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by Alaine Janosy

Youth gardens have become an integral part of spreading Slow Food USA’s message of good, clean, and fair food to young people throughout the country. Conserving and promoting a biologically diverse food system is a critical element of this message so those managing such gardens are encouraged to plant crops found on the Slow Food USA Ark of Taste. This year, Slow Food Northern Arizona co-leader, Gay Chanler, was instrumental in ensuring US Ark of Taste foods were part of the Flagstaff Youth Garden at the Museum of Northern Arizona.

The garden has been experimenting with the three sister crops of the Southwest—corn, beans, and squash—since it began in 2002. This past summer, Anna Normandin, garden coordinator and undergraduate student at Northern Arizona University, wanted to expand the diversity of the garden by growing out eight varieties from the USA Ark of Taste. Her goal was not only to increase the number of heirloom varieties in the garden, but also to find out how these varieties would grow in an arid environment 7,000 feet above sea level.

Anna and Gay worked together during the seed selection process, using information from the L’Itoi Onions, Palomas de Chihuahua Popcorn, Nambe Supreme Chili and Valarde Chili, Amaranth Paiute, New Mexico Tomatillo, Colorado Bolita Beans, Hopi Red Lima Beans, and Hopi Yellow Pole Beans.