What does local really mean?

What is Local? – Food Conspiracy defines local as grown by a farm or produced by a company located within 200 miles of the Co-op. We do not include produce grown in Mexico even though that would technically be within 200 miles.

Fresh & Farm Direct – One of the Co-op’s longtime farms, Local farm Forever Yong Farm, picks fresh and delivers to the co-op within 24 hours 2 to 3 times a week. The Co-op cooperates with local producers, for example, local Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) yellow squash from Forever Yong Farm is $1.99/lb and organic summer squash from Mexico is $1.99/lb.  Despite the equal pricing to its California counterparts, local is purchased direct from the farm to the Co-op versus through a distributor meaning the farmer gets more of each dollar than if purchased through a distributor. John Rueb explains, “You aren’t paying more for the same product. You are paying more for a fresher high quality product.” In other words, locally grown tomatoes aren’t the same product as organic tomatoes grown in California and transported to Tucson.

Is Local Organically Grown?  In some cases, the Co-op pays the same or more for organic, and it is the Certified Naturally Grown local, which supports selling both at the same price. In other cases, a lower margin is applied to local products to sell all products at a comparable price. Some might suggest that because the Co-op’s local produce is not Certified Organic like the imported or California grown produce, it should not be priced similar to organics. Locally grown produce sold at the Co-op is Certified Naturally Grown—a certification that our local growers choose and we require. It is a national farmer-to-farmer certification and the standards are comparable to the National Organic Standards which is more affordable, fosters local networks and knowledge sharing among farmer peers. It is all of the standards of Certified Organic but geared towards small scale farmers plus the added benefit is small farms are working with intact diverse ecosystems.

Diversity & Flavor – Another local producer Jaime de Zubeldia of Sun Apiaries suggests “our small scale results in very high quality food and lots of flavor, but it is very hands-on. To get flavor we need higher quality feed at a much higher cost, or alternatively, is much harder to source locally.” Crop diversity means unique and diverse varieties can be found in small markets that cannot be found elsewhere.

Why Buy Local? Aside from the freshness, diversity and safety of food grown locally, more of your money stays in the community.  This year alone over $55,000 of local farm produce has been purchased by the Food Conspiracy.  Buying local encourages smaller production and diversification of crops, keeping our topsoil rich, healthy and in place.  Knowing where your food comes from enriches our mealtime experience and connection to place.



Navigating Hemp-Derived CBD Laws by Zoe Rose Lambert

Hemp-derived CBD has recently gained a lot of attention, but there’s still a lingering cloud of uncertainty about the legal status of CBD products (tincture, topicals, etc). Hemp-derived CBD products can be shipped across state lines, to all 50 states and many countries. Businesses are having a hard time finding credit card processors that will work with them, because they are deemed high-risk. This has not stopped dozens of CBD companies popping up all over the country. A quick online search will offer many conflicting opinions on whether hemp extracts are legal to purchase in Arizona, in retail stores or online. This article is meant to be a brief overview on the legal status of CBD, and current legislation surrounding it.

An AZ state appeals court recently ruled that cannabis concentrates are not protected under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. This means that medical dispensaries throughout the state are no longer allowed to sell concentrated cannabis products, which makes up roughly 40% of medical cannabis market. The ruling makes no mention of hemp or CBD directly, but focuses entirely on cannabis extracts in concentrated forms (shatters, vapes, hashish, and edibles). While this ruling is already being challenged, it has filled the community with confusion about what this means for the future of medical cannabis and for CBD.

A Future for Hemp
In regards to hemp, Governor Doug Ducey very recently signed a law allowing a hemp pilot program to launch in Arizona in 2019. Soon hemp will be legal to grow and process into CBD extracts. In addition to CBD, hemp can be made into textiles, building materials, food products, plastic replacements, and much more! The FDA also very recently approved a CBD-based pharmaceutical drug called Epidiolex, which helps treat rare forms of epilepsy. The hemp-CBD industry is unsure of what this will mean in the long run, but CBD may now be recognized as having medical value.

On the federal level, hemp is receiving overwhelming bipartisan support. Hemp legalization is a part of the 2018 farm bill, which is currently undergoing reconciliation between the house and senate. Hopefully, within the next few months we will see sweeping progress and the start of a hemp boom in the United States. This will open the doors for more than just the CBD industry, many can benefit from the many uses of hemp!

