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Organic Farming in Arizona: A Family Business That Works for the Community

March 13, 2023

By: Sarah Williams, ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate student.

Nestled in between Buckeye and Goodyear, Arizona, is a 1,200-acre certified organic farm specializing in leafy greens and compost. This farm started in Arizona over 30 years ago with Arnott and Kathleen Duncan at the helm. Arnott, a 4th generation farmer, started Duncan Family Farms on just a few hundred acres of land, and has since grown it into a multi-state operation with the mission to responsibly manage and maintain the land.

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Collaboration is Key to Preserving Arizona Water Supply

February 28, 2023

By: Kaysey England, ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate student.

Throughout the Sustainable Food Systems graduate program food and farm immersive opportunity in the Fall of 2022, an overwhelming topic was discussed at every stop along the way: water security. During this experience, our cohort got the opportunity to listen to Dr. Dave White share his knowledge about the Arizona water supply. With over 20 years at Arizona State University, he currently serves as the Director of the Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation. Dr. White shared his belief that water is the lifeblood of the American West and is the foundation of all social, environmental, economic, and cultural amenities. He is right; with a rapidly growing Arizona population, time is of the essence to ensure a sustainable water supply is protected and used efficiently.

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The Life of a Grass Farmer and Cattle Rancher in Arizona

February 20, 2023

By: Amy Mattias, ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate student.

When Chuck Backus first arrived at his newly acquired ranch in the Superstition Mountains in 1977, the land wasn’t anywhere close to what it is today. Driving out to Quarter Circle U Ranch is driving through a beautiful Arizona desert with cacti and mesquite lining the roads to a backdrop of craggily cliffs. After miles of windy dirt roads, we crossed a cattle guard and the landscape subtly shifts to an undiscerning eye, like most of us in the cohort coming out from ASU’s Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems. To more discerning eyes, like Chuck, his daughter Amy, and their ranch manager, Jordan, the change is profound. Over the last 50 years, Quarter Circle U has been managed in a way that heals abused land, allowing more grasses to grow, more birds to soar, and more native plants to flourish despite the lessening supply of precipitation.

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Arizona Food Bank Network Addresses Food Security While Supporting Local Farmers

February 17, 2023

By: Kaley Necessary, ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate student.

Note: Angie Rodgers has now transitioned into a position with the Arizona Dept. of Economic Security, and is no longer CEO of AzFBN. The team at AzFBN is eternally grateful for her leadership and is incredibly excited for the continued support of its Friends of the Farm Program through the recently allocated Local Food Purchase Assistance Cooperative Agreement Program (LFPA).

As part of a week-long Arizona Food and Farm Immersive Course, my fellow ASU Sustainable Food Systems classmates and I heard from various speakers representing different components of Arizona’s local food system. Joined by ASU Swette Center faculty and staff, one evening, my cohort gathered for a reception and heard from Arizona Food Bank Network’s (AzFBN) President and Chief Executive Officer, Angie Rodgers.

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What Are You Doing to Be the Ancestor You Want to Be?

February 15, 2023

By: Leanne Kami, ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate student.

“What are you doing to be the ancestor you want to be?” Upon arriving at Spaces of Opportunity in South Phoenix, Arizona, that question greeted us, scribbled on a chalkboard under a farmers market tent.  In early December of 2022, our ASU Sustainable Food Systems Cohort visited Spaces of Opportunity as part of our Arizona Farm Immersive course.  As we assembled for introductions, other signs like “Climate Justice Now” and “Inmigrantes somos Essentiales,” which translates to “Immigrants are essential,” caught our attention and shook us out of our mid-afternoon brain fog.  

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Growing Vegetables in the Desert

January 30, 2023

By: Kelly Sheridan, ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate student. 

Did you know that 90% of leafy greens (i.e., lettuce, kale, spinach, etc.) produced/consumed during winter in the US and Canada are grown in Yuma, Arizona[1]? That means the odds that you have consumed lettuce from Desert Premium Farms are very high!

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Industry Disruptor Working to Solve Hunger for 1.1 Billion People

January 25, 2023

By: Mauricio Cordova Flores, ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate student. 

OnePointOne vertical farm start-up focuses on the power of plants that can help address food insecurity worldwide. When brothers Sam and John Bertram learned that 1.1 billion people began this millennium suffering from food insecurity, they started on a journey to create technology that can help address this world problem; that is when together they decided to start OnePointOne.

