Monday, Sept. 11 marked the first time the Farmer+Chef Connection took place in the Verde Valley.
In its eighth year, Farmer+Chef is an expo-style event that hosts food growers and food buyers. According to the Local First Arizona Foundation, the organizer of the event, the day is intended to introduce “local food producers prepared to transact at a wholesale level [to] wholesale food buyers at restaurants, hotels, grocery stores and other businesses and institutions from across the state.”
For four hours Monday, these two groups intermingled at the Clark Memorial Clubhouse in Clarkdale, tasting locally grown and raised products, making connections that might equal real outcomes to producers and sellers. Over 40 exhibitors, including many names familiar to residents of the Verde Valley and Sedona, took part.
In the early evening, participants met at Clarkdale’s Four Eight Wineworks for the local food reception.
According to Helene Tuck, project development director of foods initiatives for Local First Arizona, Farmer+Chef is a Towards Zero Waste event, meaning that Local First implemented ways to reduce the amount of trash that ended up in local landfills and educated participants about how to be less resource dependent in their food production, sale and distribution practices.
At Farmer+Chef, Tuck helped implement recycling, composting and food donation, reducing waste generated by the event. Products for recycling were transported to the Sedona Recycles bins near Clarkdale-Jerome School while all excess food that could be donated went to Angie’s House for redistribution.
“We love coming up here because Sedona Recycles has such great facilities,” Tuck said.
Farmer+Chef was originally scheduled to take place at Cliff Castle Casino in Camp Verde. In late August, Local First announced the event would be relocated to Clark Memorial Clubhouse due to “unanticipated construction” at the casino.
“We understand how these issues can arise and hope that all continues to go well for the next phase of development at [Cliff Castle],” said Natalie Morris, director of foods initiatives for Local First Arizona. “We are grateful to the town of Clarkdale for stepping in so quickly, allowing us to keep the event in the Verde Valley for this year. We look forward to partnering with Cliff Castle on future events and endeavors.”