Border Food Summit Brings Small Farmers, Ranchers, Co-ops and Food Communities Together

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Got a small farm or ranch in Arizona? Or an interest in local food and methods for marketing and distributing it? Or maybe a burning desire to learn more about native and heirloom foods? You'll want to know about this.

The 10th Annual Southwest Marketing Network Conference's Border Food Summit, geared toward small farmers and ranchers in the Four Corners states (AZ, NM, UT, CO), will be held September 16th-18th this year at the Esplendor Resort in Rio Rico, Arizona.

The keynote speaker for the event will be Ricardo Salvador of the Union of Concerned Scientists (formerly with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation). Meanwhile, one of its principal organizers is Natalie Morris, a driving force behind Downtown Phoenix Public Market's Urban Grocery before its demise.

Conference topics will include community approaches and enterprise approaches to farming and ranching, economic development and cultural preservation.

Sunday, September 16th, is devoted to all-day tours. Participants may choose among three:

1. Tucson's Local Food System: Explores how people use urban spaces for food production, distribution and education projects. Sites visited include St. Phillips Farmer's Market, River Road Gardens, Tucson Village Farm, Food Conspiracy Co-op, Las Milpitas de Cottonwood Farm and Tierra y Libertad Organization.

2. Farming in the Borderlands: Showcases unique production methods used in the borderlands. Participants will tour an organic farm/ranch, a permaculture farm and a local winery, as well as learn about seed-saving and pollinator gardens. The tour makes stops at Avalon Organic Gardens & Ecovillage, Red Mountain Foods, Patagonia Community Garden and Pollinator Garden, Native Seeds/SEARCH Conservation Farm, Deep Dirt Farm Institute and Dos Cabeza Wineworks.

3. Traditional Foods of the Sonoran Desert: Explores how native and heirloom foods were used in the past and are used today. Stops include Tumacacori Orchard (cultivated with Spanish Mission-era fruit tree stocks), a desert walk (with ethnobotanist Martha Ames Burgess to learn about desert edibles) and San Xavier Co-op Farm (which cultivates native and heirloom crops). Conference and breakout sessions, held all day Monday (Sept. 17th) and until 1 p.m. Tuesday (Sept. 18th) will include topics such as:

Strengthening Farm Enterprises Together Good Food For All: Communities Taking Charge Place-based Approaches to Food, Land and Water New Collaborations For Food and Farming Farms Working Cooperatively Using Social Media Tools to Grow Your Market Learning From the Land and Our Ancestors Laying the Groundwork for Food Hubs Community-Based Projects to Improve Access to Good Food Building Resilient Foodscapes in the Face of Climate Change Celebrate Your Localness

Monday night, participants will be encouraged to network while enjoying local food and music.

Tuesday's sessions will focus on discussion and action (i.e., where do we go from here?), ending with a "Wine Down" celebration hosted by Cultivate Santa Cruz at the Native Seeds/SEARCH Conservation Farm in Patagonia.

Conference registration includes:

All conference sessions Sept. 17th and 18th 2 breakfasts/2 lunches Sept. 17th evening reception One farm tour

The full package costs $154; Monday only is $81.

Click here for more information and registration, which is being processed by the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona.

Participants who make reservations to stay at the Esplendor Resort no later than August 31st and explain that they are attending the conference will receive a special room rate of $89 per night.

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