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  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

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!

The Food Conspiracy Looks Back, Leaps Forward

The Food Conspiracy Looks Back, Leaps Forward
Michael DeSantis – President of FC Board of Directors

Your co-op has experienced a lot of change in the last year, and it has been invigorating! We have new members and leadership on both the management team and our board of directors, and we are working together in new, exciting ways. We are solving vexing problems and answering burning questions such as: “Is the Co-op relocating?” – No, and “Can we make healthy and organic food more convenient?” – Absolutely. To understand and be part of the renewal that is happening at the Food Conspiracy right now, we invite you to take another good look at your co-op, where it came from and where it is going. The Food Conspiracy is a great food store, and it is truly exceptional, too.

What makes our coop different from our competitors is our mission. It does not include maximizing profits. What it does include is a deep commitment to our members, community and to the values we share. Unlike our more conventional corporate counterparts in the natural foods community, we exist as a member-owned Co-operative Corporation. Our members not only own the co-op, but they also have the power to control its direction. This allows us tremendous freedoms and the ability to affect real change in our community. Along with providing whole, organic foods in an environment that is humane and fulfilling to both work and shop in, our core values include:

• Social justice – throughout our community and all the way down to the farmer in the field
• Diversity and human rights – openness and integrity in all of our relationships
• Healthy, sustainable ecology – through a peaceful, cooperative effort

Don’t forget we started as a political group. The Food Conspiracy name is not a marketing angle. To quote Paul Rubin, a FCC founder, we moved into a store occupied by a group “that fought for decent housing, accessible and affordable health care, empowering of youth, access to healthy food, and counseling for draft resisters to the Vietnam War” and The Food Conspiracy was founded “so people did not have to rely on profit driven supermarkets and their less than healthy food options”. That was 46 years ago. We don’t print pamphlets in the back anymore, but we are still in that store on 4th Avenue, and we are still passionate about our mission.

The Food Conspiracy leadership is re-committing to all that we stand for, we are fully staffed and energized, and we are developing our long-term vision of what the Food Conspiracy will be in the years to come. You own this co-op and we plan to provide convenient, meaningful opportunities to make your voice heard.

Here are a few ways you, as a member, can help guide the co-op in the right direction:

• Participate in a member engagement workshop – work with other members to let us know what you envision for the Food Conspiracy going forward.
• Attend Board of Directors meetings – see how it works, run for a seat, help develop the vision and make it reality.
• Attend the Annual Meeting – meet the new candidates and current Board of Directors, vote, participate and let us hear your voice, and most importantly, come celebrate with us!

This spring’s Annual Meeting promises to be a powerful opportunity to get engaged, and it will be a great party, too. Everything you need to know will be on our website and in our newsletter. Come be part of your community. Join us, and help the Food Conspiracy thrive, now and into the future.

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 to learn more about its products and inquire about its catering services.

Tucson Tamale Takeover: Celebrating a Decade-Long Partnership Between the Food Conspiracy Co-op and Tucson Tamale Company

The Tucson Tamale Company is a true success story in our local Southern Arizona food scene. From its humble beginnings at the original midtown shop on Broadway Boulevard, it has become a Tucson institution with three area locations and an 8,000 square foot production facility that supplies a network of over 400 grocery stores across the United States and a thriving internet business that ships over 14,000 packages of delicious tamales annually. Food Conspiracy alone sold more than 3,800 tamale packages in 2017!

We admire Tucson Tamale Company’s commitment to using quality ingredients and their ingenuity in creating unique flavors, like their yellow curry tamale and holiday favorite Thanksgiving tamale, has garnered a loyal following. Their masa is made with organic and non-GMO corn and they use non-GMO expeller pressed canola and sunflower oil instead of lard, making a healthier and – we think – a better tasting product. They also use organic vegetables.

