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Q&A With CJ Agbannawag of Local First Arizona

Edible Excursions offer a fresh, in-person approach to understanding our local food scene, says CJ Agbannawag.

February 12, 2016

Edible Excursions
CJ Agbannawag

CJ Agbannawag

While getting ready to go on our second Edible Excursions tour to Willcox farm and wine country, we’ve been enjoying hearing the feedback from the people who went on our first Excursion, a tour around UNESCO’s first U.S. City of Gastronomy, Tucson, AZ. CJ Agbannawag of Local First Arizona was one of the people in attendance on that tour, and I called him up to find out what he thought about his experience.

Why did you decide to come on our first ever Edible Excursions tour?

I saw the post on the Edible Baja Arizona Facebook page, and reached out to Doug (Doug Biggers, publisher). Part of what Local First Arizona does is connecting with local business owners, and I was really intrigued to see how the Excursion would do that for attendees. I liked the framing of the Tucson tour, within the context of the UNESCO City of Gastronomy designation, and I was really interested in seeing Tana Fryer’s (Edible Excursions guide) take on how that designation shaped the tour.

Did the City of Gastronomy Excursion live up to your expectations?

I was really impressed with the Excursions setup! Tana did a great job giving introductions to each location while we travelled on the bus: she provided an insider perspective on the different businesses, with their backstories, how the different destinations connected with one another, the origins of the food, coffee, wines, and beer we experienced. It’s so much more meaningful when you meet the owners of a business and find out where they’re coming from; it’s so much more fulfilling than just going to that business or restaurant on your own. Tana did a great job of tying the stories together, and demonstrating why Tucson is a City of Gastronomy.


Wine tasting at Flying Leap Vineyard’s tasting room in the St. Phillip’s Plaza.

Local First Arizona’s Localists receive $25 off the Edible Excursions ticket price. Why would Localists be interested in attending an Edible Excursion?

We started the localist program when we recognized that individuals want to be involved, and feel like they’re a part of the local movement. Our Localist events give people an experience they wouldn’t get on their own, and I think that’s true of the Edible Excursions as well. They give people an insider’s guidance when jumping into the food culture; having that guidance is really meaningful and offers a great value for people interested in the local food scene.

It sounds like you had a good time. Are you planning on joining any of our future Excursions?

Absolutely! Especially the tour to Sonora. I’ve lived here all these years, and I keep meaning to go, but I’m not familiar with that area. I’d love to go with someone who has been there and knows where to go.

Where would you like to see Edible Excursions go in the future?

I’m really interested in seeing the central parts of the state, the agriculture there, Double Check Ranch, etc. I want to be able know where a business is on a map, and the Excursions are a good way to connect what you’re eating with who’s producing it.

Eating a farm-to-table meal at Tucson Village Farm.

Eating a farm-to-table meal at Tucson Village Farm.

Did you have a favorite moment on the Tucson tour?

I did! My favorite moment was at Tucson Village Farm with the farm-to-table meal prepared by Chef John of Caridad Kitchen. It was the highlight of my day because while I’m not that skilled in the kitchen, Chef John took local ingedients, many grown there on the farm, and made this amazing meal. It inspired me to learn more about using what food is available locally, and learning to make it myself instead of buying processed food. I also enjoyed his presentation about how Caridad’s Culinary Training Program in helping teach young adults skills to be productive members of society.

Why would you recommend someone join an Edible Excursions tour?

Other than the Excursions being a bunch of fun and totally worth it, there’s so much more that goes on beyond what you read in the itinerary. When you’re there experiencing it, connecting to the people, it’s very personal, and you could tell, everyone there was having a similar experience. It’s a great way to learn about the people behind the food, and about our community, and you come away with a sense of pride in being part of this region producing great food, beer, and wine.

To learn more about the upcoming Edible Excursions and reserve your spot on an upcoming excursion, visit our Edible Excursions page today!

See more images from our recent City of Gastronomy Excursion tour on our Instagram.

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