously in their chosen profession. The American novelist and environmental activist Wendell Berry’s invaluable foreword calls attention to the nature of Logsdon’s reflection: “Letter to a Young Farmer is Gene Logsdon’s valedictory statement, written during what he knew was his final illness, finished at virtually the last minute of his working life.” The book caps an extraordinarily long and productive career, in which Logsdon celebrated and fought for a group that he termed The Contrary Farmers of America: “By the testimony of this book, they are contrary to getting ‘big’ at any cost, to buying everything new and expensive that is recommended by experts, to dissolute economic and social behavior, to the fanatical pursuit of ‘more’ and ‘better,’ and to farming as territorial aggression or surface mining.” Money is at the heart of this book. Though the title does not showcase the narrative thread that binds it together, Logsdon’s writing makes it clear that living “richly” is a very personal, and a very meaningful, concept. Occasionally, he muses on an underlying nostalgia for a world without dollars and cents: “Surely it is possible to live life free from the shackles of paper money growth. At least occasionally free.” For Logsdon, utopia comes on the form of farming for pleasure and for modesty, allowing the connection with the earth to literally ene
and figuratively outweigh the modern mansion, a life of travel and exploration, and the possessions that connote our modern conception of success. The book begins with a crucial underlying precept: American farmers are difficult to categorize in a way that other professions are not. Urban farmers are not cattle farmers, dairy farmers in Ohio are not big-business chicken farmers, and rooftop gardens are not million-acre facilities for genetically modified crops. Farmers are not necessarily bound by interest, political affinity, religion, or gender. The one common denominator that all farmers must have in common is far more simple: “Bullheadedness is the common denominator of successful farmers. To succeed, it first helps to be stubborn to a fault.” Essays address not only the character of a farmer, but blend imperative suggestions to young farmers with historical farming narratives and Logsdon’s personal experiences during a long life. Specific information on how, precisely, one can decide whether to raise sheep is followed by advice on how to travel sensibly (and for farmers, preferably rarely). Logsdon analyzes the advantages and disadvantages of small-scale farming by comically musing upon the identity of a cattle barn as a pseudo cow spa. He discusses how to acquire wild food and “attractive landscape plants” without spending any money. Most advice relies upon the relatively small budget of a relatively small farmer, and offers tips and tricks gleaned from the lives of Logsdon and his wife, Carol. Finally, Logsdon concludes by extolling “rural simplicity,” noting that the true fruits of his life have been those that cannot be quantified into dollars: “First of all, time is not money, time is life. And I love my life. I love it so much that I made a decision to pursue it even though it meant that we would not have much money to spend on stuff we didn’t need. Second, I don’t know how to put a true monetary value on this milk, cream, butter, cottage cheese, and all the baked and cooked foods that include these dairy products in their recipes because my kind taste so much better than the store-bought kind.” Logsdon’s diction isn’t elevated, and he shifts between tones and modes in the blink of an eye. However, the reading experience is akin to listening to your grandfather write the sum of his knowledge about life, relationships, love, and happiness, albeit with an unusually comfortable and philosophic spin. Young farmers will learn all they need to know about electric fences and finding love and marriage with a “New Age Farm Partner,” but any human will learn what they need to know about what makes a life, what makes a really good life. Logsdon tells the reader what they know in their hearts, but can be reminded of regularly: That the world, and the earth, and good food, and good relationships will provide more happiness and sustenance than any mansion ever can.
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The Local Food Revolution:
How Humanity Will Feed Itself in Uncertain Times By Michael Brownlee North Atlantic Books 2016
he L ocal F ood R evolution : How Humanity Will Feed Itself in Uncertain Times is not a perfect book. Indeed, the book features numerous moments of slight disorganization, questionable verbosity, and repetitive diction. There is no narrative build, culminating in a call-to-action, unless you count the calls-to-action that fall at the end of nearly every chapter. Brownlee’s prose wavers from clear, crisp scientific research into statements epitomized by the following: “This deep revolution appears to be guided and inspired by the angels of evolution (past and present, visible and invisible) who gently and often silently assist us as they serve a Higher Order seeking to emerge and manifest here, expressing itself through nearly 14 billion years of evolution’s unfolding in this universe …” Angels of evolution, indeed! These caveats are merely meant to function as a forewarning, because this book is simply not an appropriate fit for every reader. However, and most importantly, for many readers, the tenor of Brownlee’s argument and immensely thoughtful, practical, and detailed roadmap for the creation of local foodsheds will outweigh any tricky literary movements. The overarching message, an urgent call for a food revolution via a parallel system of local production, remains tremendously useful for food-focused citizens. Despite the ubiquity of the idea, Brownlee gives it life through personal anecdotes and lessons learned from his own experiences attempting to transition Boulder, Colorado, to producing 25 percent of its food locally. The cofounder of the nonprofit advocacy group Local Food Shift and cofounder of the eponymous magazine, Brownlee writes for “farmers and ranchers, community gardeners, aspiring food entrepreneurs, supply chain venturers, commercial food buyers, restaurateurs, investors, community food activists, nonprofit agencies, policy makers, or local government leaders.” The book is divided into eight parts, each of which address a concern that may interest one of the intended readers: the food history and context of the global food crisis, the relationship
