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WWOOFing on a Small Organic Farm in NY

July 1, 2022

By: Elora Bevacqua, Swette Center student worker.

World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms is an organization like no other that provides anyone the opportunity to travel and work on farms around the world. The process starts with registering as a WWOOFer on their website and finding a host. When I decided to pursue this opportunity, I wanted to stay in the United States as a “test run” before committing to an abroad experience. After scrolling through the list of hosts located all over the country, I sent messages to many in various northeastern states. Wainscott Farm in upstate New York was the first to respond and Lisa, my future host, accepted my request! 

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Fighting Food Crises with Jocelyn Brown Hall of FAO

June 29, 2022

By: Shelby Kaplan, ASU Food Systems graduate student.

Jocelyn Brown Hall is the Director of the North American Liaison Office of FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, which has a focus on food security and agriculture management. The organization was formed post World War II in Canada to reduce hunger while improving food and nutrition security. Currently, there are 190 participating members, and they are present in over 130 countries across the globe. FAO has three major goals in the current food price crisis: let the market decide, don't close off borders, and start thinking about alternatives. I believe these goals are even more important with current events.

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Equity through the Marketing and Regulatory Program

June 27, 2022

By: Stephanie Lip, ASU Food Systems graduate student

During our weeklong DC Immersive, several of our meetings took place in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) building. On one particular day, we had the privilege of meeting with the team from the Marketing and Regulatory Program (MRP) in the USDA conference room where people from all over the world come to discuss matters with policy officials within the Department.

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Farm Bill Discussions with the Senate Ag Committee Staff

June 24, 2022

By: Wazenn Nithesh, ASU Food Systems graduate student.

Agriculture was one of "three great branches of domestic industry" along with commerce and manufacturing. All three were equally entitled to the care and protection of the government. Agricultural interests were distinct and not always best served when included with those of commerce. On December 9, 1825, by a vote of 22-14, the U.S Senate approved a resolution creating a standing Committee on Agriculture.

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Fighting Hunger Differently at DC Central Kitchen

June 14, 2022

By Kate Seybold, ASU Food Systems graduate student.

As part of our Washington DC Immersive, our Food Policy and Sustainability Leadership cohort had the privilege of visiting the future home of DC Central Kitchen. Executive Director Mike Curtin and Healthy Corners Program Manager Yael Reichler met with us to share about DC Central Kitchen’s history, the innovative work they are doing to create a stronger and more equitable food system, and the exciting things on the horizon for the organization.

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Up Top Acres: Rooftop Farms to Feed DC

June 9, 2022

By: Ami Freeberg, ASU Food Systems graduate student.

As part of the Food Policy and Sustainability Leadership program’s immersive week in Washington DC, our cohort visited one of Up Top Acres rooftop farms. Kathleen O’Keefe, a co-founder of the business, shared their story, strategies, successes, and challenges with our class.

Since 2014, Up Top Acres has grown food, flowers, and herbs on building roofs throughout the DC area. The company came together by recognizing the need for developers to manage stormwater through green infrastructure (EPA consent decree), an increasing demand for locally grown food, and interest in sustainable building practices. Today, Up Top Acres manages 17 rooftop farm and garden sites, totaling four acres of growing space.

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The Role of Federal Agencies in Policymaking

June 7, 2022

By: Jillian Dy, ASU Food Systems graduate student.

Chad Maisel is well aware of the powerful platform for change he is afforded through his job. As Director of Racial and Economic Justice at the White House, he makes high stakes policy decisions every day that impact millions of Americans. His portfolio includes immigration, economic mobility, and racial justice. If you’re wondering if it’s easy to sleep at night with that kind of responsibility – it’s not.

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An Insightful Visit with Congresswoman Pingree

June 1, 2022

By: Nick Benard, ASU Food Systems graduate student.

“So when I write of Maine cookery, I think I am writing American. I think I am writing about the old virtues we think of as part of our culture: resourcefulness, ingenuity, boldness, and imagination.” - Robert P. Tristram Coffin

Sitting in Congresswoman Chellie Pingree’s office, surrounded by artwork, newspaper clippings, photographs, and other memorabilia celebrating the breadth and bounty of Maine’s agriculture and wilderness, I was reminded of Tristram Coffin’s love-letter-disguised-as-a-cookbook, Mainstays of Maine. Published in 1944, it’s not so much a collection of recipes as it is a gentle recounting of what makes Maine a unique part of the American landscape. As Congresswoman Pingree talked to our class of master’s students from Arizona State University, we heard a similar story of resourcefulness and imagination, but also one of Maine’s shifting role in agriculture.

