Good food is not a privilege! The Ajo Center for Sustainable Agriculture is a community-based grassroots organization located in rural Ajo, Arizona which designs, promotes, supports and advocates for a just sustainable food system in Ajo based on a model of distributed urban agriculture. The organization supports and empowers a network of gardeners, eaters and neighbors through several programs, including the Occupy Your Yard backyard garden program, Garden Buddies, Compost Buddies, Green Bucks, community workshops, newsletter, website and tours. Based on the philosophy that a strong and healthy community is rooted in a strong and healthy local economy, the Center runs a Small Growers Incubator program and maintains a network of volunteer-run market gardens and a community farm (Coyote Gardens), and organizes a monthly farmers market and weekly CSA (community-supported agriculture) shares. The Center advocates pesticide-free natural and biodynamic growing techniques which grow healthy plants and healthy ecosystems and a strong, self-reliant and resilient community of Ajo.
Ajo CSA was started as Ajo Community Supported Agriculture by Nina Altshul in February 2008 in order to bring people together around food, environment and social justice issues. At that time, there were very few gardens in Ajo, and most people did not believe that Ajo could produce a substantial amount of food. Due to Ajo's remoteness and the lack of fresh organic produce available locally, Nina sought out the people in the community who were interested in joining a CSA. She chose Crooked Sky Farms due to their wide variety of produce, year-round service and proximity to Ajo (only 110 miles away!). Running the CSA brought us into contact with like-minded Ajoites who shared our vision of community, environmental awareness and food justice. We became active in the local community garden and began holding gardening workshops and food demos. We eventually began working with other local groups and helped conceive of and form the Ajo Regional Food Partnership, which has secured funding for numerous gardening and food system projects in Ajo and beyond.
After more than three years of working closely with Farmer Frank Martin and everyone at Crooked Sky Farms, in 2011 we introduced the Coyote Gardens CSA, which offers locally-grown shares grown in backyard gardens. We have continued to promote the development of a sustainable local food system in Ajo, introducing a backyard garden program and numerous other programs dedicated to promoting healthy natural gardening and conscious eating in Ajo.
Ajo CSA has changed its name to the Ajo Center for Sustainable Agriculture; we've kept our acronym but have taken a name that better reflects our overall mission.
In our vision, a just and sustainable food system in Ajo consists of many elements: growing sites distributed throughout Ajo (family gardens, community gardens, market gardens, community farms), a variety of local food processing facilities and businesses, and locally-controlled various food distribution points (from farm stands, farmers markets, csa shares, to grocery stores and food pantries/banks). All of these elements are connected with constant feed-back loops (such as our Compost Buddies program) and constant and consistent education and consciousness raising. But most importantly, all of these elements are powered and controlled by not any one individual, organization or institution, but by a strong network of self-motivated, empowered individuals and families. We have been building, supporting and nurturing this network for five years.
The Ajo Center for Sustainable Agriculture (click here to see flyer) promotes beyond-organic, sustainable local gardening, and enjoying produce that has not been treated or processed in any way. We grow desert-adapted varieties, prioritizing heirloom varieties, and advocate pesticide-free natural and biodynamic growing techniques which promote healthy plants and reduce their susceptibility to disease and infestation.
Wendell Berry said "eating is an agricultural act," and we as consumers and growers should have the opportunity to access healthy, nutritious foods produced in a sustainable manner. We believe in being a part of a local food system, and having a personal relationship with the food you grow or the people who grow it for you, as well as with the environment it grows in. This brings fresh, nutritious produce straight to our tables while decreasing our consumption of industrial food products, challenges us to cook creatively and above all allows us to connect with other people in our community through sharing tips, recipes and good food.
If you are interested in Ajo CSA and would like more information, we would be delighted to hear from you. Please see our Contact Us page for more details.