It’s a fact: One in five people in Baja Arizona struggles every day to put enough food on the table. Megan Kimble explores how the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona—nationally recognized as one of the most innovative food banks in the country—is working to “shorten the line” by fostering opportunities for economic development, enabling people to grow their own food, and supporting communities so they have the capacity to be self-sufficient. Although there’s still much work to be done, it’s an exciting and inspiring story of success and empowerment.
In 1862, the U.S. Congress passed the Morrill Act to establish a land-grant university in each state to deal with issues of food and water for health and prosperity. The act mandated that “the leading objective” of land-grant institutions—the University of Arizona is, of course, Arizona’s land-grant university—would be the instruction and dissemination of agriculture and life sciences necessary to feed the populace of each state. Gary Nabhan makes the connection between the existence of “food deserts” in our midst and the galvanizing role that our institutions of higher learning can play in retaking control to solve our communities’ food security challenges.
Continuing the theme of self-reliance: At the San Xavier Coop Farm on the Tohono O’odham nation, there is a resurgence under way in growing heritage crops that have fed Native populations for centuries. The goal is to create spiritual as well as physical sustenance. In tiny Ajo, the former copper mining town two and half hours west of Tucson, a miraculous transformation is under way. Led by the Ajo Regional Food Partnership, residents are rebuilding a community food system from the ground up. And in Nogales, the Mariposa Community Health Center started a local food system initiative in 2012 that is dramatically improving lives in the border town and surrounding areas in Santa Cruz County.
Native American chefs are leading the charge to transform traditional foods into a new cuisine that is both healthy and delicious. Nephi Craig, the founder of the Native American Culinary Association and executive chef at the White Mountain Apache tribe’s Sunrise Park Resort, told Lee Allen at a recent Chef’s Challenge at Desert Diamond Casino: “Native people are emerging from a great interruption in traditional food ways. Precontact, we were expert hunters, gatherers, fishermen, farmers, and cooks. Then came the reservations with high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods and a turn away from the most important ingredient in Native cuisine: healing. Native foods are not a trend—they are a way to recover our communities.”
And that’s just the beginning. Dave Mondy goes in search of the history and mystery behind the borderland’s best—and spiciest—cerveza preparada: the Michelada. Scott Calhoun surveys the tasty tradition of the Sonoran pastry known as the Coyota. And the local spice makers at Poblano Hot Sauce are celebrating their 90th anniversary.
Edie Jarolim profiles chef Greg LaPrad’s courageous foray into farm-to-table cuisine at Overland Trout, his new restaurant in Sonoita.
Of course, there’s much more to discover in the pages of this issue—and out in our community.
Edible Baja Arizona has teamed up with the nonprofit Heirloom Farmers Markets to bring you the first Viva la Local Food Festival on April 6 at the historic Rillito Park. With the biggest farmers’ market ever assembled, up to 50 local restaurants offering tasting plates, local craft beers, and Baja Arizona wines, and music by some of Tucson’s best artists, including fabulous headliners Sergio Mendoza y la Orkesta, this is a Sunday that you won’t want to be anywhere else. Check out VivaLaLocalFoodFest.com for all the details.
And, as always, a huge shout out of gratitude to the amazing advertisers that support Edible Baja Arizona, numbering more than 200 in this, our fifth issue. Quite simply, these businesses make it possible for us to bring you this magazine every eight weeks. Please make it a point to patronize them and let them know how much you appreciate their contribution to our local foods economy. Thank you!