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Farmer-Driven Conservation in the Heart of Yuma, Arizona

January 17, 2023

By: Elizabeth Reilly, ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate student.

It’s said that there are “five C’s” that power Arizona: climate, copper, cotton, cattle, and citrus. Mark Kuechel, owner and operator of Kuechel Farms, comes from a long line – four generations, in fact – of experts in one of these C’s: citrus. But, after spending the afternoon with Mr. Kuechel, it’s clear another C could be added to the list: conservation.

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A Glimpse into Arizona Dairy at Kerr Family Farms

January 10, 2023

By: Connor Kaeb, ASU Sustainable Food Systems graduate student.

The 2022 cohort of Sustainable Food Systems graduate students from Arizona State University got the opportunity to get a first-hand glimpse of the Arizona dairy industry with a visit to Kerr Family Farms in Buckeye, Arizona. During the visit, students met with Wes Kerr, a fourth-generation dairy farmer.

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Food Policy and Sustainability Leadership 2022/2023 Cohort

September 1, 2022

We are thrilled to introduce Arizona State University’s Food Policy & Sustainability Leadership 2022-2023 class. This is our fourth cohort of students for this graduate program and every year it continues to grow. With a commitment to shaping food and farm policy in the public interest, this cohort of leaders hail from across the country including Arizona, California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Washington D.C., Washington state, and Wisconsin.

To create the inclusive, diverse and resilient food systems of the future, we need bold and knowledgeable change agents to transform public policy. These rising stars represent business, nonprofit, and academia, modeling the community necessary for food system transformation. They’re passionate about reducing food waste, regenerative and organic agriculture, and local food systems. They’re dedicated to school food reform, racial equity, and food sovereignty.

They are the future of food.

Meet the Leaders:

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Deputy Secretary of USDA: A Leader for Today and the Future

August 22, 2022

By: Allison Perkins, ASU Food Systems graduate student.

It was an honor for our graduate cohort to meet with Deputy Secretary of USDA, Dr. Jewel Bronaugh, during our DC Immersive trip. As a graduate student of Sustainable Food Systems, I was inspired by Dr. Bronaugh’s intersectional work which I can learn from to enhance impact across my academic, professional, and personal life. Deputy Secretary Bronaugh spoke as both a leader and compassionate individual aligned with our cohort’s mission to drive sustainable food systems. Bronaugh created space for an open dialogue to discuss our backgrounds and experiences as we learned from her wealth of knowledge in agricultural policy. The meeting was unique, and it was quickly evident that being Deputy Secretary of USDA is not just a job for Dr. Bronaugh but a role she takes responsibility for and accomplishes with grace.

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USAID Feed the Future: More Important than Ever

August 15, 2022

By: Deborah Sadler, ASU Food Systems graduate student.

On Tuesday, May 10th, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Chief Scientist for Resilience and Food Security, Dr. Rob Bertram, came to the ASU campus in Washington D.C., where I had the privilege of being amongst the Sustainable Food Systems graduate students to hear him speak. He explained the history and work of the Feed the Future program, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative, and the challenges that lie ahead in combating global hunger. Dr. Bertram has worked with USAID for over twenty years, where he draws on his expertise in plant genetics and his international experience to find scientific solutions to hunger and malnutrition.

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Industry Perspectives on Influencing the Food System

August 10, 2022

By: Keith Arnold, ASU Food Systems graduate student.

Before my visit to our nation’s capital for our food policy course, my opinion regarding lobbyists, admittedly from an uninformed perspective, was of someone paid to push their company’s product or issue ahead of others. I didn’t know what it took to have a voice on Capitol Hill that carried weight to influence real change. However, this DC immersive trip was richly informative as our guest speakers were full of perspective, insight, rigor, intelligence, drive, and personality. Getting an industry insider perspective on discussions with policymakers was eye-opening. We were all thankful for their time and their invitation to join the cause to pursue change in the food system.

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Talking Nutrition with Kumar Chandran, USDA Senior Advisor

August 7, 2022

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

During our cohort’s DC immersive program, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Kumar Chandran, a USDA Senior Advisor focusing on nutrition under Secretary Vilsack. This isn’t Mr. Chandran’s first foray at USDA; he previously served as Chief of Staff to the Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services in the Obama Administration. Just prior to his most recent position, however, he served as Policy Director for the national nonprofit, FoodCorps. Chandran’s current appointment to USDA is significant for a number of reasons including President Biden’s (and Secretary Vilsack’s) commitment to a more diverse government. But it is really Chandran’s expertise in food policy that is so vital to the department, especially after it had endured four years of unique challenges and setbacks under the Trump administration.

