The Eat Local Gila Valley campaign, which featured a new website and YouTube videos, has been deemed a success.
A few months back, Local First Arizona, the Graham County Chamber of Commerce and the Graham and Greenlee County United Way teamed up to find ways to help the community find food that is produced locally.
Thanks to a grant from the Vitalyst Health Foundation, the Local First Arizona created a website called Good Food Finder where folks in Greenlee and Graham counties can learn about neighbors who are growing food locally and making soaps, baked goods and other products. They also shot YouTube videos and began offering free “Eat Local Gila Valley” totes, stickers, and water bottles at the Gila Valley Farmers Market, Graham County Health Department and Graham County School Superintendent’s office.
Back in September, Maria Lopez, communications manager for Local First, said the “Eat Local” campaign started in the Gila Valley and Superior because of concerns over food insecurity in both communities, but will eventually expand to other parts of the state.
“We are trying to use this campaign to inform the residents about the great local options they have in their community especially during a pandemic,” Lopez said. “To build a strong Arizona, to build a stronger economy we need to support our local merchants and businesses. This is about eating local and creating a better food system but also supporting the Gila Valley’s economy, one that hopefully will grow with everything going on.”
One of the “local producers” featured on the website, is the Gila Valley Farmers Market, which began inside the Graham County Chamber of Commerce with a dozen eggs and 12 artichokes a year ago, said Vance Bryce, who is the market’s manager and the chamber’s executive director.
Not only did the Farmers Market nearly triple in size, going from 10 to 27 booths, between September and December, the market earned $3,225 for local producers.
Bryce said the campaign was a successful test pilot because the market and food producers learned a great deal about what it will take to make a profit locally.
“It’s been a big adventure,” Bryce said. “People have founded businesses because of this market.”
Liza Noland, director of rural programs for Local First Arizona, was pleased with the overall campaign.
“The number of people who began to look for local producers online was really encouraging. I think what that does is now we will look at the results of the food study, and then find out how to tie the consumers into the producers a little bit better,” she said. “To fix this food access problem, because it certainly appears that there is one.”
Although the Farmers Market is currently closed due to a large leak in the roof, Bryce said planting will begin soon and the market will be ready to reopen in the spring.