Why the worst growing soil in America couldn’t stop Ajo

This post guest written by Local First Arizona Economic Development Intern, Adonis Trujillo.

“Because of the multitude of relationships we have developed, no matter how many ties get cut, Ajo Lives," says Nina Sajovec

“Because of the multitude of relationships we have developed, no matter how many ties get cut, Ajo Lives,” says Nina Sajovec

What does it take to boost a local economy, increase community health and be less reliant on outside food sources? According to Nina Sajovec, Co-Founder & Director at Ajo Center for Sustainable Agriculture, it takes relationships.

How was it possible to create something out of nothing?  “Relationships,” says Sajovec. “None of it could have happened without relationships.”  Sajovec shared her story at the  Local First Arizona Foundation Farm & Food Finance Forum at the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix.  Sajovec demonstrated the power of relationships with yarn. She asked the group to form a circle and pass the yarn around and gather the string if participants had any thing in common with words or phrases she mentioned. After five minutes of passing the yarn, there was an incredible web of connections people had made. Sajovec showed the strength of this web by taking scissors and cutting it. Cut after cut the web remained strong.

In order to reach the small town of Ajo, travelers and suppliers must venture more than 100 miles of untouched desert before seeing any signs of settlement. The small town is home to about 5,000 people with a mixed population of Mexican Americans, Native Americans, and Anglo Americans. The small mining town has been called a “food desert,” because selection of food is scarce and the prices are high. It has also been proclaimed to have some of the worst soil for growing in America.


Nina Sajovec presented at the 2016 Arizona Food & Farm Finance Forum on how collaboration builds healthy food systems.

Many of these factors forced residents of Ajo to travel hundreds of miles for basic necessities that residents of larger cities enjoy every day.  In 2009, Sajovec along with other concerned citizens of Ajo worked to establish a local farmers market. The group started out as a weekly effort with a single table to sell items such as vegetables, milk and eggs. The newly formed farmers market then reached out to the owners of the historically renowned town plaza and was invited to host the market there. In the beginning, the owners of the plaza covered insurance for the event and did not charge growers fees to set up. This model worked well for the producers as more and more utilized the market to promote their products.

Initially, stereotypes and assumptions about farmers markets stood as a consumer barrier for much of the population of Ajo. To get past the “fresh is expensive” perception, Sajovec built relationships with local schools, women’s circles and other organizations to inspire people of all backgrounds to participate. WIC, food stamps, and other government SNAP programs are also now accepted at the market to support lower income families. To ensure the participation of youth, there are different fun and interactive childrens’ activities each week promoting healthy lifestyles.

Organizations such as Ajo Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Ajo Gardeners Network and Ajo Regional Food Partnership developed and strengthened because of the efforts of the farmers market.  “Honor the soil (once called the worst growing soil), honor the water, and honor the plants. It was imperative to understand the limitations of the land: You are not going to grow strawberries in Ajo, and that’s ok,” said Sajovec. The market works with youth and residents to encourage and teach the value of growing one’s own food and most importantly being able to take care of Ajo.

From the first table in 2009 to the 60 producers that participate in the farmers markets today, this communal event brings life to the town plaza in the heart of Ajo. An estimated $500 worth of food was sold annually in Ajo before the farmers market. Now, the number has risen to over $30,000 annually with over 8,000 pounds of food traded and grown in and around Ajo each year. Today, over 100 families receive support from the Ajo Growers Network to provide fresh, local and healthy food.

IMG_7312To learn more about how the Local First Arizona Foundation highlights and supports the local foods movement, join us at our next event, The Farmer Chef Connection on September 12th in Tucson.

Posted in Agriculture, Policy, Real Food Stories, Rural Arizona, Sustainability | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

10 Ways to Go Local for Father’s Day

Every dad is different, so be sure to make your dad feel special with a unique gift from a local business! Here are 10 ways to go local for Father’s Day:

1. Keep Dad Looking Sharp with Local Fashions

Image via Man at Leisure

Image via Man at Leisure

Whether or not your dad needs help keeping up with the trends, he will love some new digs or accessories from a local clothing store or apparel shop.

2. Get Dad his Favorite Local Sweets

Does dad have a sweet tooth? Solve his sugar cravings with some delicious locally made candies and desserts.