This is by no means legal advice, and it’s always a good idea to do your own research before you buy CBD products. If you want to stay up to-date with the latest hemp legislation, visit https://hempsupporter.com/.

Zoe Rose Lambert is a Tucson native who has been working in the health and wellness industry for almost a decade. In 2017 she started Sonoran Apothecary, a website dedicated to teaching others about the hemp­derived CBD industry. She currently makes CBD ­infused topicals which are available at the Co-op, and teaches workshops about the benefits of CBD. Zoe will be teaching CBD & All Levels Yoga classes as well as CBD Edibles classes in September.

Five Fresh Things to Look for at the Co-op this Fall!

1. New Fresh Conspiracy Kitchen Summer Salads

Conspiracy Kitchen has been working hard in the kitchen this summer to revitalize our menu with fresh new offerings in the grab-and-go case and beyond.  This includes our continuing our commitment to offering local and seasonal ingredients.  New summer salads are Hunan Broccoli with Rice Salad, Edamame Mint Salad, Broccoli Cashew, Honey Mustard Potato, and Chicken Tarragon and Apple Salad.  These salads and more will rotate in the grab-and-go case. There is a delicious and distinct flavor profile associated with each of these salads that are sure to please lunch time visitors or serve as a fine accompaniment as side dish for dinner.

2. California Rolls

Fresh California rolls are also new to our grab-and-go line up–both veggie and spicy tuna.  All the fresh rolls are made in-house with organic veggies with no food coloring or additives in the pickled ginger or wasabi.  Veggies include red bell pepper, carrots, sprouts, cucumber and avocado.  Simple, natural and delicious made especially for you by us in the Conspiracy Kitchen. Your purchase of grab-and-go is guilt-free too as our sushi trays are made from plants too! They are a cutting edge bioplastic made by transforming the carbon in plants to lactic acid and are certified for industrial composting.


3. Fresh In-House Made Conspiracy Juice

In other fresh department news, we now make Conspiracy Juice in-house by our produce staff using only organic ingredients.  We have a basic green juice recipe with kale, apple, celery, lime, etc. We have a carrot juice and ginger juice to which we added apple for an extra sweetness on top of the natural sweetness of the carrot.  Lastly, the watermelon juice has been a favorite and a simple juice that people love. It is also really refreshing like an agua fresca on a hot and humid summer day.  It is watermelon, fresh mint and lime.  This watermelon mint juice will be available as long as the organic watermelons are available.  The team then plans to add a seasonal offering following seasonal availability of produce.

CBD Yoga and Mindy & Body Classes

At the Co-op, we believe along with a healthy food, whole health comes from care and attention to mind and body.  Some of the summer class offerings are by Zoe Rose Lambert of Sonoran Apothecary.  Zoe is a Tucson native who has been working in the health and wellness industry for almost a decade. Zoe’s yoga and hemp derived CBD class will combine all levels relaxed-pace yoga with a hemp derived CBD tincture that students will take internally.  She will also teach a CBD Edibles class where students will learn how to make CBD infused cooking oil to make their own edibles at home.  The Kadampa Meditation Center will offer a class on Healing Mind & Body Buddhist nun Gen Kelsang Lingpur will explain how we can take control of our own healing by relying on the special practices taught by Buddha.  Popular among locals, bread baker and Owner of Barrio Bread, Don Guerra will also teach a class on how purchasing Barrio Bread or making it at home supports a whole local ecosystem.  All classes are at the Co-op’s annex building on 7th Street in Historic Fourth Avenue. Tickets for classes can be purchased online or in the store on 4th Avenue.

5. Love Local – 10% off Local Produce, Grocery and Conspiracy Kitchen Made Foods

Food Conspiracy has made the commitment long ago to support local farmers and food producers from local honey to rangeland-fed beef and organic apples. We invest in the time it takes to order directly from many local businesses and have had relationships with farmers since the day one.  We also make great prepared foods with the same high quality organic ingredients you can find at the Co-op in our own kitchen.  We highlight all of these offerings at the height of the local summer harvest season with discounts for everyone on all locally grown produce, grocery and Conspiracy Kitchen made foods September 5-11.  Make your list and mark your calendar!

