Arizona, Phoenix face shortage of locally grown food

[Source: Jessica Stephenson, Special for The Republic] — Farmers markets are budding all over Arizona, but there are not enough farmers to meet the needs of all of the Arizonans hungry for local, organic food. The craze for organic and local food has brought about 21 farmers markets into the Valley, but Dee Logan, senior coordinator for Arizona Community Farmers Markets, says the demand for farmers greatly outweighs the actual number of direct-market farmers — those who sell produce directly to the buyer. Logan said the markets that customers want across the Valley cannot be created until Arizona has more direct-market farmers. “We need to grow farmers, and we need to grow growers before we expand too much more,” Logan said.

Cindy Gentry, executive director of Community Food Connections, a non-profit group trying to alleviate hunger and develop food sufficiency for low-income households, says she gets five calls a day from people requesting more farmers markets. However, the work required of direct-market farmers is too great to meet the demand. Several factors prevent the development of more direct-market farmers, such as the effort required to produce organic food that customers seek, Gentry said. Zoning laws make it difficult for commercial and residential land to be converted back to farmland. Also, market farmers sell directly to the public, and this requires more marketing expertise, which conventional farmers may lack. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]

Downtown Phoenix Public Market: Seasonal produce from local growers. Specialty foods, including breads, pastries, pasta, free-range eggs, salsa, and more. Details: 4-8 p.m. Wednesdays; 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays. 721 N. Central Ave. website.

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