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Comment: Publisher: Shearwater<br>Date of Publication: 2015<br>Binding: hardcover<br>Edition: F First Edition<br>Condition: Good<br>Description: First edition, first printing with full number line. This book is in Good Condition. Normal wear to covers and edges, text is clean with no marks, binding tight. Not Ex-Library. 100% Guaranteed.<br>
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Where Our Food Comes From: Retracing Nikolay Vavilov's Quest to End Famine Hardcover – September 12, 2008

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Editorial Reviews


"Where Our Food Comes From is a marked critique of the worldwide simplification of agricultural systems. It pins its hopes on local, traditional agriculture and is sceptical of top-down approaches to increasing food production, such as calls for another 'green revolution'."

"Equal parts travelog, biography and botanical history, Nabhan breathes life into the exploits of Russia's botanical adventurer."
(Science News)

"The book pays homage to a martyr who understood that crop varieties must be preserved for the future food security of the human race. As Nabhan points out, the risk today is no less than in Vavilov's time, and it may be greater."
(The Washington Post Book World)

"In this incredible tale that leaves you wanting more, Nabhan spices up his narrative with sprinkles of historical detail, and shows history's impact on food production and, subsequently, the food security of nations…part history book, part travelogue, and part detailed scientific explanation of why our planet's survival depends on maintaining and guarding the biodiversity of plant life. Not one of these ingredients is any less appealing than the others. Dig in and enjoy it."
(Earth Island Journal)

"A blend of travelogue and biography, Nabhan's book is a sobering reminder that while food is necessary for our survival, it is not always easy to come by, nor is access to food completely under our control."
(Bloomsbury Review)

"Any book with ethnobotanist Nabhan's name on it is going to be worth a read but this one's a grabber. A thriller, a tragedy and self-help—all in one."
(NPR "Splendid Table")

"In this beautifully told nonfiction narrative, Nabhan shows how climate change, economics, genetic engineering, and tiny seeds all over the world will affect our future."
(Yahoo Green)

"Fascinating look at the origins of our food and shows how climate change, free trade policies, genetic engineering, and loss of traditional knowledge are threatening our food supply."

"Where Our Food Comes From is an urgent reminder that we must work to save not only the seeds that feed us but the farmers who grow and select them—those 'vernacular plant breeders' on whom the long-term vitality of those seeds and a diverse agriculture depends."
(The Scientist)

"In this part travelogue, part history, and part treatise, Nabhan ... eloquently describes how current agricultural practices may be helping to erase the diversity that Vavilov was so anxious to preserve...This work would be an excellent resource for discussions and debates."

"9 Must Read Books on Eating Well"

"Ethnobotanist Gary Nabhan has created something here as original as a new species: a book that is equal parts biography, pilgrimage, research, and revelation. Led around the planet by the ghost of his scientific and spiritual muse, Nabhan in turn leads us to a course of action we can actually perform: demand the food we were meant to eat. This moving, often harrowing, always eloquent account shows that by putting humanity back into ecology and vice-versa, much of this world could and would fall back into place."
(Alan Weisman author of The World Without Us and Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World)

"Gary Nabhan's travels in the footsteps of the brilliant Nikolay Vavilov make for fascinating reading. But this book is more than a journey into the past; it is look at the future. Vavilov's compelling ideas about famine and Nabhan's exploration of current threats to our food supply—from climate change to loss of biodiversity—make Where Our Food Comes From a must-read."
(Deborah Madison author of Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America's Farmers' Markets)

"A riveting account of an extraordinary Russian plant scientist who traveled five continents in search of crop diversity and its importance in staving off famine, told by a master scientist and storyteller of today. Shining through the travels of both is a critical insight: that safeguarding our food supply depends ultimately on our ability to preserve the vitality of diverse cultures the world over."
(Wade Davis author of One River and Light at the Edge of the World)

"Biology has its true martyr in N.I. Vavilov, starved to death by Stalin and his henchmen for his rich and necessary insights plus his indefatigable work devoted to discovering, cataloguing and storing the diversity among and within crop plants. By traveling himself, Gary Nabhan has given us a narrative of Vavilov's physical and intellectual journey sure to keep readers up past bedtime."
(Wes Jackson President, The Land Institute)

"Mixing the compulsively readable insights of a well-researched biography with the painstaking details of a scientific treatise, Nabhan offers a historical and contemporary framework for determining the viability of sustainable agriculture."

About the Author

Gary Paul Nabhan is a world-renowned ethnobiologist, conservationist, and essayist. The author of Why Some Like It Hot, Coming Home to Eat, and many other books and articles, he has been honored with a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship and The John Burroughs Medal for nature writing. Founder and facilitator of the Renewing America’s Food Traditions collaborative, he is currently a Research Social Scientist at the Southwest Center at the University of Arizona. See to track his lecture and photo exhibit schedules.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 223 pages
  • Publisher: Shearwater; 1 edition (September 12, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597263990
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597263993
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,079,976 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Rafael Routson on November 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Where our Food Comes From: Retracing Nikolay Vavilov's Quest to End Famine. Gary Paul Nabhan. Island Press: Washington, 2008. 214 pp., $24.95 hardcover (ISBN-13: 978-1-59726-399-3, ISBN-10: 1-59726-399-0).

