2018 AZ Food and Farm Forum Comes to Gilbert


A two-day conference on Good Food: Conversations and strategies for our diverse and prosperous local food community.

The fifth annual Arizona Food and Farm Forum will be held May 8-9, 2018, at The Farm at Agritopia in the town of Gilbert, Arizona, with the aim of influencing the way Arizona feeds itself and does business locally. The event is presented by Local First Arizona Foundation, a statewide nonprofit focused on building opportunity in Arizona through community and economic development in order to build self-sufficient, healthy and prosperous communities.

“The 2018 Arizona Food and Farm Forum will be an opportunity for those involved in and contributing to Arizona’s local food system to gather, network, learn and develop new skill sets,” said Kimber Lanning, Founder and Executive Director of Local First Arizona Foundation. “This year’s Forum will feature nationally acclaimed speakers with impact investment, food system development, and building vibrant local economies.”

With over thirty breakout sessions, lightning presentations, and community resources, there will be opportunities for everyone to learn about Arizona's local food economy, including marketing, growing your markets, access to financing and grants, developing relationships between buyers of local food and producers of local food, the regulatory environments that affect local food production and resources that exist for local producers and food system participants. “The Forum will be an exciting way to learn about and put into practice strategies that expand and enhance local food businesses and connect with key leaders in the state’s local food movement,” said Lanning.

The strategies presented in the programming will be innovative, featuring local speakers from the newly founded Sun Produce Cooperative, the Community Supported Agriculture program at HonorHealth Desert Mission Food Bank, and local distributor Stern Produce which has led the way for local food aggregation. Additional speakers and presentations will be announced here.

To kick off the program, Deborah Frieze will delivery the keynote address. Frieze is founding partner of the Boston Impact Initiative, an impact investing fund focused on economic justice, which means investing in opportunity for all people—especially those most oppressed or abandoned by our current economic system—to lead a dignified and productive life. Her perspective will offer the perfect lens for meaningful dialogues and real-life strategy sessions for growing food businesses that create a prosperous community for everyone.

Recognizing that the roots of a strong local food community are relationships, the program reserves ample time for conversations and networking, allowing for farmers, entrepreneurs, chefs, non-profit support staff, and supply chain actors to gather for conversation and defining the next generation of good food in the Sonoran Desert.

With the goal of reaching new audiences and best serving Arizona’s farmers and food producers, the event is held in a different Arizona community annually. Now in its fifth year, the Arizona Food & Farm Forum is ripe to return to the Valley of the Sun and will be held at The Farm at Agritopia in Gilbert. “The Farm at Agritopia and Johnston Properties could not be more excited about hosting Local First Arizona Foundation’s 2018 Food & Farm Forum,” chimes in Katie Critchley of the Johnston Family Foundation. “Our past attendance of this event was highly educational and introduced us to important people and groups that are committed to making Arizona’s food system better. We are looking forward to continuing expanding those partnerships and meeting new people with similar goals.”

Gilbert’s revitalized Heritage District sets the perfect backdrop for the event, welcoming all Arizonans in to see the Town’s commitment to urban agriculture, high-quality food, and local heritage. "Our partnership with Local First Arizona Foundation has been, and continues to be, outstanding," said Dan Henderson, Director of the Gilbert Office of Economic Development. "Hosting the Food and Farm Forum in Gilbert allows us to showcase the best of Gilbert as well as highlight the exceptional work of Arizona's farmers and restaurateurs."

The event is open to anyone interested in Arizona's local food economy, including food producers, buyers of local food, food manufacturers, financial institutions, farmers market managers, agribusiness developers, beginning farmers and ranchers, local governments, chefs and restaurateurs, policy makers and elected officials, non-profit staff, and students. Special ticket prices are also available to the young farmers of Arizona (under the age of 20).

By educating and connecting local food professionals across the state, Local First Arizona Foundation hopes to further empower Arizona's agriculture and local foods industry. “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 Lanning. “By giving them the tools and relationships to succeed, we can have a self-reliant local food system that contributes significantly to the state's economy, benefiting everyone by creating local agriculture jobs and bringing local foods to our tables.”

Tickets for the two-day event are on sale now, with early bird pricing (2-Days: $69; 1-Day: $49) available through March 20th. Speakers and programming will be announced on a rolling basis. Registration and more information is available here.

The 2018 Arizona Food and Farm Forum is made possible with support from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, The Town of Gilbert, Johnston Family Foundation, The Farm at Agritopia, Stern Produce, and Edible Phoenix.

About Local First Arizona Foundation

Local First Arizona Foundation (LFAF) works to strengthen local economies and build opportunity for all Arizonans to create an economy that is sustainable, resilient, and celebratory of diverse cultures. LFAF focuses on a wide range of strategic initiatives that target systems of inequity. These initiatives include powering Arizona’s entrepreneurs through the Fuerza Local Business Accelerator Program; celebrating Arizona’s homegrown foods through the Healthy Local Foods Initiatives, and strengthening Arizona’s small town economies through the Arizona Rural Development Council and other rural programming. LFAF is the sister organization to Local First Arizona, where both work hand-in-hand to strengthen Arizona’s economy. Find more information at localfirstazfoundation.org.