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between climate change and food systems, and most importantly, field notes for the emergence of a foodshed. These field notes, found in Part 6, detail with immense granularity the steps and obstacles for a future food entrepreneur interested in launching food localization efforts. This section undoubtedly holds the most value and the most information in the book, but Brownlee develops his own story with pathos and intensity to provide authority when it comes to these field notes. As a co-initiator of the Boulder Valley Relocalization project, Brownlee discusses the existential challenge that comes as a natural result of working on a problem so overwhelming and awe inspiring. Ultimately, this very fear led to the death of their first efforts: “The project seemed too overwhelming, too out of reach. We knew that the Boulder Valley Relocalization had utterly failed and would be no more.” So, the relocalization team changed their tactics and their approach, though continuing to fight against the industrial food system’s rhetoric of producing enough food to feed the world: “Indeed, the meme of ‘feeding the world’ is essentially an exploitive and manipulative marketing strategy. It is a mantra still mindlessly and ritually chanted by nearly everyone in the industrial food supply chain—an article of near religious faith.” Brownlee outlines and specifies the challenges in what he terms the “revolutionary experiment” of adjusting our nation’s structural systems to support more local food efforts. Moreover, he engages with the problems that would occur if food localization efforts were to actually succeed: As it stands, no city retains enough production capacity nearby to support the demand for local food. So, what next? From farmers’ markets to CSA models, farm stands, neighborhood-supported agriculture operations, buying clubs, co-ops, virtual farmers markets and food hubs, farm-to-table dinners and agritourism, he concludes by offering options for people to partake in the “revolution” to whatever extent they see fit. Many readers and local food supporters may want to participate—they just don’t know how. Brownlee wants to alleviate that inactivity. Whether or not one is ready to become a “revolutionary,” Brownlee would argue that one simply must be something. Feeding ourselves in increasingly uncertain times is no longer something we can afford not to think about. ✜ Marguerite Happe is a writer, English teacher, and editor. Follow her on Instagram @margueritehappe.
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Mortar & Pestle By Gillian Haines | Illustration by Emily Costello
was already lit. Chopped ginger and onions coated in butter and oil, sizzling and softening on the flames. The recipe called for one teaspoon of powdered fennel. I rattled through the spice jars on the wire rack inside the pantry and slumped back when I didn’t find it. I’m a cavalier cook, unafraid to substitute and omit. But this was a 12-spice Indian curry. A cuisine beyond my comfort zone. Who was I to know whether fennel was the one bright taste that enlivened the mix? Searching further, I discovered a pot-bellied jar I’d forgotten I had. Popping the cork from its mouth, I shook a stream of seeds to my hand. Fennel. Small, ridged ovals, curved like commas. Members of the parsley and carrot family. Aha,, I thought. Then, on my hands and knees, I peered into the dark corners of the cupboard beside the kitchen sink and found what I sought. A stone mortar and pestle, bought five years ago and never once used. I had no idea how long it would take to render green seeds to powder. They looked tough-skinned and I prepared myself for labor. Music on. Windows cracked a few inches—in the desert, I welcome rain in any season. A deep breath. But the pestle’s cool smooth heft pleased my hand. The deliberate mashing motion lulled me. Slow and luxurious. The clink of stone as I crowded scurrying seeds against the sides of the bowl. I gazed at the potted geranium, the scattered measuring spoons and spatula, the swollen purple eggplant, and slim carrots rolling from the chopping board. I imagined myself a medieval monk, grinding medicinal tinctures. And then, with the first bruising, the smell burst into my kitchen. Anise. Licorice. It soaked my red tea towels. The separation into chaff and grain occurred quickly. A mix of khaki-colored dust and emptied husks mounded in my bowl, and I wondered if I was supposed to pick out and discard the HE STOVE
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chaff. But although I’m finnicky about severing the veins and arteries from chicken breasts, I never peel tomatoes. Because thrift and fiber are good for us, right? So I ground some more, until the shells became splinters and then grit. Then I tossed the lot into the frypan. Over Kelly Joe Phelps singing “Roll Away the Stone,” raindrops gusted and the warm air in the kitchen shifted. The smell of curry washed through the kitchen. Panes rattled as I fastened the window. I twisted and scraped the wooden spoon, mixing turmeric, cumin, coriander, and fennel until their yellow, brown, and green turned the color of mud. The rain outside became insistent. I thought of my daughter, flying home to me after two semester’s absence in Pennsylvania. The rice pot bubbled and rising steam lifted the lid, emitting a short burst of steam. Swirling suds over the mortar and pestle, I breathed in the slow smoke of a simmering curry. I thought that slow healing was the only kind that stuck. Slow details and slow quiet pleasures. I picked up the striped linen tea towel, a gift from a faraway friend. I ran it around the lip and the hollow of the mortar, along the pestle’s length, listening to drumming on the roof, the lap of water in the bucket at the edge of the porch. I placed the pestle inside the granite bowl and returned mortar and pestle to the cupboard. Not at the back, where they had been stored for so long. At the front. Within easy reach. I was already thinking of molcajete guacamole with ground basil leaves and parmesan. Crushed ginger chutney. Then, I opened the door, to watch the rain becoming wild. ✜ Gillian Haines is an Australian who lives in Tucson. For the past nine years, she has volunteered with Prisoner Visitation and Support to visit four men in the high-security U.S. penitentiary southeast of Tucson.
Pivot Local: Bridging the Farm to Restaurant Divide The Movement to Save Oak Flat • A Baja Arizona Year