Finding Our Place at the Table in Baja Arizona

A local food’s manifesto: celebrating the place we call Baja Arizona, a mélange of Sonoran Desert, oak woodlands, towering sky islands and treasured riparian zones that is unlike anywhere in the world.

June 23, 2013

EditorialIssue 1: Summer 2013

We wish to share with you a lofty goal: We hope that we will not only attract you as a reader of our forthcoming issues, but engage you as a denizen of the desert borderlands to help our communities see, feel and taste this region we call Baja Arizona as one of food abundance and uniqueness, and not as a so-called “food desert.”

You may or may not be aware that a revolution is taking place, but it is. Scores of individuals, non-profit organizations, grassroots initiatives, private farming projects, small businesses, chefs and bakers, brewmasters and winemakers, cheesemakers and food artisans are all connecting with consumers in Pima, Cochise and Santa Cruz counties in new and exciting ways.

We want to celebrate our regional identity as a rich mixture of Native American, Mexican and immigrant cultures that collide and cross-pollinate to create something truly special.

All of these efforts are generating an ever-increasing awareness regarding the importance of local, wild and heirloom foods in this region. We believe now is the perfect time to harvest this amazing coalescence of efforts. We want to create a new voice that celebrates the local food movement and advocates for the importance of localizing the foodsheds and the food system here in Baja Arizona.

Why do we call it “Baja Arizona”? Quite simply: We live in a place that is unique, a mélange of Sonoran Desert, oak woodlands, sky islands and treasured riparian zones that is unlike anywhere in the world. We want to celebrate our regional identity as a rich mixture of Native American, Mexican and immigrant cultures that collide and cross-pollinate to create something truly special. And we consider our neighbors across the imposed international boundary in Sonora to be an integral part of what makes this region taste, smell and feel the way it does. We celebrate these connections, and go in search of the flavors of Baja Arizona, regardless of borders. (Baja, by the way, means “lower” in Spanish; our region is south of the Gila River.)

We don’t eat and drink merely to ingest calories and nutrients; the act of nourishing ourselves is deeply linked to our sense of place, our identity, and our collective story. That’s why we’re engaging some of the region’s most creative writers and award-winning artists and photographers to bring you images and narratives that will, we hope, linger like the remembrance of an incredible meal shared with friends.

This publication will demonstrate the tangible ways in which food re-localization efforts can dramatically benefit our human health, land health and economic well-being, while providing us with more beauty, frivolity, sensory pleasure and cultural richness along the way. By rebuilding our foodsheds to be more resilient and just, we see this effort as a key means for community building and economic recovery. Study after study by expert after expert show the same results: By reducing our dependence on food trucked in from thousands of miles away and strengthening our local food system, we can make our communities more secure, healthier and prosperous.

Food is our most direct and enduring connection to the cultures, land, water and weather cycles of our bioregion. In our pages, we will be using regional foodways as a lens into the social and environmental issues, the rich heritages, and the future options for living well in the desert despite our very real limitations.

We believe that fresh, seasonal, desert-adapted foods can play a critical role in curbing the diabetes and obesity epidemic that is currently afflicting communities all across the desert borderlands. Already as much as one in four dollars spent in our local hospitals, and one in ten spent on medical care in general, is related to diabetes and its many side effects. Unless we redirect some of those financial resources towards investing in healthier food systems that can help prevent diabetes, Arizona’s economy will go not just off the fiscal cliff, but also the nutritional cliff.

El Diablo, of course, is in the details, and there are many complex steps we must take as a community to realize the laudable goal of eating and drinking more locally in a way that truly changes our reality. It requires a coalescence of businesses, governments, nonprofits, academic and volunteer resources coming together to create real and lasting change.

Edible Baja Arizona is committed to telling this story, over and over again, through compelling reporting, writing, and photography, as we build the case for a food system in Baja Arizona that makes us safer, healthier and happier. And we look forward to celebrating each step of the way with a good meal, a glass of local cheer and the connections of friends and family. ¡Salud!

-The Editors


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