Food Conspiracy Co-op Helps Fund Fuerza Local in Tucson

It takes a village to help small local businesses succeed. In Tucson, the Food Conspiracy Co-op has stepped up to support Local First Arizona and Tucson’s local business community with a grant from the Cooperative Community Fund. Through the Cooperative Community Fund and other community-focused initiatives, the Food Conspiracy Co-op––a member-owned organic grocery store––will help fund the Fuerza Local business accelerator program, from which the first-ever South Tucson cohort will graduate at the end of June.

According to the Food Conspiracy Co-op, the Cooperative Community Fund “is the work of a collaborative effort initiated in the Twin Pines Cooperative Foundation and forty food co-ops around the country.” Throughout the year, members, shoppers, and the co-op itself donates money to the Cooperative Community Fund to raise money for nonprofits in Tucson. In February, Food Conspiracy Co-op members voted to divide the funds between three local nonprofits – including Local First Arizona.

The Cooperative Community Fund is a testament to one of the Food Conspiracy Co-op’s main principles––Concern for Community––which states that, “We [Food Conspiracy Co-op] have a special responsibility to ensure the sustainable development of our community economically, socially, and culturally.” The money that Local First Arizona receives from this grant will help fund Fuerza Local, a Local First Arizona Foundation program now serving entrepreneurs in South Tucson that provides a structured business curriculum taught by experienced, bilingual professionals. “Graduates gain access to credit at fair market rates, which enables them to strengthen their businesses, sustain their families, and rebuild their neighborhoods,” says Southern Arizona Director Mike Peel.

The Fuerza Local Business Accelerator is a six-month training program offered at no cost to underserved Hispanic business owners. During the program, entrepreneurs learn some of the fundamentals to launch or develop their business, creating a firm foundation for their goals. Lessons on accounting, social media, marketing, and many others are taught completely in Spanish by industry professionals and experts. Fuerza Local now aims to create successful business owners in South Tucson, thus adding value to our local community and economy. “Fuerza Local” is a Spanish phrase that translates to “local strength,” referencing the idea that this program is meant to build community wealth and prosperity from the ground up. The program is graduating students in five communities across the state, now including Tucson. More than 260 business owners have already completed the program, and combined have generated more than $8.1 million in gross sales and borrowed more than $1.1 million.

Thanks to continued efforts made by the Food Conspiracy Co-op, Local First Arizona has more means to build a strong and vibrant local economy.

originally posted on the Local First Arizona blog, June 25th:


2018 Elections Results Report

2018 Election Results Report

By John Glennon, Interim General Manager

Election results team 2018:

John Glennon, Chair

Kelly Watters

Tina Millette

Total Votes

194 total votes were cast during the month of March

Board of Directors Election Results:

Guru Das Bach finished the 2018 election with the most votes and will receive a 3 year term. Laura Klass and Kevin Hendricks finished the 2018 election in a tie. The Board assigned Kevin a 3 year term and Laura a 1 year term. All three Board candidates received very strong support.

Propositions Election Results:

Bylaw 8.4: Require approval to defer owner patronage rebates—Passes

Bylaw 4.3: Reduce Board candidate application submittal requirement—Passes

Bylaw 2.4: Maintain full ownership rights—Passes

Cooperative Community Fund Election Results:

These are the top three organizations, starting with the highest vote count:


Northern Jaguar Project

Local First Arizona


Round Up Election Results:

These are the top three organizations, starting with the highest vote count:

Humane Borders

Native Seeds/SEARCH

Mariposas Sin Fronteras

The Results are In!

by Michael DeSantis, Board President

The Food Conspiracy Board of Directors set ambitious goals for this election cycle: celebrate more, include staff and empower members. We also made innovative changes to improve the process, collaborated closely with management and created a system to better plan, budget and implement next year’s election cycle. We reached out to our members and you responded – loud and clear. I’ll share some statistics with you in a moment, but since the annual meeting, I’ve asked staff, members and board members what they most enjoyed, personally. A pattern emerged: It was the celebration of everything we stand for and have worked towards for all these years, and the way we included our hard working staff in that celebration.

