Resilient Local Seeds Offer Hope In Times Of Change

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by Emily Arasim, NMAA Youth Education Coordinator & Program Assistant

As we come to the close of another exceptionally dry season, acequieros across the state continue to ask each other and the land itself for guidance on how to deal with the concerning conditions we are experiencing.

As an acequia community, we are coming to terms with the truth that what we are seeing is not just another drought cycle, and is not just more of New Mexico’s always unpredictable weather. In fact, we are watching the climate crisis unfold before our eyes, and we are experiencing stresses that are unprecedented in our lifetimes, and also in the larger historic record.

Global climate change is bringing more extreme and unpredictable conditions, including higher temperatures, fiercer winds, and rain and snowfall in patterns that are very different from what we, and previous generations, have relied on. These changes are happening more quickly than they would in a natural cycle, and are being caused by the wasteful and destructive practices of the mainstream global economy. Too many people have forgotten our responsibility to care for the land and live in a humble way, and we are starting to see the results of this disconnection.

Despite all of this pressure, we have many reasons for hope. Across the state, acequia leadership and parciantes are taking many practical and innovative steps to deal with these hard times, including preparing the community for repartimiento water sharing, repairing and improving acequia infrastructure, and thinking deeply about ways to restore the health of the soil so that it can better hold the precious water. Many of us are also expressing our gratitude and trust in our beautiful local, traditional seeds to get us through the years and decades to come.

Our local seeds are one of the most important tools we have to help us deal with climate change and water stress. Over years, decades and centuries, seeds learn and adapt to their climate, which means that our New Mexico seeds that have been saved over generations, have become accustomed to our high desert conditions, cycles of drought and unreliable moisture.

They are strong and determined, just like the people of the land. They know the soil, wind and sun here, something that seeds grown in other regions and bought at the store or online catalogues simply cannot claim.

In particular, the al temporal, or dryland farming seeds that older generations relied upon are becoming even more important, and even more in need of our diligent care and protection.

While our local seeds already have this deep strength within them, we also have to dedicate ourselves to the task of helping them keep on learning and adapting. We must be faithful caregivers who plant them every year and never give up.

The seeds need to experience the hard times we felt this season, so that the ones we save can get just a little stronger in preparation for future seasons, which may have conditions even harsher than what we are experiencing now. Ultimately, a small, wrinkly handful of drought tolerant, survivor seeds, are much more valuable than pounds of seeds that only sprout when they are heavily irrigated.

We also know that these important seeds help restore the strength of our hearts during hard times. When we close our eyes and hold a smooth bean or a heart-shaped kernel of corn in our hands, we feel the protection of those that have come before us, and we feel like we have some power to help make a good life for our children and grandchildren. So long as we keep caring for the seeds, they will care for us. We need eachother now more than ever.

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