3 Takeaways from the 2018 Arizona Food & Farm Forum

Good Food Finder AZ has wrapped up the 2018 Arizona Food and Farm Forum, a 2-day conference programmed to change the way our desert state feeds itself. This year's Forum, held in Gilbert at the picturesque Farm at Agritopia, convened Arizona’s farmers, food distributors, restaurateurs, and entrepreneurs, and supporters to discuss "what defines good food?"

Here are three things we took away:  

1. It’s time to rethink business as usual.

The traditional model of investment in the United States is one based on extraction, one that celebrates and supports projects that will yield high likelihood of profit, growth, efficiency, ownership, and returns.

Yet if we want to shift from a system that is organized around extraction to one that surrounds regeneration, we have to look at a new set of values. We must support food and farming businesses that restore local ownership, embrace sustainable practices, provide equitable employment, and help generate local thriving communities.

View Deborah's keynote address and begin rethinking your business here:

Deborah Frieze, Founder of Boston Impact Initiative, delivered the keynote. Follow the link above to hear her address.

2. “Don’t do it alone.”

When asked if he had one piece of advice for people who were trying to turn their hobby into a business, Jeff Malkoon, founder of Peanut Butter Americano, responded: “Don’t do it alone.” Several speakers reiterated this same piece of advice.

While it's common for small business owners to see other businesses in their market as competition, we can shift our mindset to consider that local businesses are on the same team. One who can build relationships and learn from those partners, and support them too, will have an easier time building his or her business.


3. Support Those Who Support You.

Frieze set this tone for the Forum by sharing her hometown example of Cero and the other businesses in Boston Impact Initiative's investment portfolio that hire each other to fill their service needs.

One of our hosts for the Forum, Barnone, is an intentional maker-space that has brought together 12 independent craftsmen in Gilbert to hone their skills and share them with the community. Uprooted Kitchen sources produce from the on-site Farm at Agritopia, and Lettercraft supplies the decor.  Though their businesses span multiple industries, they thrive by sourcing locally from one another and collaborating.

The sentiment continued through the closing panel, where Julie Murphree from the Arizona Farm Bureau validated, "We need to have more integrated capital, yes, and integrate our resources. I'm talking generational farmers partnering with beginning farmers. The Arizona Farm Bureau and Local First Arizona will be partnering on a lot of things we don't see today." 

Gibson Rade, of Whipstone Farm, affirmed Julie's call for collaboration: "Life is adapting and that’s why we like to be entrepreneurs... there’s help and competition is good and together we can make it. Share your knowledge. Share your friendship help your competitors." 

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And a Bonus takeaway!

4. Arizonans are resilient.

Despite the early May heatwave and 104°F temperatures, Arizonans came out in droves and wearing smiles. Thank you to all for donning your hats, sunglasses, and your summer-best and going with the flow with us. Your cooperation did not go unnoticed! 

Presentations from the 2018 Food and Farm Forum are being updated on a rolling basis here. Stay tuned for details on 2019's Forum; it's sure to be something to write home about! See you there! 

A special thanks to all 2018's Sponsors for investing in a strong local food community. We couldn't have done it without you: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, The Town of Gilbert, The Farm at Agritopia, Johnston Family Foundation for Urban Agriculture, Vitalyst Health Foundation, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, Stern Produce, Courtesy Fleet, The University of Arizona Center for Regional Food Studies, Arizona Farm Bureau, Community Food Connections, Bar and Restaurant Insurance, Pinnacle Prevention, Edible Phoenix, Devour Phoenix, Green Living Magazine, The New Food Economy, and Good Food Finder AZ.