Arizona food systems


Being based in Arizona, it’s only natural that supporting our home state’s food system is a top priority for the Swette Center. 

Arizona’s food system faces unique challenges due to the state’s arid climate and water scarcity. However, Arizona also presents opportunities for innovative approaches to promote sustainable food production and distribution. Sustainable agriculture practices, such as drip irrigation, precision farming and hydroponics, are being adopted to maximize water efficiency and minimize environmental impact. Additionally, the state’s diverse ecosystems and extensive Indigenous knowledge offer potential for climate-smart agriculture and the preservation of biodiversity. Community-supported agriculture programs, farmers’ markets and urban agriculture initiatives are gaining popularity as they promote local food production, reduce food miles and support small-scale farmers. Efforts to increase access to fresh and healthy food in underserved areas, address food waste and support sustainable food businesses are also underway. 

Maya Dailey, owner of Maya’s Farm and garden manager at Garfield Elementary

How does the Swette Center support Arizona food systems?

Escalante Community Garden in Tempe, Arizona

Urban agriculture research

The planet is urbanizing and with it, interest in urban agriculture is growing. Our Grow Local Tempe project, funded through a USDA Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production grant, is a partnership between the Swette Center and the City of Tempe in which we work with neighborhoods, schools and community organizations to strengthen a sustainable local food system to meet the needs of the Tempe’s growing population. Our research team conducted a state-of-play review of urban agriculture best practices through interviews with local urban growers. They also conducted case studies of six US cities for lessons that could apply to the city that is home to our main campus. This resulted in the development of 10 policy recommendations that were submitted for local residents’ feedback, and paved the way for the development of a Tempe food plan. The synthesis of this work has been compiled in a report to be published in early fall 2023. Additionally, we worked with a group of graduate students to create and maintain a map referencing local food assets for urban agriculture in the city of Tempe. We are currently conducting a feasibility study to create an urban agriculture training and development certification program at Arizona State University.

Yadi Wang, TOPP mentor and farmer at Oatman Flats Ranch

Transition to Organic Partnership Program

As part of USDA’s $100 million dollar Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP), the ASU Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems is serving as the state lead to support farmers across Arizona as they transition to organic farming systems.

This is a nation-wide collaboration led by the National Organic Program that is building programs specifically designed for farmers transitioning to organic practices and includes farmer-to-farmer mentorship, technical assistance, workforce development and community building initiatives.

Climate-SMART Agriculture pilot project

The Climate-SMART (Specific Management for Arizona Resilience and Transformation) Agriculture pilot project is a state-wide collaboration to create a program for growers in Arizona to adopt climate-smart agriculture and forestry practices. This project arose out of widespread concern about how Arizona has been particularly impacted by climate change, making climate-smart solutions in agriculture a necessary part of our state’s future.

Funded by USDA Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities, this project is being led by the Arizona Association of Conservation Districts and involves 13 project partners across the state. The Swette Center has committed to creating training guides for the workshops by working with early adopters of climate-smart practices, providing technical support on biologicals and facilitating stakeholder engagement for the workshops.

This exciting project is set to commence in 2024 – stay tuned! 

4th Annual Arizona Food Summit

Featuring 26 speakers and over 200 Arizonans in attendance – nearly 140 in person – the Arizona Department of Agriculture and ASU Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems co-hosted the 4th Annual Arizona Food Summit at ASU’s Sun Devil Stadium in 2022 for two days of information sharing and discussion on how best to move forward on creating a sustainable, healthy food system for all Arizonans. 

The days were packed with speakers from across the food system spectrum. The event opened with US Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack emphasizing the need to link food security with nutrition security and to better translate science to help people make informed choices. Vilsack further challenged Arizonans to engage, bring young people into agriculture and food work, support our local farmers and attend to nutrition security.

Immersive visits and blog highlights

Each year, we take our graduate students across Arizona for an immersive food and farm experience to learn directly from farmers, ranchers, food processors, hunger relief workers, government officials and food entrepreneurs. The bottom-line lesson of the class: one should never design food policy absent conversations with the people who produce our food. 

To encourage thoughtful reflection, students are assigned responsibility for writing a short article about one of the meetings during the immersive. These “blogs” are posted on the Swette Center website and shared via social media. Collectively, through these blogs, the students share with the public their new insight into Arizona’s food system and appreciation for all that it takes to put food on the table.

  • Arizona food systems

    Arizona food systems

    Being based in Arizona, it’s only natural that supporting our home state’s food system is a top priority for the Swette Center.  Arizona’s food system faces unique challenges due to the state’s arid climate and water scarcity. However, Arizona also presents opportunities for innovative approaches to promote sustainable food production and distribution.

    Read more

  • Engaging the private sector

    Engaging the private sector

    Engaging businesses, including food companies, retailers, agricultural technology providers and investors, in food systems brings valuable expertise and innovation capabilities that are essential for driving sustainable change. Collaborative partnerships between governments, civil society and the private sector can leverage the strengths of each sector to build resilient and inclusive food systems.

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  • Empowering Indigenous foodways

    Empowering Indigenous foodways

    Indigenous foodways hold immense importance as they represent the culmination of centuries of wisdom, culture and sustainable practices. They are the embodiment of indigenous communities’ deep connection to their lands, traditional knowledge and ancestral heritage. By preserving and revitalizing indigenous foodways, we aim to honor and celebrate the cultural diversity and resilience of indigenous peoples.

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