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The Grit, Determination, and Plans of Janie Hipp

August 4, 2022

By: Eleanor Ross, ASU Food Systems graduate student.

They say never meet your heroes, but that is only because they haven’t had the pleasure of speaking with Janie Hipp. One of the biggest highlights of our DC Immersive trip was sitting down with the General Counsel for the USDA. A hugely important and impressive role, the General Counsel is tasked with legal services and oversight across the USDA mission and programs. While the gravitas of this position can be intimidating, our time with Janie Hipp was filled with honesty, humor, and passion.

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Where the Water Goes: Water in Arizonan Agriculture

July 25, 2022

By Tucker Larson, Swette Center student worker. 

It’s no secret that agriculture uses a large percentage of our Earth’s fresh water supply. In Arizona, 74% of fresh water is used for agricultural purposes. That number has been as high as 90% in the mid to late 1900’s. The decrease in water consumption in Arizona’s agricultural sector can be explained by the ever-expanding urban sprawl as well as improved irrigation technologies. In 1973, Construction of the Central Arizona Project (CAP) began. The project, which ended in 1993, ensured a substantial amount of water that allowed for continued growth in residential, industrial and agricultural sectors. For CAP to go forward, Arizona renounced their water rights to the Colorado River from senior to junior status. This means that as soon as water restrictions begin to come into effect, Arizona will be the first to feel them. The Colorado River provides a large amount of water to Arizona’s larger cities. In Phoenix, that is two fifths of all water and in other parts of the Phoenix Valley and state, the reliance on CAP water can be much heavier.

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Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young: Creating a Healthier Future for Americans

July 21, 2022

By Mary Mik, ASU Food Systems graduate student.

While in Washington D.C., our ASU sustainable food policy cohort met with key stakeholders in the agriculture realm—both virtually and in person. We were honored to have the opportunity to hear from Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young, who since our visit has become the newly confirmed Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics (REE) so she will oversee USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the Economic Research Service (ERS), the National Agriculture Statistics Services (NASS), the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the office of the Chief Scientist. Prior to her current position, Dr. Jacobs-Young was the Director of the Office of the Chief Scientist at the USDA.

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Farm Production and Conservation Leadership Discuss Institutionalizing Change

July 20, 2022

By: Sharla Strong, ASU Food Systems graduate student.

This spring, my classmates and I had the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. to meet with multiple food policy experts who work within and alongside the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). As graduate students in the Food Policy and Sustainability Leadership Certificate program with Arizona State University, our class had the privilege to meet with politically appointed leaders within the Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC) Mission Area. FPAC includes the Farm Service Agency (FSA), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and the Risk Management Agency (RMA). The FSA, NRCS and RMA are three key farmer and rancher facing agencies within the USDA and they provide services across multiple field offices in every state. 

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"The Budget Overseer"

July 18, 2022

By: Jason Peña, ASU Food Systems graduate student.

The President of the United States is surrounded by people who carry out missions to maintain order and progress. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is a specific agency within the Executive Office of the President (EOP) that helps the President implement their vision. The OMB performs this function by developing and executing the President's budget and through providing guidance to agencies, reviewing and clearing testimony, regulations, and Presidential Executive Orders. Working for the OMB requires flexibility, an extremely high level of accuracy, and good negotiation skills. The career employees of the OMB are subject matter experts and provide support across many departments and administrations. Overall, the OMB serves three functions: 1) Budget, 2) Management, and 3) Regulation. OMB is the largest office within the EOP, which also includes the National Security Council, the Domestic Policy Council, and the Council of Economic Advisors among other White House staff offices.

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The Hagstrom Hangout

July 10, 2022

By: Zac DeJovine, ASU Food Systems graduate student.

Following a long, exciting, tiring, informative, and insightful week, my classmates and I had one final trip to make for our D.C. Food Immersion course as students in the Sustainable Food Systems program. Jerry Hagstrom, journalist, local celebrity, and walking encyclopedia of Washingtonian culture, had invited our cohort to his home in Woodley Park for a chat about food over some pizza and wine.

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