Friday, November 7, 2014

Where does my produce come from?

After a recent trip to the supermarket, I was curious how far our food travels to end up on the market shelves. Since most processed foods can only be traced back to the address of the company that distributes them, the search was limited to produce. Even then, the best that can be done in some cases (like organic bananas) is the country of origin.

Here's the map of some rather basic Fall produce purchases:

The bright side is that they are all at least from the same hemisphere, but that's still a lot of travel for a not-at-all exotic shopping list. A reminder that growing and purchasing produce locally does make a difference.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tucson - UNESCO City of Gastronomy?

One of the leading experts on Sonoran Desert foods and cultures, Gary Paul Nabhan, spoke at the Fox Theater on Wednesday, 22 October 2014, as part of the ongoing University of Arizona Downtown Lecture Series on Food. Among other things (like issues of food insecurity as a result of our industrialized agricultural system), he spoke at some length about Tucson's application for designation as a UNESCO City of Gastronomy. The report is full of fascinating information about Tucson and its culinary history, as well as examples of the cuisine that makes Tucson unique. There are many examples of local food production and resources for learning more about the foods that make Tucson so different from anywhere else.

Of special interest for the Sonoran Gardener app is the table of Heritage Food Crops of the Tucson Basin. This table lists Native Semi-Cultigens, Early Agriculture, Spanish/Mexican Agriculture, and Early American Agriculture. It is an ideal starting list of native and locally-adapted crops for inclusion in Sonoran Gardener.  

A PDF copy of Tucson, Arizona: An International Culinary Destination is available from the Santa Cruz Valley Heritage Alliance. Check it out!

Monday, October 27, 2014

4th Annual Homescape Harvest Tour

On Saturday, 25 October 2014, the Watershed Management Group presented the 4th Annual Homescape Harvest Tour. In partnership with the WMG, BICAS led a bicycle tour of 10 of the 22 sites open for the tour. The map below shows the route taken on the tour and photographic highlights from the stops. All you need to do is click on the image and it will open the interactive map in a new window.

The Homescape Harvest Tour was very inspirational. There are a lot of people in Tucson that are harvesting rainwater and greywater, planting local and desert-adapted plants, keeping chickens, raising fish and crops in aquaponic tanks, composting their waste, and taking advantage of Arizona's abundant sunlight to lower their energy use (and costs).

View the tour for yourself and see if you don't also get inspired!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

UA Downtown Lecture Series: Food!

The University of Arizona's Downtown Lecture Series starts tonight and the topic for this year is food!

There are some great topics and some great speakers lined up this year:

  • Changing Geographies of Food - Diana Liverman (15 Oct)
  • Tucson: City of Gastronomy, Hub for Food Diversity - Gary Paul Nabhan (22 Oct)
  • We Eat What We Are - Maribel Alvarez (29 Oct)
  • Edible Roman Empire - Emma Blake (5 Nov)
  • Food for Pleasure, Vitality, and Health - Victoria Maizes (12 Nov)
Can't make it downtown to the Fox Theater one of those nights (even though it is more fun when you are attending with other foodies)? No problem. Arizona Public Media will be livestreaming all of the talks, beginning at 6:30 PM each night.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Interest Survey Results

We went to downtown Tucson on Friday to gauge interest in the Sonoran Gardener app. Here are the results of our survey:
It was very gratifying to us that a significant majority of the people we talked to would be interested in using an app like Sonoran Gardener. Of those who didn't express an interest, the most common reason was no access to a computer or smartphone.
We asked about five functions that the app could perform. The greatest interest was in getting assistance with selecting native and locally-adapted seeds to plant, followed by garden planning. Guides for collecting and distributing rainwater and help with menu planning and recipes were also popular choices. Based on these results, we will be prioritizing native seed selection for the first release of the app. A garden planner will be the focus for the next release after that.
There was a clear preference for mobile platforms in the survey. During development, we will be using mobile-friendly web layouts, but we will start working on apps for Android and iOS devices once the design for Sonoran Gardener has been finalized.
Nearly everyone we talked to said they would be interested in receiving offers from local businesses that support local food production and native seeds, so we will pursue our strategy of providing offers in an unobtrusive manner in the app.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to answer our questions. Having this kind of feedback early in a project is very important to us. Please follow our progress as we build a healthier Tucson with your help!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sonoran Gardener Test Plot - Ready for the first step!

We cleared the weeds and garbage from the test plot this past weekend. Next step: planning and establishing irrigation. This step will be a test for the irrigation planning tool in the app that will take into account the Pima County watershed the plot is located in (using open source watershed data) and suggestions for collecting and distributing captured water.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Sonoran Gardener Test Plot

This is a picture of the garden plot in Tucson that is going to be used for testing the Sonoran Gardener app. It is in pretty bad shape, but should clean up well. Follow us to see how it comes along!