Tucson’s future: Food Oasis in the Sonoran Desert

The April Never Too Late newsletter features an article on the potential to re-create Tucson as a  network of Neighborhood Food Parks with our renewable rainfall.

Read the full article here.  

Re-creating Tucson as a network of Desert-adapted Food Parks

Let’s start with some facts.

Food Forest 2000-year-old in Morocco w- textThe farther rain is harvested from where it falls, the less there is.  If you harvest rain at the edge of a roof or road, you can get about 5.5 gallons per square foot in our average year (that’s before Global Climate Change).  If you wait until it gets to our rivers – the only places there is enough water to soak all the way down to our aquifers – you can get about 2 oz.

Why do we care?  Because harvesting and using the 98% or our rain that we currently lose or poorly use will require that we re-create Tucson as an Oasis in the Sonoran Desert.  We will have to transform our neighborhoods into parks.  And turn the whole city into a shady, rain-watered, edible urban forest.

Tough.  And we’ll have to create thousands of jobs for desert arborists, landscapers, harvesters and food producers.  Double tough.

Worst of all, if we turn our neighborhoods into shady places where several million rain-watered trees and shrubs are planted so they slow traffic and make our streets safe and quiet and beautiful, then people might…

  • actually want to get out and walk and bike and get exercise
  • meet their neighbors at neighborhood gathering spots where community gardens are planted
  • have places for their kids and grand kids to play safely
  • see what neighbors are offering or asking at neighborhood message boards, or exchange books and toys at neighborhood exchange kiosks
  • … get together with friends they don’t currently know, but who will become friends.

All kidding aside, if we make maximum use of our water, we can re-create Tucson as a network

Walkable neighborhood - Tucson Barrio Santa Rosa

of Neighborhood Food Parks that turn Tucson into a desert-adapted community that is much more resilient, healthy and better adapted for Global Climate Change.

It will also enable us to create the social networks that will bring our graying population (the
“silver tsunami”) together with people of all ages.  Without this, there are few opportunities to give back to our younger generations or to create the mutual support that will allow us all to face together what is coming our way.

I am currently developing the Feeding Tucson project for the Pima County Food Alliance and Sustainable Tucson.  It is an assessment of Tucson’s potential to create a secure food supply based on our renewable rainfall.  This will support their goals of helping create a complete, local food system for Tucson and a sustainable and resilient community for us all.

Your support is important so I can spend the next 6 months researching and organizing the Feeding Tucson project.  Please visit <StartSomeGood.org/FeedingTucson> to find out more.  And join the Feeding Tucson Champions’ Network <FeedingTucson.org> to help create a secure, nutritious, and beautiful food supply for Tucson.

Tres English

Feeding Tucson project


3 thoughts on “Tucson’s future: Food Oasis in the Sonoran Desert”

  1. How right you are, Richard. Check back in the next couple of days. You should be able to add food resources to the Food Resources Map.

    FYI – In my calculations of our food potential, I am temporarily using 1000# of pods per acre with our average rain. With limited supplemental irrigation for drought periods, we should be able to maintain at least this level of production.

    At this level, we could probably count on 1/4 billion pounds of mesquite beans per year. That’s hundreds of pounds per person.

  2. We can grow food anywhere that we can harvest rain. Mesquites, prickly pears, chollas, agaves, and sotol can all provide us with food. Once we produce the food, we simply have to be able to process and store it. Processing mesquite pods, for example, requires grinding or milling them. Rather than wait until November, we could mill mesquite anytime between July and November. Let’s do some milling in July and create the first press to provide us with pancakes without having to wait until November – sort of like the mesquite nouveau, so to speak!

    Richard Roati

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