Of course, when you try new things, not all of them work out and we have quite a list of “lessons learned” to incorporate into next year’s event planning. I would like to share just one example here. Having never paid close attention to how many kids come to the Annual General Meeting, we were unsure if it would be worth making arrangements with “Playformance” (next door to Borderlands) for special fun for the kids. This year we did pay attention, and 17 kids showed up. So, some kind of special activities for the kids will be part of our future Annual General Meeting planning!

Personally, the most meaningful statistic here is that while two propositions received strong 2 to 1 support, one stood out with 3.5 to 1 support. It was the proposition addressing a potential barrier to running for a seat on the Food Conspiracy Board of Directors. I deeply want to be part of a functioning democracy, where all voices are heard, and our owner controlled co-op has always been a beacon of light for me, even when I’m disheartened by world events. This one statistic, along with the renewed strength and collaboration within our Co-op, gives me what I need to carry on with the good work of building democracy, right here in my own community. Thanks for making your voice heard!

The following is a summary. Thank you again for participating in the governance of your Food Conspiracy Co-op.

Total votes and attendance

194 total votes were cast during the month of March and 184 people attended our Annual General Meeting. (Looking at our 5 year average, the 2018 election cycle and annual meeting was a great success! It was #1 in votes cast and #2 in attendance.)

Board Candidate Results

All three candidates for Board of Directors received very strong support, with each receiving approximately 90% of all votes cast for candidates.

Proposition Results

  • Bylaw 8.4: Require approval to defer owner patronage rebates – Passes 2 to 1
  • Bylaw 4.3: Reduce Board candidate application submittal requirement – Passes 3.5 to 1
  • Bylaw 2.4: Maintain full ownership rights – Passes 2 to 1

Cooperative Community Fund Results

These are the top three organizations, starting with the highest vote count:

  1. BICAS
  2. Northern Jaguar Project
  3. Local First Arizona

Round Up Results

These are the top three organizations, starting with the highest vote count:

  1. Humane Borders
  2. Native Seeds/SEARCH
  3. Mariposas Sin Fronteras






Covilli Brand Organics: 100% Organic AND 100% Fair Trade

Covilli farm is located in the Empalme Valley near Guaymas, Sonora.

Food Conspiracy is happy to announce a new collaboration with Covilli Brand Organics, a produce farm that is both 100% organic AND 100% Fair Trade Certified.  We are currently carrying Covilli heirloom tomatoes, green beans, and Brussel sprouts in our produce section and plan to provide additional Covilli products in the future.

What is Fair Trade and why is it important that our Co-op carry Fair Trade products? As Covilli President, Alex Madrigal, explains in his informative YouTube presentation, Fair Trade is a system with its focus on the employee. He goes on to explain that Fair Trade has two main tenants:

  1. Fair Trade USA certifies that workers receive proper training and that the company fosters an atmosphere and culture of safety. It also guarantees workers’ rights so everyone in the operation understands that they are working fair hours and being paid a fair wage. Fair Trade USA also verifies that there are no child labor laws being compromised.
  2. Empowerment – information, resources, and decision making authority. We all know that the products we buy are connected to the livelihoods of others. Fair Trade provides us a way to support responsible companies and empower farmers and workers via the Fair Trade Premium, money earned that goes into a communal fund for workers and farmers to use – as they see fit – to improve their social, economic, and environmental conditions.

Covilli makes its own 100% organic compost, using a state-of-the-art worm house. Produce is grown from non-GMO, organic seeds.

Many produce shippers offer both Fair Trade and non-Fair Trade products. The consumer then decides where to spend the money and which to support.  But Covilli workers decided that it was in their best interest as a group to certify their entire line of products. Why? Madrigal explained, “It’s the right thing to do. There is no reason to apply Fair Trade to some of our products and not to others when we can bring more benefits, faster, to our workers and bring awareness to consumers on how we are all key players in creating a more fair food system. We vote with our dollar.” Covilli took a chance, having faith that the consumer would not “opt out” in favor on non-Fair Trade products. And it’s paid off. In the first 20 months after becoming Fair Trade Certified, Covilli received over half a million dollars in Premiums, now being invested in four projects for its work force: a medical transportation unit, health center, meal service and dining facility, and day care.

