The Changing Faces In Arizona’s Food System

TheChangingFacesWe wish to briefly introduce you to issues relating to the changing cultural and racial diversity in Arizona’s food system, in the hope that the many unique voices, faces, skill sets, and knowledge bases important to our food security can be more fully appreciated. Our emphasis is on the many human players in our agricultural and food supply chains, and how they can be more fully valued, protected and empowered. However, other kinds of diversity have long been recognized as being of positive value in the management of agriculture and range lands, lending stability and resilience to food-producing systems. Most entrepreneurs in the food sector can also recognize the value of a diversified portfolio of products and investments in a healthy business. It is not surprising, then, that many Arizona citizens and society at large also value the many benefits of cultural, gender, and racial diversity in our public institutions and in civil society (in this paper, we define civil society as “the aggregate of non-governmental organizations and institutions that manifest interests and will of citizens”).

We recognize historic as well as current efforts in the Grand Canyon state to foster such diversity as it affects the health and prosperity of the many peoples dependent upon our food systems. But we also must look carefully to determine whether Arizona possibly lags behind other states in providing technical and public health services, financial resources, education, and legal support to the diverse constituencies involved in our state’s food systems. This is an ethical obligation, and often a legal mandate for our federal and state governments, as expressed through the Constitution, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Inter-American Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the ILO Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention Section 169, and many other court decisions or legislative measures which, to date, have been implemented with varying degrees of success.

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Prehistoric & Early Historic Food Crop Diversity

PrehistoricandEarlyHistoricIn December 2015, Tucson, Arizona joined the UNESCO Creative Cities Network as the first City of Gastronomy designated in the U.S. In the months that followed, local, national and international attention was directed to the 4100 year antiquity of food cultivation documented in the Tucson Basin —an agricultural tradition as long or longer than that in any metro area north of Mexico. In addition, the UNESCO designation generated renewed interest in the remarkable survival of diverse food crops and the traditional culinary and horticultural knowledge associated with them. Both the crops themselves and time-tried knowledge for managing them may have enhanced relevance to our food security in the face of climate change.

On the same day as the UNESCO designation, the University of Arizona established the Center of Regional Food Studies to serve as the college’s official partner to the City of Tucson in documenting, researching and educating the public regarding Tucson’s historic foodways and recent innovations in its food systems. What better starting place that to remind Tucson’s citizenry and visitors of the distinctive food crop species and varieties of its “foodshed” that underlie the culinary history of the region?

The many social, cultural and economic issues relatng to concepts of heritage foods, heirloom vegetables and local food sovereignty remain highly debated and for some, deeply contested. For that reason, we have not attempted to iconize or reify any concept of “heritage” or “heirloom crop” in this publication that might inadvertently undervalue, ignore or dismiss the many other expressions of biological and cultural diversity in our food system. The attached descriptions and summary table presented here are but the first steps in Tucson’s own assessment of how to better identify, safeguard, take pride and pleasure in the many horticultural and culinary assessments that it has historically shared with surrounding communities and cultures. Many of these assets are not restricted to the Tucson Basin, and deserve attention and care wherever and with whomever they occur.

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Can Alternative Financing Strategies Foster Farm and Food System Innovation? An Exploratory Comparison of Arizona and New Mexico

AlternativeFinancingRecently, scholars, activists and practitioners have underscored the need for further investment in transitioning not just agriculture but entire food systems to more sustainable practices (DeLonge, Miles and Carlisle 2016; Pons, Long and Pomares 2013; U.E. 2013; Tasch 2009). Many farmers and food entrepreneurs wish to tap into the emerging potential for American croplands and livestock herds to meet more localized markets through distribution and processing systems with lower carbon footprints. These potentially re-localize-able markets were recently estimated as being as high as 90% of U.S. food demand (Zumkehr and Campbell 2015). Consequently, early stage farmers and food entrepreneurs are increasingly seeking a wider range of funding sources to increase the proportion of “locally-produced food” with respect to total food demand within their communities. In response to this trend, food system scholars, community development planners and farmers themselves are developing a greater interest in examining the efficacy of emergent funding sources and novel blends of food and farm financing strategies with the hope of technically supporting and creatively financing early stage farmers and food entrepreneurs (Schwartz 2013; Wadud 2013).

It is clear that many early stage farmers are keenly interested in the economic and social value of participating in the “local food sector” within the larger North American foods system, even though these concepts remain hotly contested and critiqued in academia (DePuis and Goodman 2005; Gray 2013). Nevertheless, many communities have decided to focus on the direct sourcing and marketing of food products within a day’s drive of their production sites. These decisions are being made based on the anticipated value of capturing through direct marketing a portion of food’s retail value that now goes to middlemen; of achieving multiplier effects within their communities, and of anticipating that local food production may lead to enhanced food security, social connectivity and environmental resilience (Heweb 2010; Tasch 2012).

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