Story | Sally J. Clasen
Photography | Mark Lipczynski
If you’re in the market for healthy, locally grown food in Arizona, start your search on the Good Food Finder AZ. An online, statewide directory of local food producers, Good Food Finder was created by Natalie Morris in 2011 as part of a research project funded by a Borderlands Food and Water Security Fellowship grant overseen by renowned conservation scientist Gary Paul Nabhan, Ph.D., W.K. Kellogg Foundation chair and University of Arizona professor.
“It started out as a curiosity about how many small- and medium-scale farmers there were in Arizona,” says Morris.
What she discovered was that the local farming industry was plentiful, but needed a boost in recognition. So she decided to create Good Food Finder as a way to give local farmers some much needed publicity and a centralized direct marketing source.
“We all know we can produce food in Arizona, but much of it is exported. So by building a database, we were able to give the market promise in our state. At the time, nothing serviced small- and medium-sized businesses.”
Today, the Local First Arizona Foundation manages the Good Food Finder directory. The website gives consumers and institutional food buyers the opportunity to make socially responsible connections with procurers, farmers and restaurateurs, and learn about Arizona’s local food providers. More than a directory, the website provides complimentary local food resources, a blog and access to a bi-monthly newsletter, which helps shorten food supply chains; improve access to local, healthy foods; and encourage communities to create a healthier, more sustainable food system in Arizona.
“Good Food Finder is a tool that encourages the community to purchase from one another and create a vibrant economy,” Morris says.
Morris turned over management to the Local First Arizona Foundation in 2014 and is happy to report the directory has expanded greatly under their leadership.
“When I created the Good Food Finder, it was a pretty basic site that was farmer- and producer- focused with a fairly simple search engine that allowed users to search by business name or food item,” says Morris, who also works for the foundation. “The site now provides robust search functionality which gives users the option to display results that are within a specific radius on a map., and locate farmers markets that accept public health and nutrition programs. Visitors can browse 26 business categories that all source from local food producers.”
In addition, the number of participating businesses in the directory has grown from 800 to 1,000, and categories now include everything from food aggregators and schools, to gardens and wineries. Any Arizona food industry business that meets the requirements can be listed in the free directory.
“There is wide array of people doing business in the local food industry,” says Morris, noting that more and more users and businesses are joining the local food directory. “Arizona has a lot going on in the food industry and we want customers to know farmers and businesses are out there.”
This story was produced in collaboration with Elevate AZ, a quarterly magazine published by National Bank of Arizona. The magazine tells the stories of the passionate people across Arizona making it a great place to live, work and dream.