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NGO Panel in D.C. Discusses Value and Veracity of Agricultural Data

May 19, 2022

By: John Gifford, ASU Food Systems graduate student.

A panel of non-governmental organization (NGO) leaders spoke to ASU’s sustainable food systems graduate students during a May 2022 food-policy immersion experience in Washington, DC. Included among this panel were Ferd Hoefner, Michael Fernandez, Ann Mills, and Doug O’Brien.

Ferd Hoefner is a Washington, DC-based consultant working on behalf of multiple organizations with interests in federal farm, food, and environmental policy. His background includes over 30 years as the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s policy director and lead Washington representative. Additionally, Ferd is a senior fellow with Arizona State University’s Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems. 

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The Land Ethic of the Hopi Tribe

April 27, 2022

By: Allison Perkins, ASU Food Systems graduate student.

Throughout my childhood, it never occurred to me to question where my food came from. It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized how disconnected I am from my food and the people that grow it. Most people in America share this experience with me, having no knowledge of who grows their food, let alone where it comes from. However, this is not the case for Native American tribes such as the Hopi Tribe located in northeastern Arizona. The Hopi Tribe has been farming for at least 3,000 years, and consequently has deeply rooted connections to their land, food, and culture. During our travels for the Arizona Immersive, my cohort had the privilege of listening to a podcast episode conducted by the Swette Center in which they interviewed Dr. Michael Kotutwa Johnson of the Hopi Tribe. He graciously explained to us how sustainable agriculture has been a part of his tribe’s way of life for hundreds of generations.

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Arizona Conservationist Describes Her Path to Becoming an Agriculture Advocate

April 14, 2022

By: John Gifford, ASU Food Systems graduate student

Graduate students in Arizona State University’s MS in Sustainable Food Systems program were introduced to Sharma Torrens during a December 2021 farm and ranch immersion experience in Prescott, Arizona. Sharma owns her own business, Ag-Conserve Consulting LLC, and is a contractor for two nonprofit organizations.  She is the Conservation Education Director with the Arizona Association of Conservation Districts, and the Conservation Specialist with the Central Arizona Land Trust. A longtime advocate for wildlife and wild lands, she says that at the outset of her career she viewed agriculture as detrimental to our planet and its species. For this reason, she was opposed to it. 

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ASU hosts AZDA Summit with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsak

April 11, 2022

USDA Sec. Tom Vilsak address the AZDA Summitt at ASU“Out of crisis, it is incumbent upon us to create something better…something more resilient.” Secretary Tom Vilsak, United States Department of Agriculture

Featuring 26 speakers and over 200 Arizonans in attendance – nearly 140 in person – the Arizona Department of Agriculture and ASU Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems co-hosted the 4th annual Arizona Food Summit at ASU’s Sun Devil Stadium San Tan Ford Club March 23 and 24 for two days of information sharing and discussion on how best to move forward on creating a sustainable, healthy food system for all Arizonans.

The days were packed with speakers from across the food system spectrum. The event opened with US Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack. Secretary Vilsack emphasized the need to link food security with nutrition security and to better translate science to help people make informed choices. Vilsack further challenged Arizonans to engage, to bring young people into agriculture and food work, to support our local farmers, and attend to nutrition security.

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The Power of Resiliency at Gila River Farms

March 30, 2022

By: Zac DeJovine, ASU Food Systems graduate student.

As a part of our week-long Sustainability Food Systems immersive trip, my classmates and I visited Gila River Farms on December 6th in order to get a look at one of the most prominent and promising local agriculture projects here in the Valley of the Sun. Agriculture has a long history in the Phoenix area. From the Hohokam people and their irrigation canals, all the way up to the historic Gila River water settlement in 2004, agriculture and water usage have helped shape the story of the valley, much as a river shapes the landscapes it traverses. The Gila River used to traverse the valley, providing a much-needed lifeline in the middle of an expansive desert. But the droves of settlers coming to Phoenix since the late 1800s, and the resultant demand for irrigation, soon dried up this lynchpin of the ecosystem, altering life downstream massively.

