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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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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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Learning the Importance of Environmental Stewardship at Bar Heart Ranch

April 30, 2022

By Elle Ross, ASU Food Systems graduate student.

Arizona in December sounded like the perfect escape from the impending Montana winter. I was expecting sunshine, shorts, and walking through lush fields of green. My expectations were dashed as rain and the threat of snow canceled our plans and I am so glad I didn’t get what I thought. Bar Heart Ranch was gracious enough to accommodate our group and provided an incredible excursion across their property, delving into the nuances of range management in Arizona. 

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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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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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