I reached in the mailbox the other day and pulled out “Resilience,” a beautiful, slick publication from the Quivira Coalition, a nonprofit based in Santa Fe that I have followed and supported since its beginning. I have a fondness for the coalition because 20 years ago I was lucky enough to be at the birth of this gutsy, crazy, doomed-to-fail initiative. The midwives were two conservationists and a renegade rancher who believed that his ranch could support both his family and a healthy ecosystem, a proposition that was radical in those days when environmentalists and ranchers were sworn enemies. The three got to know each other, gradually over several years, and then in 2003 they convened a group of 20 ranchers, environmentalists and scientists to see if they could sell their collaborative dream to “take back the American West from the decades of divisiveness and acrimony that now truly jeopardizes much of what we all love and value” and “restore ecological, social and political health to a landscape that deserves it and so desperately needs it.” [from their website]
They adopted the name Quivira which comes from the term on old Spanish maps to signify uncharted territory. And indeed, they were in uncharted territory. The suggestion that a coalition of farmers, ranchers and environmentalists could succeed was laughed at by some, spat on by others, but a critical number held on, and the result today is a vibrant organization, committed to fostering ecological, economic, and social health through education, innovation, and collaboration.
The journal “Resilience,” sub-titled “a voice of the new agrarianism,” is beautiful, with photographs, art, articles, personal essays and poetry, all relating to the wise stewardship of the western landscape. Sometimes “Resilience” ends up at the bottom of my will-read-when-I-have-nothing-else-to-do pile. But this time, in a nostalgic mood remembering the founders and early voices of the Quivira Coalition, many of whom I knew, I sat down and opened it up. I scanned the list of staff, editors, contributors to this issue, looking for familiar names. I knew no one! How could this be? Who were these people I’d never heard of? What happened to my old comrades, the ones who had the courage and foresight to imagine that ranchers and environmentalist could find common ground?
I was in shock for a moment, and then I broke into a big smile. I looked again to be sure these were all new names for me. Yep, I didn’t know a soul. The next generation — probably the next two generations — had stepped up and filled those old, worn out shoes. In fact, as I read straight through the magazine, I realized these new environmental agrarians were sporting their own footwear! Flip flops, hiking boots, waders, moccasins, barefeet, whatever worked for them. They have adopted the same goals, taken on the same aspirations, but their voices are their own. Their world is bigger, broader, deeper, encompassing culture, community, art, economy, food security, education, justice, all with a foundation of inclusion and compassion. As I read on, I was impressed, and remarkably these days, filled with hope.
I thought about the founders, wonderful guys…yes, mostly guys… who had laid this foundation, and I was grateful to them. I was grateful for their vision and perseverance, and I was grateful for their stepping aside to make way for the next wave of leaders. And most of all, I am grateful to these new committed, creative stewards who are clearly pouring themselves, body and soul, into making our landscapes and our communities healthier, more sustainable and productive for us all.