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Where Our Food Comes from: Retracing Nikolay Vavilov's Quest to End Famine


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The future of our food depends on tiny seeds in orchards and fields the world over. In 1943, one of the first to recognize this fact, the great botanist Nikolay Vavilov, lay dying of starvation in a Soviet prison. But in the years before Stalin jailed him as a scapegoat for the country’s famines, Vavilov had traveled over five continents, collecting hundreds of thousands of seeds in an effort to outline the ancient centers of agricultural diversity and guard against widespread hunger. Now, another remarkable scientist—and vivid storyteller—has retraced his footsteps.


In Where Our Food Comes From, Gary Paul Nabhan weaves together Vavilov’s extraordinary story with his own expeditions to Earth’s richest agricultural landscapes and the cultures that tend them. Retracing Vavilov’s path from Mexico and the Colombian Amazon to the glaciers of the Pamirs in Tajikistan, he draws a vibrant portrait of changes that have occurred since Vavilov’s time and why they matter.


In his travels, Nabhan shows how climate change, free trade policies, genetic engineering, and loss of traditional knowledge are threatening our food supply. Through discussions with local farmers, visits to local outdoor markets, and comparison of his own observations in eleven countries to those recorded in Vavilov’s journals and photos, Nabhan reveals just how much diversity has

already been lost. But he also shows what resilient farmers and scientists in many regions are doing to save the remaining living riches of our world.


It is a cruel irony that Vavilov, a man who spent his life working to foster nutrition, ultimately died from lack of it. In telling his story, Where Our Food Comes From brings to life the intricate relationships among culture, politics, the land, and the future of the world’s food.

About the Author

Gary Paul Nabhan is a world-renowned ethnobiologist, conservationist, and essayist. The author of Why Some Like It Hot, Coming Home to Eat, and many other books and articles, he has been honored with a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship and The John Burroughs Medal for nature writing. Founder and facilitator of the Renewing Americas Food Traditions collaborative, he is currently a Research Social Scientist at the Southwest Center at the University of Arizona. See www.garynabhan.com to track his lecture and photo exhibit schedules.

Table of Contents

Foreword \ Ken Wilson

Chapter 1. The Art Museum and the Seed Bank

Chapter 2. The Hunger Artist and the Horn of Plenty

Chapter 3. Melting Glaciers and Waves of Grain: The Pamirs

Chapter 4. Drought and the Decline of Variety: The Po Valley

Chapter 5. From Breadbasket to Basket Case: The Levant

Chapter 6. Date Palm Oases and Desert Crops: The Maghreb

Chapter 7. Finding Food in Famines Wake: Ethiopia

Chapter 8. Apples and Boomtown Growth: Kazakhstan

Chapter 9. Rediscovering America and Surviving the Dust Bowl: The U.S. Southwest

Chapter10. Logged Forests and Lost Seeds: The Sierra Amazon

Chapter 11. Deep into the Tropical Forests of the Amazon

Chapter 12. The Last Expedition





Product Details

Nabhan, Gary Paul
Shearwater Books
Life Sciences - Botany
Environmental Science
Environmental Conservation & Protection - General
Life Sciences - Horticulture
Agriculture - Agronomy - Crop Science
Scientists - General
Science & Technology
Edition Description:
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
9 x 6 in

Related Subjects

Biography » Science and Technology
Science and Mathematics » Agriculture » Crop Science
Science and Mathematics » Botany » General

Where Our Food Comes from: Retracing Nikolay Vavilov's Quest to End Famine New Compact Disc
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