3. Try a New Sport with Dad

bookmans sports 2.2

Image via Bookmans Sports

Help dad stay fit when you choose a local sporting goods or athletic wear store to try a new sport.

4. Celebrate Dad with Local Brews & Beverages

Introduce dad to your favorite local brewery, or treat him to a six-pack of his favorite local brew. If he’s not into beer, how about local wine, coffee, or tea?

5. Treat Dad to a Tasty Local Meal

Take dad out for a delicious meal at his favorite local restaurant, or get him a gift card to use later. How about the Devour Phoenix gift card, good at over 25 local restaurants in the Phoenix metro?

6. Buy Tickets for a Local Performance

Live performance

Image via SAACA

Spend some quality time with dad and treat him to a local performance. There are tons of great local arts, theatre, and music acts across the state.

7. Treat Dad to a New Local Tool

Image via Home Co.

Image via HomCo

Is dad handy around the house, or does he have a green thumb? Head to your local home and garden store to get dad that new tool he’s been wanting.

8. Have a Movie Night at a Local Theater 

Photo via Harkins.
Image via Harkins

Treat papa to some popcorn and catch a cool flick at a locally movie theater like Harkins Theaters statewide, The Orpheum in Flagstaff, or The Loft Cinema in Tucson.

9. Visit a Local Arizona Monument

Beautiful Sedona at sunrise.

Plan a day hike to one of the natural beauties of Arizona such as The Grand Canyon, Mt. Lemon, or the Sedona red rocks. If guided tours are more his thing then plan a day trip to any of the educational gems around Arizona such as The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Presidio San Agustin Museum in Tucson, or the wild-west town of Tombstone, Arizona.

10. Find Him A Local Gift Online

Computer email

Image via compfight

Did you know that there are over 200 options to shop locally from your computer? See the local online businesses that sell everything from body care products to trail mix to running shoes to wine. It’s never been easier to shop locally from home.

Still stumped on what to get dad?

A lovely Localist family from Fall Fest 2015.

A lovely Localist family from Fall Fest 2015.

Give dad the gift of a Localist membership! It’s the gift that keeps on giving, as this year-long membership is just $20 and will give dad access to all the cool local events and experiences that we plan just for Localists. Declare dad a Localist today.

Or does your dad have a unique hobby or taste? Check out our local business directory for 2,600 local businesses around the state to find a great gift for dad!

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Local Summer Fun for Kids at Hubbard Sports Camp

Hubbard Family Swim School

Image via Hubbard Family Swim School

If you’re looking for something to keep the children active during the summer months be sure to check out Hubbard Family Swim School and its ever popular Hubbard Sports Camp that kicks off from late May to early August. The sports camp, established in 1998, is a co-ed multi-sport summer camp offering one-week sessions to campers 4.5 to 13 years old. Hubbard provides a safe, active environment that encourages physical, social, and emotional growth for a lifetime of success. The camp offers sports and games to meet the interest and skill levels of all campers. To learn more visit,http://hubbardsports.com/.

Additionally, if spending the summer months in the pool and fostering safe swimming habits for the kiddos is a priority, check out Hubbard’s swimming program which has an international reputation for morphing inexperienced young waders into comfortable, confident, and skilled swimmers. Hubbard Swim School is the place to go for experienced swim education and water fun in a nurturing indoor environment. Since 1998, Hubbard Family Swim School and Summer Sports Camp have been a way of life for many families in Phoenix. They have three indoor swim locations in Arizona and classes throughout the year that are tailored for the individual needs of each aspiring swimmer. Visit: http://www.hubbardswim.com/ to check out their wide range of lessons and programs.

Find more Arizona businesses in the Recreation and Sports category of our local business directory. 

Posted in Greater Phoenix, LFA Member Spotlight | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Guest Blog: Benefits of Buying Local

This guest blog was written by David DeLorenzo, CEO at locally owned Bar and Restaurant Insurance, and was originally posted on the Bar and Restaurant Insurance blog on May 23, 2016.

money where your heart isBENEFITS OF BUYING LOCAL

Rumor has it there is a trend moving toward supporting local businesses and moving away from huge impersonal businesses. While some of those have their place, I hope this rumor bears some truth. Supporting local business can have so many benefits, for our communities and our families.