The Co-op has been partnering with Tucson Tamale Company since the company’s formation in 2008. In fact, Food Conspiracy was Tucson Tamale Company’s first wholesale customer! Our relationship has been strengthened over the years with healthy tamale sales and special events that highlight our shared values and food philosophy. The Tucson Tamale Company Takeover on January 18 kicks off the Co-op’s 2018 event schedule.  Our hot bar will feature a selection of tamales accompanied by a selection of Mexican side dishes created especially for the event by the talented cooks in our Co-op kitchen. We’ll have meat and vegan options on both the breakfast bar and the lunch/dinner bar. Todd Martin, Tucson Tamale Company’s owner and general manager, will be on hand to visit with tamale fans and answer questions about the products.

Our taste buds have been dreaming of a tamale takeover since last year and with the end of the busy holiday tamale season, we were finally able to snag some of Todd’s time and organize the event.  In 2017, our Food Conspiracy staff and members organized a bike ride from the Co-op on 4th Avenue to Tucson Tamale Company’s production facility on Tucson’s northwest side. We were taken on a tour of the facility then enjoyed a tamale and beer pairing at neighboring Dragoon Brewery. “Our partnership with Tucson Tamale Company has been a truly positive one,” said John Glennon, Interim General Manager of Food Conspiracy, “and one that we hope continues to promote Tucson as an example to follow in creating local business alliances that benefit the community and a sustainable food culture.”

For more information about the Tucson Tamale Company, please visit their website at

Preserving Your Organic Harvest

By: Co+op, stronger together

Want to enjoy the most healthful food—like local, organic fruits and vegetables—year round? Preserving the bounty you’ve grown yourself or purchased from the co-op or farmers’ market makes it possible. Simple food preservation techniques can lock in flavor, help maximize your food dollars, support local agriculture, reduce food waste and give you a chance to really get to know the food you eat and serve to your family.

Produce possibilities

Check out the list of what’s in season in your area to jump-start your imagination. If it’s February to late spring, that could mean greens galore and broccoli and cabbage for fermentation. In July or August, a big bubbling batch of tomato sauce or salsa could be just the thing. Of course, a walk through your garden or co-op to see what’s fresh and abundant is also a great way to identify preservation possibilities.

It’s not just grandma’s pantry

Putting up jewel-toned jars of pickled beets and brandied peaches may be what comes to mind when you think “food preservation,” and canning has become popular across generations, with plenty of unique recipes that appeal to a range palettes. But canning isn’t all there is. Other simple ways to preserve local and seasonal foods include drying, freezing, curing, pickling and even cellaring (yes, putting your food in a root cellar; grandma did know best, didn’t she?)

For beginners, dehydrating and freezing foods are a snap—and no special equipment is required


When it comes to nutritious preserved foods, freezing is second only to fresh foods. While freezing can affect the texture of some foods, most vegetables, fruits, meats, soups, and even herbs can easily be frozen in airtight containers for use all year long. The key is to start with cold foods so that the time it takes for them to freeze is very short. This minimizes ice crystals and preserves the color, texture, and taste of your foods.

Try freezing cold berries or chopped vegetables in a single layer on a baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer to a freezer bag or Mason jar for storage. You’ll be able to pluck a single berry or measure 2 cups worth from the container without defrosting the entire batch.

Fresh herbs, like basil, thyme, mint, and chives, can be snipped into measured teaspoons or tablespoons and frozen in ice-cube trays topped up with water. Stored in a bag in your freezer, they’re recipe-ready almost instantly.

And remember: a full freezer is an efficient freezer, so don’t be shy about filling it up!

Did you know? Nuts, seeds, and whole grains can be stored in the freezer to extend their shelf life and prevent spoilage.


Dehydrating foods is a simple and easy way to keep vegetables, fruits, and even meats stored away until you are ready to use them. Drying preserves foods by taking all the moisture away; without moisture, bacteria cannot grow and your foods stay delicious for months—even years. While there are plenty of dehydrators available, many recipes are possible using a regular home oven.

