Why Eating Local Matters

By Deanne Chevis, Local First Arizona

This article first ran in the July+August 2012 issue of the Food Conspiracy Co-op’s newsletter, Community News.

Up to 98% of what Arizonans eat comes from outside the state. At the same time, Arizona exports about 98% of food grown or produced here. This requires an elaborate transport system with storage facilities, middlemen and trucks and heavy reliance on fossil fuels.

You might guess that farming could be more profitable if Arizona farmers sold to Arizona consumers. It’s true. Food system analyst Ken Meter calculates that if everyone in Southern Arizona spent just $5 more a week buying directly from local farmers, average farm sales would nearly double, jumping from $300 million to $587 million. Since regional farmer-to-consumer sales currently constitute only $2 million of the $3.3 billion total consumer food sales – a mere .006% — the growth potential is enormous.

The Arizona Farm Bureau reports that Arizona agriculture is a $10.3 billion industry and it’s growing. Southern Arizona now enjoys an expanding number of farms. Among local food cultivators are the Desert Treasures Citrus & Date Groves, English Fruit Farm, Forever Young Farm, Grassroots Company, San Xavier Cooperative Farm, Sleeping Frog Farms and Walking J Farm.

Local food, like local business, is a critical economic driver for Tucson. Buying from a local farmer, not only supports that farmer, it supports local jobs. For example, Walking J Farm in Amado uses a Tucson hatchery for its turkeys; sources feed containing non-GMO corn grown in Cochise County from Chiracahua Pasture Raised Meats; purchases pet supplies from a local store; and will soon hire a garden foreman to support an expansion of their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.

Like local business owners, local farmers create second tier jobs by hiring local graphic designers, accountants, sign makers and other professionals and by making purchases of feed and supplies from other local proprietors. In other words, farmers are rooted in their community economically as well as agronomically.

You don’t have to give up foods you love that don’t grow in Arizona. And you don’t have to spend any additional money. Within your existing budget, try to shift $5 a week to produce, meat

or foods, like jam or honey, which are grown, raised or produced in Arizona. If you can, join a

CSA, where you pay in advance to a farmer for a fixed period. This gives the farmer a steady income stream, while you receive a share of fresh produce each week.

Buying more local food strengthens farms and improves food quality, while keeping more money in our community. By buying local we keep our money where our home is and that’s good for all of us.

Look for local food producers and growers on the Local First Arizona online directory on the Local Food and Agriculture page at www.LocalFirstAZ.com

You can park in back

Just a reminder that customers are always invited to park in the gravel lot at the rear of the co-op.map

Recipe: Quick and Easy Pasta with Mushrooms and Leeks

Here’s a great recipe from Yong, co-owner of Forever Yong Farms. Enjoy!


Quick and Easy Pasta with Mushrooms and Leeks

8 oz Farfalle pasta

8-12 oz mushrooms

8-10 oz leeks – white and pale green parts only

2-3 TB olive oil



Thyme and/or oregano leaves  (optional)

More olive oil

Parmesan cheese


Halve and wash the leek under running water to rid of any dirt. Slice thinly crosswise.

Finely chop mushrooms.

Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium heat.

Add oil, leek, pinch of salt, pepper; sauté, stirring often. 3-4 minutes.

Add chopped mushrooms and cook until tender. Stir and shake the pan often.13-14 minutes.

Meanwhile bring salted water to boil.

Add about 2 TB of the hot water into mushrooms and leeks pan and stir while it is cooking. Repeat one more time.

Add thyme and/or chopped oregano leaves.

Cook pasta according to your taste.

Drain pasta and reserve ½ cup of pasta water.

Transfer drained pasta into the skillet.

Add olive oil, pinch of salt and pepper. If it seems too dry, add the hot pasta water.

Mix well to combine.

Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.


Serves 2-3.

Introducing Sunizona greens

We’re proud to introduce three new locally-grown products to our produce department, courtesy of Sunizona Family Farms, located in Cochise County: bagged organic micro greens, petite heirloom lettuce, and organic petite power greens. Check ’em out!

Helpful Cooking Videos

When it comes to cooking at home, choosing the right ingredients and understanding basic kitchen skills can make the difference between a good meal and an amazing one. In the NCGA’s new video series, Co+op Kitchen, shoppers will find handy hints from chefs and food enthusiasts who love sharing their passion for great food, plus easy recipes for delicious homemade meals.

The series includes 44 videos—from learning about alternative sweeteners and how to grow your own sprouts to making a delicious Mixed Vegetable Indian Curry and cooking the perfect steak, you’ll want to see what’s cooking in the Co+op Kitchen! Co+op Kitchen is available online at www.strongertogether.coop or in a FREE iPad® app for iOs6 compatible devices (iPad2 and higher). The app will be featured in the Food & Drink and Lifestyle categories in the App Store.

Co-op Election Results

The 2013 Annual Meeting featured lots of great food (catered by the Conspiracy Kitchen), fun and finances. Thank you to everyone who helped make our Annual Meeting a terrific success. We couldn’t have pulled it off without the hours put in by our dedicated board and staff. Thanks also to our local vendors, including Borderlands Brewing Co., La Tauna Tortillas, Isabella’s Ice Cream, Queso Superior Cheese, Rex’s Perogies, Tuscon Tamale Co., and Forever Yong and Sleeping Frog farms, for generously donating their product and time. And thanks to the local businesses that donated raffle prizes to the event, including Local First Arizona, Lotus Massage & Wellness Center, Tucson Acupuncture Co-op, Double Check Ranch, and Antigone Books.

At the Annual Meeting, we announced the winners of this year’s Co-op Elections. Three nonprofits received Cooperative Community Fund grants. They are:

  • The Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona
  • Tucson Village Farm
  • Watershed Management Group

Three people were elected to new terms on the Food Conspiracy Board of Directors. They are:

  • Fiore Iannacone (109 votes) — three year term
  • David Miller (107 votes) — two year term
  • Nicolas Siemsen (109 votes) — three year term

Recipe: Lentil Vegetable Soup

Here’s a recipe, courtesy of our friends at Co+Op Stronger Together, for a rocking lentil and vegetable soup that will keep you warm on those chilly winter evenings.

What’s up with the bulk peanut butter?

The FDA shut down the factory that produces 90% of the country’s organic peanuts, and now it’s hard for us (or any other store) to get the organic peanuts we used to get. Fortunately, it looks like the factory will be up and running again soon. In the meantime, you might notice the disappearance of some products that contain organic peanuts. Hopefully this won’t last.

A list of local companies we hired to help with our renovations

At the Food Conspiracy Co-op we believe buying local is important, and not just where food is concerned. Here’s a list of local companies that we hired to help with our renovation project. All the workers employed by these companies who worked on the renovations are residents of Tucson.

  • Hidden Hollow Construction
  • VVC Architecture
  • Powers Electric
  • Albert’s Plumbing
  • Glass Unlimited
  • Ridgemont Painting, LLC
  • Jannings Acoustical Design
  • Cimaco Floor Service
  • Quick Custom Metals
  • Arizona Hometown Hauling
  • Custom Saw Cutting
  • Ace Pumping and Portables
  • Ornamental Iron Company
  • Accurate Backflow
  • Oracle Road Rent-ALL
  • A-United Restaurant Equipment
  • Reproductions Inc.
  • Daniel’s Refrigeration
  • Armor Shield
  • Cook and Company Sign Makers