Having been a locally owned business owner for over 15 years now, I obviously stand to benefit if this trend continues. However, I am also a strong supporter of other local business for a number of reasons. Here are a few of the benefits of supporting, shopping, and eating local.


In many instances when you keep your business local you have some sort of a connection to the owner. Many of these people pour their heart and soul into building a business. Most of the time, when I am eating out or shopping local I end up meeting the owners because they are present. That’s what getting a business off the ground requires. It’s really hard work to build a business from the ground up and it’s nice to meet the person behind the concept.

In many cases their passion comes through, which is what keeps me coming back time and time again. A few nights ago I dined at Southern Rail and ran into one of the owners. Talking with him you could tell how invested they are in their restaurants and how much pride they take in them. The service was excellent, might I add, and the overall experience really impressed me. Knowing the people who are working so hard to offer great services and products makes a difference to me. It evokes an entirely different experience and it’s one that I value.

proudmemberbadge2_bigSUPPORTS THE LOCAL ECONOMY

According to study featured on the Local First Arizona site, for every $100 earned by locally owned business only $27 leaves the local economy. Contrast this to non-locally owned businesses where $57 leaves the local economy.

“The findings of this analysis show that locally owned companies with a vested interest in the community in fact do create a greater economic impact, indirectly supporting more jobs, payroll and output locally. They also create a greater revenue impact in that more of the taxes they pay, and their employees pay, stay in Arizona,” said Local First Arizona. Plus local businesses often support other local businesses and that creates a chain reaction in our economy. This in turn enriches the entire community at large.


Our world is becoming more homogeneous each day; however, locally owned business are often known for their uniqueness. They have character and this is what makes our communities distinct. Uniqueness can also benefit tourism because when people travel they typically want to try something new. Tourism fuels the local economy, which is another benefit for maintaining that individuality found in local businesses.


Having many independent businesses promotes product diversity as each has the choice to select what they wish to utilize individually. Decisions can be made by personally understanding their customer base and not having to conform to a large national uniform plan. This encourages diversity in a variety of ways and allows for consumers to have more choices.

One the best things I’ve done as a locally owned business is join Local First Arizona. This network of people has been a tremendously valuable resource to me. I’ve been a sustaining member of Local First Arizona for 5 years now. I find the opportunities LFA offer to be exceptional for me personally, as well as the growth of my company. I’ve enjoyed the chance to network with other like-minded individuals, support local businesses, and share passions. I highly recommend getting involved in this excellent organization.

Read more from David DeLorenzo on the Bar and Restaurant Insurance Blog

Posted in Businesses, Guest Post | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

5 Ways to Go Local for Memorial Day

Memorial Day (May 30, 2016) is a day of remembrance for those who dedicated their lives to the American military. As a thank you and out of respect for our service men and women many businesses give their employees a day off. Often, people take the three day weekend as an opportunity to relax, recharge, or get out of town. Make the most of your Memorial Day by keeping your dollars in the local economy to support local businesses and your community!

When you choose a local business over a national chain, up to 4 times more money stays in the local economy to support strong, vibrant communities across the state.

Here are 5 quick tips to go local for your Memorial Day weekend:

1. Make it a Staycation

Casino Del Sol Resort 2011Casino Del Sol Resort in Tucson, Photo via Casino Del Sol Resort

Planning to get out of town during the long weekend? Arizona is home to many wondrous towns, monuments, and experiences stretching to every corner of this state. Check out our WeekendZona page for some unique day and weekend trip ideas to Bisbee, Tucson, Globe/Miami, Prescott, and the Verde Valley. You can also visit our online directory for a list of local B&Bs, hotels, and travel destinations.

2. Support Local Outside of Arizona

Photo Credit: caribb via Compfight cc

If your Memorial Day plans do take you outside of Arizona’s borders, do some research and support the independent businesses where you’re visiting. Seek out locally owned hotels, restaurants, attractions, and more.

3. Go Local at the Grill

burger grill
Photo Credit: vauvau via Compfight cc

Hosting a BBQ for Memorial Day? Head to your local farmers market or grocery store to pick up your burger ingredients! Good Food Finder AZ, the largest directory of agriculture and food producers in Arizona, can help you locate specific ingredients.