Reviewed by Rafael J. Routson, Department of Geography and Regional Development, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ.

In the Foodsteps of Giants:

In his latest scientific and cultural pursuit, Where Our Food Comes From, Dr. Gary Paul Nabhan tracks the footsteps of Russian seed scientist Nikolay Vavilov across five continents, tracing the centers of diversity of domesticated food crops. These two scientists, whose work reaches into three centuries, embarked upon their quests in the context of a critical race, for Vavilov a pursuit against famine in his own country and then the snarls of the communist government, and for Dr. Nabhan a race against the irreversible loss of the world's genetic food crop diversity. The stories of each scientist, spaced fifty to seventy years apart in their journeys provide a multi-tiered study of past and current tapestries of seeds, fruits, roots, and tubers, as well as the farms, farmers, seed collectors, and seed protectors in Europe, Asia, Africa, and North and South America. This book emerges at a pivotal time in agricultural history, as economic and political factors severely threaten the future of food diversity and food security around the globe. In the times of Nikolay Vavilov, nation-wide famines propelled the young scientist to seek strains of crops from around the world to locate genes resistant to pests, disease, and unpredictable weather conditions. Dr.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By J. Canestrino on March 31, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For those who picked up this book thinking it was another timely tome taking advantage of the "locivore" movement, you will be disappointed. This book is much more than that and I would have gladly given it 4.5 stars if I could have, having only a couple of reservations about it. The core of the story is about the life and travels of the great Russian plant pathologist and geneticist Nikolay Vavilov. Vavilov is known for developing the theory that certain areas of the globe represent the centers of biological diversity for many of our agricultural crops and domesticated animals. These areas remain important as sources of great biological diversity not only for the wild species that still grow in the area, but also the many domesticated varieties, landraces, grown by the indigenous farmers. Vavilov also proposed that many areas of great biological diversity would occur concurrently with areas that had many ecological niches (due to changes in elevation, soil quality, moisture availability)in close association.
The author, Gary Paul Nabhan an ethnobotanist and nutritional ecologist, retraces some of the collection trips made by Vavilov to assess the current conditions of those areas to see if they are still practicing their local forms of agriculture, utilizing their native crops and if the natural ecosystems that harbor the wild ancestors of the crop species are still intact. Over and over, the author stresses the need to preserve these areas as sources for genetic diversity which might be needed to develop new cultivated varieties.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Ryan Costa on August 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Excellent summary of the origins and work of Dr.Vavilov, A man of unique genius, energy, and drive. He survived several famines of Tsarist Russia during his childhood and made it his life's work to improve production taking the approach of a long broad arc.

Dr.Nabhan does an excellent job describing the importance of genetic diversity, and Vavilov's journeys to verify it. As an American, the most important chapters were of Vavilov's research in North America. America is home to nigh-unlimited varieties of potatoes, corn, sunflowers, beans, tomatoes, squash.

Also contains an interesting narrative about Guayule, a desert shrub that is a source of latex for rubber. The facts defy anything an Austrian School economist could conceive of.

In the end Vavilov was made a scapegoat for the failings of Soviet Policies he had nothing to do with. The Kulaks had been eliminated as a class, and Vavilov was eliminated as a source of continued progress for the scientific world.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Asta V. Schuette on February 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I opened this book thinking it would be a bit textbookish with a tad of that foodie condescension. I am happy to report that I was quite wrong! It is an amazing story that flows and draws you in. I highly recommend it to anyone concerned about food security, biological diversity, or just interested in history and food anthropology!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Nicola on April 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a fascinating read and is for anyone moved to educate themselves on the preservation of the diversity of our food sources. What is compelling is the tribute and tracking of the intrepid Nickolay Vavilov who in Russia in the 1920s served his country and humankind by ethnobotanical field studies of the preservation of seed on 5 continents. His ironic death at the hands of Stalin for not staving off the starvation of the Russian masses is a travesty and tragedy and a harsh lesson not only politics, but ecology and botany. Gary Nabhan traces the history and work of this great Russian way-shower and points out the superb quest for preserving diversity from the hands of mono-cropping capitalist giants. It is not a political rant, as much as a sober tour of the greatest hotspots of remaining diversity, and a marvelous examination of seeds and culture as they pertain to landraces. If ever there is a precursor to taste of place and preservation of culture, it lies in the secrets revealed in this book.Terroir is not just seed and climate but the peoples and their linguistics and rituals around growing their plants, naming them and the rituals of preparing them. I personally feel this is a foundational book for the burgeoning seed library movement. It is also one of many greats by Nabhan who writes beautifully and understands the material so well. He is doing much for the revivification of our good sense and ecological wellbeing. After all we are the first generation ever that has been well and truly dislocated from their food sources.
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