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Behind-the-Scenes with the Largest Olive Oil Producers in AZ

March 25, 2022

By: Shelby Kaplan, ASU Food Systems graduate student. 

Perry Rea and his wife Brenda decided to take a vacation in 1997 to Scottsdale, AZ. They discovered olive trees growing in the area, prompting visits to olive oil operations in order to understand oil production. This sparked an interest for the Reas, and eventually Queen Creek Olive Mill was born. The mill was established in 2005, starting with about 1,000 trees on 100 acres of land. 16 years later, the operation has expanded to over 7,000 trees, including 16 different varieties. The Queen Creek area has strong roots in farming, part of the reason the Reas began production here. Although they started from a very small-scale mill (producing about 100lbs of oil per hour), Perry and Brenda are now the largest olive oil producers in AZ (producing closer to 3 tons per hour of olive oil). It is also the only family owned and farmed olive mill in the state. 

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Water We Doing?

March 23, 2022

By: Keith Arnold, ASU Food Systems graduate student.

What keeps you up at night? What worries you about the future of food? When asked this, the gentleman answered by sharing relatable responses. Will my grandchildren have food to eat? Will there be enough resources for their own families and friends to farm as their present-day ancestors? What does the future hold for the United States? Not only for the government but also for the land and people. When will urban leaders understand the importance of agriculture in the face of booming technology? These were a few aspects provided by Arizona Department of Agriculture (AZDA) Director Mark W. Killian. 

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Spaces of Opportunity: Increasing Access to “Desert Food”

March 20, 2022

By Jason Pena, ASU Food Systems graduate student.

It was a cool December morning just south of the Salt River near Phoenix when we arrived at Spaces of Opportunity. This part of the community has historically been marginalized by economic hardships, but in 2015 something changed for the better of the community. Spaces of Opportunity was founded in 2015 on the idea brought forth by the Roosevelt School District to turn 19 acres of vacant property, which for over 40 years was cotton and maize, into an urban community garden. 

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The Inspiring Story of Heidi Lane Cafe

March 17, 2022

By Mary Mik, ASU Food Systems graduate student. 

Relocating for a Dream

Joe and Emily relocated to Arizona three years ago from California. There, they spent 25-year working in bars, restaurants, and clubs. With their track record in hospitality, desire to connect people with fresh food, and Emily’s green thumb, Joe and Emily imagined a new kind of work in their new home of Arizona.

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Meet affiliated faculty Abigail York

March 16, 2022

In this series, we’re sitting down with the Swette Center affiliated faculty to catch up on food systems, innovation, and what makes a good meal. See the rest of the series on our Food Systems Profiles page.

Read on for an interview with Abigail York, Professor of Governance and Public Policy, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Co-Director of Earth Systems Science for the Anthropocene.

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Hayden Flour Mills: The Intersection of Crops and Community

March 14, 2022

By: Nicholas Benard, ASU Food Systems graduate student. 

As our group from ASU’s Food Policy and Sustainability Leadership Cohort gathered in front of Jeff Zimmerman, founder of Hayden Flour Mills, you could feel his excitement begin to build up. He almost seemed to hum with energy. Part of that excitement came from having our group visit his mill in-person at Queen Creek, Arizona, as last year the visit was conducted virtually due to the pandemic.  “I had also come down with Covid,” Jeff added, explaining how last year he pulled himself from bed and roused himself to still give his Zoom talk about growing heirloom grains in the desert. As our visit and conversation with Jeff continued, it became clear that there are few forces in the world that could deter Jeff from sharing his passion and vision for these crops.

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Upcoming Event: Food Systems Career Panel on March 18

March 12, 2022

Join the ASU Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems for our annual career panel on Friday, March 18th, from 1-2pm AZ via Zoom.  This event will give students pursuing careers in food systems, sustainability, and agribusiness a better understanding of their career options after graduation. We are honored to have panelists with experience in private, non-profit, and government organizations to share stories of how they built their job paths and offer insights into current trends in the field. For more information on the panelists, read their biographies below. 

To RSVP for this event, click here. A zoom link will be emailed to you after you register. 

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