Preserving Agriculture Among Indians and Native Americans

Managing Editor Quint Smith reflects on the theme of old agricultural appreciation among the peoples of the Americas and India, the theme of the Winter 2015-2016 issue of Heirloom Gardener.

  • Photo by fotolia/laszlolorik

Dear Readers,

When we were planning this issue of the magazine last summer, we began reflecting on all of the wonderful relationships we have built with different communities around the nation and throughout the world because of their fascinatingly diverse agricultural traditions. We couldn’t help but notice how much of the diversity that we now take for granted has deep roots in the Indian subcontinent and with the Native nations of the Americas. We also noticed that this diversity is under threat from the monocropping and GMOs that accompany corporate agriculture. We take comfort in knowing that there are seed warriors both in the Americas and India fighting every day to preserve their rich agricultural legacy.

It is with these incredible contributions in mind that we present you with a very special issue of the Heirloom Gardener. We are excited to introduce you to some new writers and photographers who bring first-hand accounts of the traditions of the communities where they live. We think you will enjoy the beautiful photography of Kelley Fowler, detailing life on the Navajo reservation she calls home.

We begin by sharing the stories of some very precious seeds; from a long-lost 800 year old squash variety brought back from the dead, to the “Vanishing Seeds” of India and one woman’s efforts to preserve them. We will show you the beautiful cornucopia of colors found in the plant kingdom straight from a New Delhi breeder who is known as one of the world’s best. From there, we will tell you about some of the amazing and wild native crops that have long been used on both continents for nutrition, medicine and ceremony. We close by showing you some of the efforts being made to preserve native seed heritage, and then we take you along on a little journey through some of the sights we found on our seed expedition to Northeast India.

We hope you enjoy reading this very special issue of the magazine as much as we enjoyed putting it together for you. We are humbled to be allowed to share the stories of such important agricultural traditions. These are the stories of the ancient traditions which have reached far beyond the peoples with whom they originated to significantly impact so much of the way we live in our modern world.

Happy Reading,

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