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GARDENS FOR HUMANITY: Agriculture, Science, and Technology Heritage in the Verde Valley

Gardens for Humanity is part of the coalition of non-profits and educational institutions that have organized the 2023 Verde Valley Sci-Tech Festival. This festival, running the whole month of February, has activities and events that touch on all aspects of how we live, use, and explore technology in our region from the early days to the present day.

Each week, events will focus on a different theme: Natural Environment, Human History, Growth and Opportunity, and Exploring the Night Sky. There are events for all ages in many locations in the Verde Valley. To see a full calendar of events online, visit

We don’t have to go farther than the V Bar V Heritage site next to Beaver Creek to see that agriculture, science, and technology have developed together. The scientific technology the Sinagua developed included a solar planting calendar that marked the winter and summer solstices, and the spring and autumn equinoxes. This calendar, depicted by symbolic petroglyphs, indicates planting and harvesting times as rays from the sun fall upon the rock face indicating those dates.

Not only were astronomical observations part of Sinagua agricultural technology, but so too were irrigation, rainwater harvesting in “waffle” gardens, seed saving, companion planting, and herbal medicines. We know from artifacts at the Verde Valley Archaeology Center and Museum that other sciences, such as firing clay pots, weaving, and tool making played a role in the technology that made their survival possible.

Agriculture, in all parts of the world, was the beginning of civilization. It enabled a dependable food supply, led to the development of villages, stimulated celebrations that formed the basis of religion, and began the rudiments of civil government. Not to be overlooked in this was the development of science, technology, and architecture.

In this time of smart phones and digital technology, when the majority of people are far removed from where our food comes from and how it is produced, we often overlook the amazing technology at the foundation of civilization. Our well-being and health, our ability to survive in towns and cities, and our gift of leisure time are all tied to agriculture.

The pit houses of the Hohokam and the pueblos of the Sinagua were the first settlements of the Verde Valley, made possible by agriculture. The first non-Native settlers also survived by means of agriculture, turning the Verde Valley into a food-exporting region, the “breadbasket” of Arizona. This depended on many technological innovations in plant, cultivation, and soil science, as well as irrigation, food processing, and transportation. The collection of the Sedona Heritage Museum tells this story.

Of course, water availability and water quality were the basis that made settling in the Verde Valley possible from the earliest times of human habitation. All the events of the Sci-tech Festival build on this legacy and provide experiences to enhance our knowledge and appreciation of the continuation of a rich science tradition historically up to the present day.

Gardens for Humanity works with educators and the gardening community to continue this legacy all year round. As we continue to grow, experiment, and share knowledge and the best practices of a divers and thriving food system, we connect the human and the natural environment. You can become a part of this community by visiting our website

Richard Sidy is president of Gardens for Humanity, a founding member of the Sustainability Alliance and a member of the Verde Valley Food Policy Council. To reach him, email president@ .

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