Day 149-150: New Mexico, Part 1: Seeds of Change

I laughed when we first saw the license plates: Land of Enchantment.
But I am not laughing now. I am enchanted! haha! It’s true, I love New Mexico!

From what we had dug up on the internet and through friends, we really thought we would be focusing on art and the environment and maybe some metaphysical-type stuff in New Mexico (as well as Ben’s and my favorite- alternative housing). But, New Mexico surprised us from several directions with Native American wisdom where we weren’t even looking for it.

We landed at our wonderful host family’s house in Albuquerque, and ventured forth from there. We revisited our good friend Ted Owens – a wonderful documentary filmmaker who built his own strawbale house off-grid in Coralles. His company, Synchronos Designs, has a great website called Building With Awareness with how-to DVD’s and support for people who want to do the same. We collaborated with Ted for a brief test trip back in February, when we simultaneously finished editing the Bear Necessities video for Treehugger.com and discovered the kinds of preparations that would be necessary to keep from making garbage on this trip. We were more than happy to be reunited with Ted and are excited to watch his film’s progress.

We drove up to Santa Fe as the sun’s hours were dwindling fast and caught the light on this gorgeous cathedral. I hung around in a coffee shop and had food – I seem to be a slave to eating these days – while Ben and Mark had camera in hand to catch passersby. By the time they found me, they were gushing over the sheer wisdom that came out of the mouths of the two guys who stopped to offer their thoughts. I was sorry to have missed them but, like some other fantastic things that have happend on this trip, i will have to enjoy them when everyone else does – when the video comes out.

Clayton Brascoub is Native American himself and is Program Director for TNAFA (Traditional Native American Farmers Association), whose mission it is to ┬ôrevitalize traditional agriculture for spiritual and human need.┬ö Based on the belief that “a sound agriculture base is needed to build healthy communities, including both the physical and spiritual health of their people,” TNAFA aims to develop educational programs to interest young Natives in being a part of the revitalization of their culture. We found Clayton at the Flying Star near the University, having some fish and pumpkin pie. (The Flying Star, incidentally, is the very coolest eatery in Albuquerque – locally owned, all fresh food, and DOGS ARE WELCOME, encouraged even! If you are ever passing through the area, we highly recommend it. I will come back when I have a dog.)

Thoughtful and softspoken, Clayton talked for some time about how agriculture really is connected to everything else, just as we are all related – not just to other people but to all of Creation. TNAFA sees a direct correlation between the decline of farmers and traditional cooks and the decline in physical and social health of Native American society. Clayton is one of many who believe that local Agriculture is a way to bring Community back. That same spirit of sharing is the heart of another group that Clayton is involved with, the non-profit Native Seed Search – a seed conservation organization whose motto, “ancient seeds for modern needs,” speaks to the growing support for bringing back the diversity of crops that sustained us and sustained our soil, and local communities for thousands of years.

He brought out several beautiful ears of colorful corn that were grown from Native seed, as well as squash and beans, and he did not hesitate to warn against the dangers of genetically engineered crops. As he says, “Gene pollution cannot be cleaned up,” and there is no way to keep GMO crops from pollenating other plants via bees, wind, etc. There has even been a lawsuit filed by Monsanto against a farmer whose crops were infected by Monsanto’s next door frankenstein crop, for theft of their patented pollen! (see this article) Which he never wanted in the first place, as it polluted his field! (see also www.seedsofdeception.com and the Institute for Responsible Technology.)

Clayton explained that in the 1940’s {before pesticides} about 7% of crops were lost to pests. “That’s this much,” he observed, pointing to just the last few kernels at the tip of a corncob. “Are we so greedy that we are not even willing to share just that little bit?” Now, with the full use of pesticides we lose about 14%. And every year we need stronger chemicals bc the creatures are evolving to withstand what we are spraying on them. We have somehow managed to double the damage pests can do in just 40 years of pesticide use. Nice. I am personally coming to believe that this is one of the most important things we can do as a people, as a nation, to remain free: Take Back our Seeds.

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