Covilli worker empowerment is guided by its Fair Trade Committee, called Nuchi Sansekan or “All Together” in Nahuatl indigenous language. It’s a democratic system allowing the workers themselves to elect their representatives and have a direct say in how its Premiums are invested.  The workers have control of the bank account containing the Premiums, not the company. It is the workers, after all, who know best what is needed in their community.

When we think of Fair Trade, we might think of coffee, tea, chocolate, or bananas, products that come to us via a long distribution line. In this case, we have an opportunity to impact the global food economy by buying food grown by a community in neighboring Sonora, Mexico with certified organic distribution warehouses in Southern Arizona.

More information on Covilli, its products, and initiatives can be found at its website www.covilli.com.  You can also follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Their YouTube page has some great videos and their website lists suggested recipes that use their produce!

Learn more about Fair Trade Certification at www.fairtradecertified.org.

Sown Together, Grown Together: a self-guided School Garden Tour

According to a recent State of Tucson’s Food System report by the UA’s Center for Regional Food Studies, there are currently 57 school gardens across the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) out of 86 TUSD school sites. These gardens have far-reaching impacts on the educational experiences of the thousands of TUSD school children.  One student from the Tucson High School club says “for me, Garden Club is the safest place in the whole school, as well as my favorite place to be. High school is extremely stressful. The garden allows me to escape, I can’t stress about how much homework I have when I’m outside digging, chasing chickens and eating carrots with my friends.”

Across 24 low-income schools and 3 community gardens in Tucson, the University of Arizona Community School and Garden Program (CSGP) harnesses the teaching potential of a garden by placing undergraduate and graduate students training in the basics of sustainable agriculture as interns. The interns support the installation, maintenance, and enhancement of these public gardens, and assist site coordinators, teachers, and K-12 students in the use of these outdoor spaces as an extension of the classroom. You are invited to a self-guided tour of these school gardens sponsored in partnership with the Food Conspiracy Co-op, Tucson’s community-owned grocery store open to the public featuring local, organic and natural foods and celebrating 47 years serving the Tucson community.  Conspiracy Garden at the Co-op is newly activated outdoor space in partnership with TUSD’s Community Transition Program and neighboring exceptional education students from Tucson High School.  Mark Reynolds, a teacher on staff says, “Community Transition Programs is grateful to have been invited to work with the Conspiracy Garden to help teach our students employability skills through gardening and an appreciation for ecology.”

On Saturday, March 3rd, from 9am – 12pm, CSGP and the Food Conspiracy Co-op are partnering to host the Sown Together, Grown Together School Garden Tour. For this self-guided tour, experience firsthand the diversity and richness of school and community gardens across the city. Come enjoy exciting new developments such as the cutting-edge agrivoltaic installations (gardens developed under the solar panels) at Manzo Elementary and Rincon University High School, the new greenhouse at J.B. Wright Elementary, and aquaponics system at Manzo Elementary.  Tickets are $5-20 a person on sliding scale with proceeds benefitting the CSGP.  Purchase tickets here.    Come let the students be your guide to these 12 exciting and innovative spaces while supporting the CSGP!

Eat Mesquite and More Cookbook Event

Our new cookbook Eat Mesquite and More, a Cookbook for Sonoran Desert Foods and Living by Desert Harvesters, answers the greatest question I have: How to fearlessly and consciously make flavorful delicious dishes using native foods.  I wanted to find out the method to the culinary madness of such extraordinary flavors.

This quest took me to one of the cookbook contributors Barbara Rose’s Bean Tree Farm. Barbara is a Desert Harvester, longtime Co-op member, and permaculture designer. I wanted to know how she approached enigmatic flavors of the Sonoran Desert and how she concocts such delightful results. I love her salts, sauces, salsas and chutneys.  What I found are three main principles: 1) Be fearless. Don’t be afraid to try and taste. You don’t have to be an expert.  Start with mesquite, prickly pear or nopales and then move on to berries. 2) Don’t get stuck in a recipe mindset.  Look for fundamental patterns.  Find them in conventional foods, like a salsa, and then begin replacing the ingredients with wild foods. 3) Thank, learn from and contribute to the people and traditions of the desert in the best way you can.

