Arizona: Lessons in Water and Local Agriculture


I just returned last night from a glorious week in Arizona. To 30 degree, slush-filled Chicago streets.

Moving on.

I had never been to Southwest before, and the desert delighted and energized me. There is something truly spectacular and regenerating about soaking up sunshine. Really, aren’t we all just  little bean sprouts that need copious amounts of sunlight to thrive? I say yes, some more so than others. Twenty-six Chicago winters have made me realize that I am a sun-thirsty organism.


There is no better place than the desert to turn inward. This time of year, it is silent. No cars, few birds depending on the time of day, and the wind. That’s it. Footsteps crunching in the dirt feels like an resounding disturbance to the tranquility, and if shoes weren’t mandatory on the dry, prickly earth, I would have spent the week without them. The desert is definitely not friendly to bare tootsies. I practiced yoga with breathtaking views of mountains. I ran in red dirt surrounded by desert grasses. Man, while running, I felt like a warrior huntress stalking her kill. In Supplex capris.

How can you not drop in when you’re practicing to this?

The place we stayed is in Cochise, on a little road tucked near Cochise’s Stronghold. The views were amazing, and the nearest “strip” is a fifteen minute drive. This little strip holds a couple cafes, a bar, a Family Dollar (yaaaaaay!), a salon, a gas station, and a few other necessities. Further down the road is the Produce Wagon, a surprisingly hip little store with dry goods, local produce, and coconut water for twice the price you’d pay if you were nearer to civilization.

Lessons learned:

Local food is the norm.

At least more so than many other places I’ve been. Tucson has a pretty prevalent local things going on, at least from the little that I saw. They’ve got a co-op and use local ingredients. But driving down the highway, especially closer to Cochise, there are handfuls of handwritten signs advertising fresh eggs and meat. And the orchards! When I picture orchards, I see rows of lush trees among fluffy grass, heavy with plump, blushing peaches. Pecan and pistachio orchards are leafless, but no less lovely.


The energetics so far away from people and so close to the earth are completely different than the bustling metropolis the majority of all of us inhabit. In Arizona, we went to bed early and woke up early. We ate things that were in season and local. We spent time outside and breathing fresh air, and felt energized and creative. This energy is carrying on into today and I truly believe it’s closely linked to being in tune with the seasons what what the earth is producing.

I know buying local is good. You know buying local is good. Now I’m gonna do something about it. I had been entertaining the idea of participating in a CSA (community supported agriculture) program his summer and feeling so amazing on my little vaycay has closed the deal: I’m doing it. We’re so lucky to have lots of farms that offer CSA programs nearby, so now it’s a question of doing a little research and choosing one. Yeah!

Water. It’s from a well.

Fluoride is not good for you, and there are a dozen other reasons tap water from a municipal water source can be suspect. Bottled water can be even worse for you. I’m going out on a limb here and saying that tested, filtered ground water is a-ok. This is what we drank. While I didn’t drink much straight from the tap, I did drink a heck of a lot of tea and warmed lemon water, and I felt great. At first I was a little hesitant, but taking all things into consideration, this untreated water is most likely better for me than filtered tap water (which still contains fluoride and other contaminants).

The thing is, getting water back to plain water can be expensive. There are various ways to filter fluoride and other baddies out of water, from pitchers to entire home filtration systems. The pitchers that are specially formulated to get rid of fluoride aren’t too far out of my price range, so I may be investing in a brand spankin’ new pitcher filter soon.

Self-sustainability is the way to go.

The small-town mindset seems to be you first produce what you need, then seek outside sources. Owning and raising chickens, alpacas, cows and horses, and growing what food you can. I love this idea and can’t wait to start my own garden once the snow melts. I spent last summer and fall composting, so I’ve got lots of nutrient-rich compost to mix with soil. I have big plans too: heirloom seeds, raised beds…it’s gonna be intense and I’m so excited.

It’s safe to say that this living-from-the-land mentality has completely won me over. It’s different when you see people making it a way of life without question. It makes me begin to wonder what other ways we can take these sustainable ideas and make them work for city living.


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