These days, just about every restaurant you visit tries to push some sort of local food angle. But it takes more than just buying one or two ingredients from an Arizona farmer to really make a difference in our local food system. Real change requires farmers, chefs, and diners to think about local food in a radically different way.
The good news is that whether you're a chef, a food producer, or just interested in increasing the amount of local foods you eat, there are two upcoming events you might want to add to your calendar.
The first will be the sixth annual Farmer + Chef Connection, an event that's intended to help foster connections between chefs and local food producers. Organized by Local First Arizona, the event will be held from noon to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, September 16 at the Tucson Convention Center. This is the first year the event will be held in Tucson, rather than in Phoenix.
This event is geared toward professional chefs and "key players in the local food economy" with the ultimate goal of helping build wholesale relationships. As such, the event will include The Suppliers’ Marketplace, an all-day vendor fair where food buyers can meet with food producers, and breakout sessions that will cover topics including water conservation and "leveraging your localism." (You can view the complete schedule of breakout sessions and panels on the Local First website.)
The event will close with a Local Foods Reception from 5 to 7 p.m. that will include locally sourced appetizers and Arizona-produced wine and beer.
General admission for the Farmer + Chef Connection costs $10 and can be purchased online. A Vendor Package costs $75 and includes table space in Suppliers Marketplace, table linen, and two General Admission passes. For more information check the Local First website.
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The second upcoming event for local food enthusiasts will be the GrowPhx Fall Summit, held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, September 26. Unlike the Farmer + Chef Connect, this event is geared toward anyone who wants to grow their own food, and the theme of the event will be Transforming Your Life through the Power of Food.
The fall summit will offer "practical, in-depth information about growing your own organic food, becoming more sustainable," and more and is presented by GrowPhx co-founders Greg Peterson (also from The Urban Farm) and Kari Spencer (also of The Micro Farm Project) and Uptown Farmers Market. The keynote speaker will be Michael McDonald, director of the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, who will give a talk called The Power of Food: Growing Health, Community Relationships, and Income.
Other topics that will be covered during the event include Innovative Intensive Organic Production, Introduction to Aquaponics, Backyard Meat, Eggs and Poultry, and The Basics of Saving and Planting Seeds.
Tickets to the GrowPhx Fall Summit range from $20 to $64 and can be purchased on the GrowPhx website. The event will be held at the southeast corner of Central Avenue and Bethany Home Road in conjunction with the Uptown Farmers Market.