Fresh herbs can be dried in a microwave or just hanging from your ceiling! The best thing about drying is that it uses very little energy, and the preserved foods are lightweight—easy to store and transport (perfect for camping!).

Did you know? Dipping fruit slices in pineapple or citrus juice before drying can preserve their color and prevent browning. It’s delicious, too!


Home cooks have been preserving food in jars for centuries, and these days we have plenty of resources to do so safely and with confidence. Canning does require some special equipment, available at many co-ops and hardware stores, and recipes designed and tested for safety. After the initial investment in jars, a canner, and a few accessories, the expenses are minimal and the results can be phenomenal. Canned goods go far beyond the usual tomatoes and green beans. Modern canning recipes allow you to create unique and memorable foods for gifting or for enjoying yourself.

Did you know? Home-canned goods should be used within a year for optimal quality, but are safe for much longer, as long as safe canning methods were used.


Fermentation brings us some of our favorite foods: cheese, yogurt, beer, wine, pickles, and even chocolate. Nearly every culture in the world makes use of the natural preservative effects of fermentation. Fermentation works by transforming the natural sugars in foods into tart and flavorful foods that tend to resist spoilage at cool temperatures.

Fermentation is made possible by the action of beneficial bacteria— the same bacteria that keep our immune and digestive systems healthy. So fermented foods are not only practical, they also deliver a healthy dose of probiotics. Another benefit of fermentation is that no special equipment is required. You can get started with as little as a knife, a cabbage, and some sea salt, and couple of weeks later you’ll be enjoying sauerkraut!

Did you know? Every ferment is unique because of the bacteria and yeasts that are naturally present in the air and foods in that region. The same recipe can taste different across the globe!

Want to give food preservation it a try?

Check out these recipes for Freezer Pesto and Oven-Dried Tomatoes from Liz McMann of National Co+op Grocers. Check out our Homesteading Series classes on Food Preservation with Izetta Chambers.

Want to learn more?

The Canning Across America and National Center for Home Food Preservation websites contain a wealth of information. Also, your local agricultural extension agent food co-op are good sources for written information and classes to help you can, cure, freeze, pickle and dry this season’s abundance.


  • The Ball Complete Book of Home Food Preserving Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine, Robert Rose, 2006
  • Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition and Craft of Live-Culture Foods Sandor Ellix Katz, Chelsea Green Publishing, 2003
  • The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest: 150 Recipes for Freezing, Canning, Drying and Pickling Fruits and Vegetables Carol W. Costenbader, Storey Publishing, 2002
  • The Joy of Pickling: 250 Flavor-Packed Recipes for Vegetables and More from Garden or Market (Revised Edition) Linda Ziedrich, Harvard Common Press, 2009


Natural & Organic Turkeys are Here!

NATURAL TURKEYS  from Diestel Turkey Ranch in Sonora, CA $1.99/lb

No reservations needed.  While supplies last.

Diestel Turkeys are always raised without antibiotics, growth stimulants or hormones.

–No added salt solutions and ice-chilled for quality

–No antibiotics, growth stimulants, or hormones

–100% Vegetarian Diet, enhanced with vitamins and minerals

–Raised Gap Rated Step 3, raised in a barn environment with enhanced outdoor access

–No gluten, casein, carrageenan, phosphates, MSG, artificial ingredients or preservatives

Learn More

“We are proud to be one of the last turkey producers in the Western United States to take the extra time and attention required to mill our own feed. We allow turkeys to develop slowly, resulting in a more tender and juicy old-fashioned turkey flavor.”

Roasting Instructions

ORGANIC TURKEYS  from Organic Prairie are $2.99/lb

Organic Prairie meats are produced by an independent cooperative of organic family farms. No reservations needed.  While supplies last.

  • Organic Prairie certified organic turkeys roam freely, with unlimited access to fresh air and sunshine.
  • Organic Prairie only feeds 100% certified organic feed

Learn More

Roasting Instructions