Of all the books on growing food, this one deals with what may be the most precious and fragile component of food production: water. After all, fine soil, gracious sunlight, the most carefully chosen seeds and plants, without water, is doomed. How desperate the plight of the farmer or gardener without a way to provide that water.
Until reading this book, I’d never considered the methods of dry land farmers. I didn’t know there was such a thing. I knew, of course, there were vast areas of former arid land made into farmland through irrigation with subterranean water sources. I never knew, however, that there were honest-to-goodness farms in desert regions which use traditional techniques for making the most of what little local rainfall there is.
And what lessons there are for us in these traditional desert farms; like those in the Sahara, the Gobi, the Painted Desert of Colorado, and the highlands of the Arabian desert, among others. And what a great thing the author of this book, Gary Paul Nabhan, has gathered these lessons for us.
Along with making a case for us to sit up and listen no matter how untouched our region is by drought, the book follows up with case stories and techniques for making the most of the water we are given. We are accustomed now to the concept of food miles, in terms of how much fossil fuel it takes to get our groceries to our doors; learn about another important concept, that of how much water it took to bring that piece of fruit, or that sandwich, into being: embedded water. We should look at our hamburgers in a different light with the knowledge that it requires 600 gallons of water to produce a feedlot burger. That’s a lot of water.
Don’t wait until the next drought to begin preparing, at least intellectually, for a new respect for this resource we too often take for granted.
Click below for a chance to win a copy of Nabhan’s book direct from Chelsea Green Publishing.