Two Tremendous Food Wins For Tucson


Recently, a collective group of key players in the Tucson food community rallied together, and won. Not once, but twice, they successfully managed to put Arizona on the map as well as make strides in the development of a healthier, vibrant food system while illustrating our story and demonstrating Arizona's worthiness of positive publicity. The impacts of both of these efforts can be seen in programs already being implemented and also guarantee a gateway for growth equitably, nutritionally, and ultimately, economically.  

The first win came in the way of a unanimous pass to an urban agriculture zoning code. The code, which has been in process for revision since 2009, will now allow those interested in doing so the right to keep 24, 36, or 48 chickens as a part of their micro-farm plot. Though the code ultimately passed 7-0, it was not without its opposition along the way, challenging advocates to consistently uphold their stance. But they did and, as a result, a common, culturally-embedded, and historically-rooted practice for many will mean the difference between food insecurity and self-sufficiency.


Not 48 hours later, Tucson joined the UNESCO Creative Cities Network as a City of Gastronomy. A nearly three-year dedicated and collective effort of like-minds, the designation is the first of its kind given to any United States city on behalf of the branch at the United Nations. Tucson was recognized for gastronomy specifically-the practice or art of choosing, cooking, and eating good food especially with regard to an area and it's traditions--but it was reinforced that this was only the foundation. “The Tucson Basin deserves this honor not only for having some of the oldest continually farmed landscapes in North America, but also for emerging as a global hotbed for ideas on relocalizing food economies and growing food in a hotter, drier climate,” says Gary Paul Nabhan, an ethnobotanist and professor at the University of Arizona’s Southwest Center. “From food banks, seed libraries, and farmers’ markets, to community gardens, community kitchens, and literary luminaries writing on food and culture, we are serving as a nursery grounds for new innovations, not merely for preserving our food heritage.” Read more about the UNESCO designation and its outcomes from Megan Kimble at Edible Baja Arizona and view a copy of the 2015 application.

Heritage Foods Mission Garden

In the case that either of these accomplishments were to come to fruition, some food policies and measurements had been in the works to be implemented by the City of Tucson, The University of Arizona, and other representatives within the City of Tucson Food Commission. As a result of their successes, Arizonans will now benefit and see their ripple effects long term.

  • 10-year General and Sustainability Plan: Urban agriculture policies included in the City of Tucson plan promote reducing barriers to food production as well as adopting regulations supporting the production of local foods and more.
  • Expanded a pilot composting program: Started in 2014 by the University of Arizona student group Compost Cats, the compost is prepared with equipment at the Tohono O'odham Nation's San Xavier Co-op Farm.
  • Commission on Food Security, Heritage, and Economy: Created in 2015 to advise the Tucson Mayor and Council on matters relating to the local food system.
  • Center for Regional Food Studies: To coincide with Tucson's designation as the newest UNESCO City of Gastronomy, the Center for Regional Food Studies has been established at the University of Arizona and will feature agricultural sciences to folklore, cutting-edge nutrition to ancient food systems promoting the borderland culinary heritage that makes Tucson a distinct food city.


UA Launches Center for Regional Food Studies

Local First Arizona has been proud to be a part of the UNESCO application process as well and will continue in the development of upcoming programs, including ongoing involvement in the City of Tucson Food Commission on Food Security, Heritage, and Economy; representation on the committee at the UofA Center for Regional Food Studies; planning and implementation for the upcoming Food Justice, Faith and Climate Change conference (Feb. 11-12 in Tucson); hosting for the Food and Farm Finance Forum (May 19-21 in central Arizona) and the annual Farmer + Chef Connection in September; and, as always, maintaining and expanding our ever-growing database of local food right here at


Those interested in following or even taking part in the process of putting Arizona on the map for good food can start by signing up for our food newsletters, which are customized for those working in or enthusiastic about good food in the state of Arizona.