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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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A Look at Small-Scale Farming on Aguiar Farm

March 10, 2022

By: Kate Seybold, ASU Food Systems graduate student.  

Aguiar Farm is owned and operated by Fernando Aguiar and his family. Originally from Mexico, Fernando grew up on a farm and learned the trade working alongside his father and grandfather. After moving to the United States in 1981, Fernando worked in construction for 10 years before returning to his agricultural roots and starting Aguiar Farm in Paulden, AZ. Today, Aguiar Farm sells direct-to-consumer at farmers markets, such as the Prescott Farmers Market. They also sell to restaurants and other wholesale customers via Sun Produce Cooperative, a Phoenix-based organization dedicated to creating market access and alternative distribution channels for Arizona’s small-scale producers.

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Prescott Farmers Market: A Vital Part of Yavapai County

March 8, 2022

By: Abigail Martone-Richards, ASU Food Systems graduate student. 

The Prescott Farmers Market in Prescott, Arizona was founded in 1997 as a seasonal market, expanding to year-round in 2014. Heading up the market is Executive Director Kathleen Yetman who, in addition to running the market, is pursuing a master’s degree in Sustainable Foods Systems through Arizona State University. Currently, Kathleen oversees a staff of 9 people who run all operational aspects of the market and has plans to double her staff as the market continues to grow. Each week the market is made up of 50-60 vendors and averages 4,000 visitors from Prescott and the surrounding area, resulting in approximately $30,000 in weekly sales. The market’s mission, “to support and expand local agriculture, cultivate a healthy community and increase access to affordable local food,” is the guiding force as it looks to expand its current programming and meet ambitious future goals.

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Expanding the Livestock Narrative

March 2, 2022

A very important book by Nadia El-Hage Scialabba has just published. Nadia is one of our Senior Fellows at the Swette Center and she lists the Swette Center as her primary affiliation on the book jacket! What an honor to have the Swette Center so acknowledged and to have Nadia working with us. Read her blog below to learn more.

- Kathleen Merrigan, Executive Director.

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Insight on the Dairy Industry from Kerr Family Farms

March 1, 2022

By: Deborah Sadler, ASU Food Systems graduate student.

In December of 2021, the new cohort of ASU graduate students in the Sustainable Food Systems  program spent a morning visiting and touring Kerr Family Farms in the West Valley area of  Maricopa County, Arizona. Farmer Wes Kerr explained the history of the family farm, daily logistics on the farm, and his passion for dairy farming. 

Wes Kerr’s great-grandfather first started dairy farming in 1927, and moved his operation to  Arizona in 1940. Their current facility was built in 1990 and remodeled in 2014 to accommodate  milking 40 cows at a time. Kerr Family Farms milks around 1,150 cows a day, for around 75,000  pounds per day of milk. While Kerr Family Farms is a big dairy on the national scale, the farm is  considered small by Arizona standards, which has a small number of dairies, most very large. However, Wes thinks that the focus should not be on the size of the farms, but rather on their  management practices. He says that “farms can be well-managed or poorly-managed at all  sizes.”  

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Water in the West

February 28, 2022

By: Wazenn Nithesh, ASU Food Systems graduate student. 

Water security is a major – and often growing – challenge for many countries today. The magnitude of impact is profound as water scarcity drives the bottom line for food sovereignty and food security. According to the World Bank, feeding 9 billion people by 2050 will require a 60% increase in agricultural production, which accounts for approximately 70% of all freshwater withdrawals globally. 

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Restoring Ancient Aquifers to Secure Water for the Future Within the Gila River Indian Community

February 25, 2022

By: Sharla Strong, ASU Food Systems graduate student. 

As sustainability and food systems students, it is inspiring to witness successful environmental projects and a privilege to learn from indigenous people. Over Fall term, our class of graduate students with the ASU Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems had been learning about managing natural resources. Now we were on a Food and Farm Tour of Arizona, visiting different types of farms, ranches, and orchards while learning about different aspects of our food system.

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The History of Kuechel Farms and the Future of Arizona Lemons

February 21, 2022

By: Michael Ryan, ASU Food Systems graduate student.

It’s not by accident that the history of Kuechel Farms, a large citrus grower in Yuma, Arizona begins in a town called Orange. His family is largely responsible for creating the ubiquitous orange groves that sprawled across the town and county that would later bear that fruit’s name. The lessons he learned from the rise and fall of his family farm in Orange, California may be the very thing that saves his current citrus farm in Yuma, Arizona. 

