USDA Awards Funds for the Food and Farm Finance Forum


The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced that it has awarded the Local First Arizona Foundation (LFAF) funding through its 2015 Risk Management Education Partnerships Program. The amount received will be used by LFAF’s Healthy Local Foods department to host the most comprehensive and valuable Food and Farm Finance Forum (FFFF) to date. The third annual FFFF will take place May 19-20, 2016, at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona.

The Food and Farm Finance Forum is an annual opportunity for those involved in and contributing to Arizona’s local food system grow the capacity of Arizona food producers and entrepreneurs, forge alliances and partnership that build collaboration around local food systems, and cultivate healthy eating habits in ways that demonstrate the connection between food, health, community and the environment. Approaching its third year, FFFF features speakers with experience in farming, food system development, local food marketing, and building wealth for local economies. “Our ultimate goal with the Risk Management Education Partnerships Program award is to broaden and deepen the educational content offered to local food producers, specifically in the areas of risk management, food safety, and wholesale marketing.” said Rachel Morningstar, Local Foods Development Coordinator for Local First Arizona Foundation.



In 2015, FFFF provided educational presentations on topics related to Arizona’s local food economy such as outreach/marketing, business development and aggregation/distribution to more than 200 attendees over a two day forum. “With agriculture being one of Arizona’s largest industries, it is important that we do what we can to support our local growers and producers,” said Kimber Lanning, Executive Director of Local First Arizona Foundation. “By giving them the tools and relationships to succeed, we can have a food system that significantly impacts the state’s economy, benefiting everyone by creating local agriculture jobs and bringing local foods to our tables.”

This year’s Food and Farm Finance Forum is for farmers, producers, students, nonprofit professionals, policy makers, funders and consumers alike, with daily offerings tailored to the needs of everyone in the food system. The USDA award will provide LFAF the resources to bring in nationally-recognized speakers and presenters, as well as widen the range of topics covered to include food safety, postharvest handling, packing, and business management, among other topics. Family Farmed, a nonprofit organization based out of Chicago, will be presenting their Wholesale Marketing Success Training covering topics such as Calculating Return on Investment; Cleaning, Drying, and Curing Produce; Traceability; Packing Shed Design; and Maintaining the Cold Chain.

Attendees will also have the opportunity to attend “Turning Dreams into Reality: Starting a Farm in Arizona”, which is a two-day exploratory workshop for beginning and prospective farmers. Attendees will learn about the opportunities and challenges of starting from scratch, meet local farmers and visit their farms, and build an inventory of their personal and community resources they need to be successful. The event includes an urban farm tour that can be purchased an optional add on the the Food and Farm Finance Forum.



The third major component of the 2016 Food and Farm Finance Forum is a community organizing process called FEAST (Food Education Agriculture Solutions Together) created by the Oregon Food Bank. FEAST allows participants to engage in an informed and facilitated discussion about food, education and agriculture in their community and begin to work toward solutions together to help build a healthier, more equitable and more resilient local food system. It helps communities move to action around food systems work by identifying priorities and creating action plans to achieve those goals.

Tickets are now on sale and available at There are several different ticketing packages available. Newly added this year and in preparation for the conferences is an additional two days of hands-on training for beginning and prospective farmers May 17-18, hosted by the University of Arizona’s Agriculture Extension. Ticket prices range from $59 for one-day experiences to $109 for a two-day packages.

More Information about the 2016 Food and Farm Finance Forum can be found at the Food and Farm Finance Forum website. Questions about the 2016 FFFF can be directed to Rachel Morningstar at