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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Tucson’s rich history earned us UNESCO nod

Tucson was named a World City of Gastronomy through the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s Creative Cities network. Excited and proud, I told a slew of friends, only to receive confused looks and questions as to why Tucson of all cities received such a recognition. 

As the first city in the U.S. to be designated a city of gastronomy, many people question the choice over cities that seem to be obvious candidates like New York, Chicago and San Francisco. Only Tucson, however, possesses several special attributes that make it the obvious and inarguable choice, and every Tucsonan should be ecstatic about our city’s recognition.

Many Tucson residents are unaware of the history of agriculture and sustainability right under their feet. There are few other places that have such a rich history of agriculture — no others in North America, in fact. For more than 4,000 years, inhabitants of this region have adapted to its climate and agricultural conditions in order to farm and grow crops sustainably — knowledge gained largely from Native American communities. A Tohono O’odham tribe is credited with one of the longest sustainably farmed fields in all of North America and can now be globally appreciated for the longstanding traditions they have brought to us.

The UA is continuing this tradition with a major in Sustainable Built Environments along with community gardens and outreach programs to continue teaching the importance of sustainable agriculture and local products. These programs, paired with food banks and farmers markets, push ideas forward into coming generations to continue the important tradition of agriculture and local businesses.

Agriculture alone does not make Tucson deserving of the City of Gastronomy title. Small businesses all across the city support farmers and use locally-sourced products in their restaurants and businesses. This exchange between small businesses serves two important purposes. Firstly, these businesses can grow and cooperate to propel our economy forwards and secondly, they add to the rich and vibrant culture of our city.

This may be the only time it is appropriate to say: “It’s a good thing we live in the desert.” Our unique environment allows for unique agriculture and cuisine. Edible Baja Arizona listed many chefs downtown that are using heritage foods from the Tucson basin in unique and new ways that make Tucson a hub for southwest and borderland cuisines. Tucson’s proximity to Mexico, its variety of unique desert plants and rich history of Native American tribes all made the city stand out to UNESCO.

This accolade puts Tucson on the map as an example of how to farm sustainably and support local businesses to drive our economy forward. With so much of our country’s land being over-farmed and large, national corporations controlling the economy, Tucson is an anomaly that can be a national example for sustainability and, of course, creative gastronomy.

Follow Nicole Rochon on Twitter

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