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Transforming the Food System Through Elementary Schools

February 18, 2022

By: Stephanie Lip, ASU Food Systems graduate student.

During our December immersive, we had the pleasure of touring and participating in the farm-to-school and “edible education” program called Garfield’s Garden on the Corner. Led and managed by the Mollen Foundation, we experienced the collaborative efforts between the Foundation and Garfield Elementary School. We met with Paige Mollen, co-founder of the Mollen Foundation, and Katie Poirier, Executive Director of the Mollen Foundation – both are alumni of ASU’s Food Policy and Sustainability Leadership Graduate Program. We also met with Maya Dailey, Garden Site Manager, Alex Layshock, Garden Specialist, and Jessie Hess, Kitchen Classroom Specialist. I was particularly excited to get a glimpse of Garfield’s Garden on the Corner because a partnership with a program like this is my hope as a school food service director.   

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Western Rangeland Management and Conservation at Arizona’s Bar Heart Ranch

February 14, 2022

By John Gifford, ASU Food Systems graduate student.

Increasingly, ranching and conservation are viewed as mutually exclusive practices. One is centered on resource consumption while the other advocates for the protection of wildlife, wild lands, and natural habitats. As wild species worldwide continue to lose vital habitat to suburban and exurban development, sprawl, and agriculture, the relationship between ranching and conservation grows more complicated. Ranchers claim the right to utilize public lands—even lands that are deemed “critical” in the effort to save wildlife—citing grazing agreements that go back decades and generations, while environmentalists argue that cattle have no place in arid regions like the American Southwest. Their rationale? Cattle destroy vital wildlife habitat. And as the number of imperiled species grows, more of our public lands are designated as critical habitat in the effort to save them from extinction. Of course, this deepens the rift between ranching and conservation. One wonders: can the two coexist? Can economically viable ranching occur on lands simultaneously managed for natural-resources conservation? 

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Duncan Family Farms: From Feeding People to Feeding the Soil

February 11, 2022

By Ami Freeberg, ASU Food Systems graduate student. 

On December 7, the Food Policy and Sustainability Leadership students visited Duncan Family Farms during a week-long immersive exploring farms, ranches, food processors, and gardens around Arizona. 

If you buy organic salad mixes from the grocery store, chances are good that you have eaten greens grown by Duncan Family Farms. As one of the leading certified organic farms in the country, Duncan Family Farms has expanded from their headquarters in Goodyear, Arizona to grow in California, Oregon, and New York to ensure a year-round supply of greens. However, they didn’t start as a multi-region salad green farm. Arnott Duncan is a 4th generation Arizona farmer with roots in the region’s standard commodity crops of cotton and alfalfa. In 1985, he left his family’s farm to grow on his own, starting off with a few hundred acres of row crops. By 1992, Arnott and his wife Kathleen wanted to expand their impact through education so they turned part of their farm into a destination for students to learn about agriculture and rural life, hosting 40,000 kids each year. 

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An Eye-Opening Journey Through the Vibrant Desert

February 10, 2022

By Jillian Dy, ASU Food Systems graduate student. 

Five Days. Eighteen students hailing from thirteen states. Fifteen sites throughout central Arizona. 

The ASU Farm Immersive was a journey through the desert to meet some of the innovative and hardworking people who are growing and processing our food, conserving our natural resources, and managing land in Arizona. Our visits included a fourth generation 1,100 cow dairy, a multi-region Certified Organic vegetable operation, a Native farm growing olives, citrus, and alfalfa, an urban community farm incubator, a 72,000 acre ranch managing a mix of private and public land, and a thriving elementary school garden. 

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The Potential of Pulses

February 10, 2022

By Jane Coghlan, Swette Center Student Worker.

Can you envision the value and versatility of a food that can grow in any climate, is highly nutritious, requires low water input, can self-fertilize, and has a long shelf-life? These are the prominent advantages of an ancient food called pulses. Pulses are among the first plants to be domesticated by humans for sustenance, in turn making them a fundamental ingredient in recipes across old and new cultures in every continent (FAO, 2016, pg. 12-13). The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has designated today, February 10, as World Pulses Day to celebrate the extensive benefits of this resilient food. 

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