4. Drink Local

SanTan Mr Pineapple

SanTan Brewing Company’s Mr. Pineapple, Photo via SanTan Brewing Company

Picking up a beverage for the Memorial Day picnic? Choose a local brew, many local breweries have great summer seasonals right now! If you’re not a beer drinker, there’s always Arizona wine!

5. Skip the Corporate Sale

©2014 Rick D'Elia/D'Elia Photographic/ www.deliaphotographic.com/480-452-5723

Copper Art Museum in Clarkdale. Photo by D’Elia Photographic. 

Memorial Day weekend is a popular time for big box sales. Most of the money you spend at these stores will end up leaving Arizona. Make your money work for you by skipping the sales and visiting a local business instead!

Posted in Arts and Culture, Businesses, Exploring Arizona, Greater Phoenix, Local First Movement, Northern Arizona, Restaurants & Dining, Rural Arizona, Tucson & Southern Arizona | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shop Local Twitter Treasure Hunt Returns to Flagstaff

shoplocal tth2

Local First Arizona and Bookmans Entertainment Exchange have partnered again to bring the 2nd Shop Local Twitter Treasure Hunt to Flagstaff. Treasure hunters are invited to follow along on Twitter for clues about the local business holding onto a prize basket stuffed with local products.

Starting at 8:00 am, on Monday, May 30th and continuing through Friday, June 3rd, tweets will be sent from the Local First Northern Arizona account (@LFANorthernAZ) and the Bookmans Flagstaff account (@BookmansFlag) revealing clues about which local business  is holding onto the daily prize basket. There will be one prize basket available each day. Once a treasure hunter discovers which business the clues refer to, he or she must visit that business and say the phrase “I love local business!” to win. The first person to arrive in person and say this phrase will be the winner and may claim the prize basket. There is no purchase necessary to play but winners must agree to have their photo taken and shared on social media.

shop local tth

The Twitter Treasure Hunt is part of Local First Arizona’s Localist program, an individual membership program with a focus on having fun while connecting individuals with the local businesses in their community. “This collaboration of local businesses in Flagstaff is what we’re all about. Local businesses build vibrant communities and this partnership between Bookmans and Local First Arizona is a fun, interactive way for people to explore their city and win great local prizes.” says Jenny Strickland, Localist Program Coordinator at Local First Arizona.

Participating in the Twitter Treasure Hunt is free and easy, all you need is a Twitter account. The twitter accounts to follow in order to play are @BookmansFlag and @LFANorthernAZ. To join the Localist conversation on Twitter, users should use the hashtag #AZLocalist. Celebrate the local shops, restaurants, and bars that make Flagstaff so great!

Posted in Exploring Arizona, Go Local Guides, Northern Arizona | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New LFA Members Only Digital Collateral

proudmemberbadge2_bigThe new Local First Arizona member digital collateral is here! A crucial benefit as a Local First Arizona member is announcing your business as a homegrown Arizona company that is part of the largest local business coalition in the United States. To make this easier for our business coalition members, we’ve created updated digital collateral that displays loud and proud that your business is locally owned and operated.


In the new Local First Arizona membership collateral, you will find:

    • A digital “proud member” badge to display on your website (in English or Español)
    • Social media graphics
    • Banner advertisements for your website
    • A printable poster to display in your store, vendor booth, etc.
    • Local First Arizona logos that you may use as well

If you are displaying any of the old digital collateral that we previously provided for you on your website, please remove it and replace with these updated graphics.  

We have seen members use our collateral and logos in a variety of creative ways, including:

  • Business Cards
  • Email Newsletters
  • Receipts
  • Website
  • Print and Digital Advertising
  • Company Vehicle
  • Product Labels
  • Social Media

While sharing updates, be sure to post to social media, tag us and use the hashtag #LocalFirstAZ on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram so we can share to our networks!

Posted in Businesses, Local First Movement | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

LFA For(u)m Discusses Engaging Sites for Reuse and Infill This Wednesday

The Vintage 45, Photo courtesy of Jonathan Warren Caroll

The Vintage 45, Photo courtesy of Jonathan Warren Caroll

The LFA For(u)m returns for May with its latest panel discussion, focusing on site selection for infill and adaptive reuse projects. The panel intends to identify the variety of criteria which produce the vibrant, inclusive reuse developments that have rapidly spread across the Valley, including the folks behind such projects as the Gold Spot, Cobra Arcade Bar, Historic Downtown Chandler, and the impending return of Gallo Blanco.