Barbara says the very first thing that to do is get outside and taste.  Bean Tree Farm is an education center, residential community and 20-acre Ironwood and Saguaro forest sanctuary, where “farming” means harvesting, caring for and teaching about Sonoran desert foods and living.  Yes, there are chickens, water harvesting and small kitchen gardens with bright green herbs and greens and crossed chiles from a chiltepin and patagonia peppers.   But this farm is far outside of what you might have in your mind when you imagine a farm.  Bean Tree Farm disrupts your thinking and forces you to see the abundant resources of the Sonoran Desert right in front of you.  In this place you are called to get to know it, partner with it, and cultivate its ancient saguaro forest.

“Nearly everything growing in the desert is edible or medicinal, usually both.” says Barbara.  With little homework at the library or a visit to a Desert Harvester event, Barbara says, “You are off to discovering the tastes and healthful bounties of the desert.” Her knowledge originates from lifelong curiosity, sense of place, and learning from elders.  Barbara rejects being called an expert despite her extensive design, building and cooking experience. She believes being fearless is shedding the need to feel like you must be an expert.  Barbara suggests a visit to Desert Survivors, asking about edible plants and integrating them into your home landscape. She also suggests the Desert Harvesters website or a class at Bean Tree Farm to begin to see the desert as a living food forest.

Barbara advises to approach a comfortable recipe but remember those five essential flavors: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami. Those five flavors are the beginnings of any delicious, flavorful dish.  Barbara approaches building and creating with the same awareness of fundamental patterns.  “Then you can begin to see what is the fundamental pattern of a great house or a great salsa,” she says. “Cooking is no different from building and in the end you get something to eat that is fun and delicious and social” says Barbara. With the Prickly Pear Borscht recipe from the book, Barbara looked for the five essential flavors and incorporated them into her understanding of her family’s favorite borscht recipe from her Eastern European roots. You will note that her recipe is only three sentences long! The fundamental pattern of the borscht is to sour or ferment the beets, in this case with the prickly pear juice.

The last principle, Barbara states, is to honor the people and place of the Sonoran Desert.  For Desert Harvesters that means caring for and replanting or re-wilding your neighborhood, community garden and yard with Sonoran desert plants.

Barbara at Bean Tree Farm and the Desert Harvesters espouse a philosophy steeped in this ethic. Their base is an appreciation and respect of place, plants, and people who share knowledge of the desert.  This awareness comes from seeing your part in the natural system as Barbara says and finding out what is your role in it.  “Whether it’s a business, building or a salsa, it needs to be place-based, contributing to the natural system in which it is nested.”

Isabella’s Ice Cream: Name the Flavor Fun this weekend!

Isabella’s 1927 model T has become a Tucson icon, recognized at events throughout the city, like Cyclovia. Just one look at that model T and your mouth waters! But you don’t have to chase down the revamped, solar-powered model T to sample the company’s fabulous ice cream. At the Co-op’s birthday sale on Saturday, February 3, 2018 we will host an Isabella’s Ice Cream tasting from 2:00 – 4:00pm. Isabella’s will create two new custom flavors horchata and a prickly pear sorbet to help us celebrate…and Co-op customers will help name them! Create a name that captures the essence and spirit of each new flavor and enter our “Name the Flavor” contest for the chance to win a free pint!

Food Conspiracy Co-op has been selling Isabella’s Ice Cream since 2011 and was the first store to stock it. We like Isabella’s products because they are designed to be environmentally conscious, from the careful sourcing of ingredients to the responsible selection of materials used for packaging.  The ice cream is hand-crafted at Isabella’s 4th Avenue shop from fresh cream and milk purchased from family-owned, independent dairies in Arizona. They produce unique flavors like spicy chocolate, desert honey, and organic lavender. Product packaging uses no adhesives and containers are 100 % recyclable.  Their manufacturing facility also prides itself on being water conscious, recycling the water used during production to save 5 gallons per minute.

In the coming weeks, when the Co-op’s birthday celebration is over, you’ll find Isabella’s newly-named, custom flavors for sale in our freezer section. If you’re hankering to try some of Isabella’s other fabulous flavors, you can stroll down to their shop at 210 North 4th Avenue just a few blocks south of the Co-op.

Check Isabella’s Ice Cream website at www.isabellasicecream.com to learn more about its products and inquire about its catering services.