Local First Arizona’s newest program debuted last month with a vital, engaging discussion on the diversity of means by which creative developments are financed. Included on the panel were veteran developers, a community banker, and the president of LISC Phoenix, a local community development financial institution, best-known for its investment in building low-income and senior housing facilites along the light rail line across the Valley. Included in the audience were investors, urbanists, developers, architects, and more, all eager to engage with the topic inside The Newton, the former Beefeaters restaurant now transformed into a multiuse hub of uptown Phoenix.

“[The For(u)m is] facilitating an important conversation by bringing local people together to empower and help one another to make Phoenix better from within,” said attendee, Kevin Rille, of KLMN Properties, which has just begun its own investment in adaptive reuse through the McKinley Club, and its recently-announced Roland’s Market restoration.

For this month’s panel, the discussion shifts to acknowledgment that these projects do not happen in a vacuum–they must be properly situated between a community’s current residential needs and its future ambitions, and occupy a building with character to be maximized.

The location of the event is purposeful, inside the recently-opened Vintage 45. Formerly known as the Neil B McGinnis Building and lovingly preserved by Michael Levine, the property was most recently acquired and gutted to be transformed into the a multi-use events space and church. Preserving the large bays and hooks of the former tractor warehouse, the project is now another example of reuse in the long-underrecognized Warehouse District.

“We at Vintage 45 chose to build a space that’s respectful of history, and we hope to foster an appreciation for that in our events. To host the For(u)m is to stand arm-in-arm with a group of like-minded professionals aiming to preserve and expand the things which make Phoenix iconic,” expressed Nicole Eberhardt of The Vintage 45.

As we have long seen in Phoenix, history is not often honored and preserved. And so, with an eye towards potential energy, a new generation of developers and real estate representatives has been gaining momentum in selecting and maximizing sites for adaptation. With this panel, we consider what draws the attention of those in the building industry, and what produces an iconic site for development.

Niels Kreipke of Desert Viking will sit on the panel, and is perhaps the veteran of the group. “After decades in the business, I couldn’t be more excited to have aligned with a group with For(u)m’s principles. Choosing unique properties with unrealized potential has always been vital to my practice, and I’m looking forward to picking everyone’s brains on what magic produces a successful reuse project.”

For(u)m as a whole focuses its energy on building a coalition of developers, urbanists, architects, and city officials devoted to supporting inclusive, sustainable, and thoughtful infill and adaptive reuse. With this event, the attention turns to what makes specific projects work–how location, building structure, and context produce viable creative developments.

What: LFA For(u)m: Sourcing Opportunity
Where: The Vintage 45, 45 W Buchanan St, Phoenix, 85004
When: Wednesday, May 25, 6-8pm
Info & tickets here.

Posted in Business Member Event, Greater Phoenix, LFA Forum, Local First Movement | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Arizona Classic: Arizona Highways Magazine

Arizona Highways Cover sunset

Arizona Highways Magazine’s award-winning photography, travel journalism, and its steadfast commitment to discovering the state’s treasures has brought the beauty and splendor of Arizona to visitors and natives alike for more than 90 years. Originally launched in July 1921 by the Arizona Highway Department (now the Arizona Department of Transportation), the magazine began as a 10-page pamphlet designed to promote “the development of good roads throughout the state.” Since then the magazine has become a key source for information about people, places, and things across Arizona with some of the most spectacular photography of our beloved state

Did you know: In 1946, the famous photographer Ansel Adams started to contribute prints for the magazine? Since this time, the magazine has become world famous due to its splendid photography and content. If you are looking for a gift or a coffee table addition that celebrates the beauty of Arizona, consider a gift subscription or other gems that Arizona Highways offers including imprinted calendars and coffee-table books. Visit their website at https://www.arizonahighways.com/ to learn more and to see their great gift giving options.

Posted in LFA Member Spotlight | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Localists Experiement With Local Flavors at Tinderbox Kitchen

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 4.42.35 PM

Last month, Localists were treated to a three course sampling of spring and summertime flavors for the Tinderbox Kitchen Food and Beverage Lab. This Flagstaff restaurant is known for using locally sourced ingredients, and showcased unique pairings of seasonal foods and beverages for the crowd of hungry Localists.

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