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Transforming Food Systems Across the Southwest Region

By Grace Kaufman & Navreet Hundal

At the beginning of May, leadership of the USDA Southwest Regional Food Business Center convened in Reno, Nevada, providing the opportunity to further advance the Center’s mission, objectives, and programmatic activities, as well as share insights and best practices across emerging opportunities for food system transformation. 

During the two-day convening, hosted by the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), leadership representing the Southwest Region (Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah) discussed the unique assets, needs, and activities within each state, and solidified the Center’s workplan. Day one featured collaborative working sessions oriented towards internal Center values, capacity, and timeline, as well as a tour hosted by the UNR Desert Farming Initiative (DFI), showcasing climate-smart crops and farming practices, local food-to-market successes, and active research initiatives.

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USDA Marketing and Regulatory Programs Senior Advisor, Kate Fitzgerald, joined Day 2 for an interactive brainstorming session regarding opportunities for collaboration between the USDA and the 12 Regional Food Business Centers nationally. Leadership from each state also provided teach-ins across emerging opportunities, such as equity in technical assistance, market access structures such as institutional procurement and food hubs, and microloan funding development.

This gathering provided Center Leadership with solutions, insight, and connections to drive the Center forward in its mission to transform the region’s food system through investment in small and mid-sized food and farm businesses by providing coordination, technical assistance, and capacity-building for the Southwest Region.

The Southwest Regional Food Business Center is a five-year $35 million program funded by the USDA Regional Food Business Centers Program, connecting Food and Agriculture Initiatives across Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah. As part of the network of USDA Regional Food Business Centers, the Southwest Center is a hub for the region’s small and mid-tier food and farm businesses and local and regional food sector development initiatives. 

In collaboration with University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR), Valley Vision supports the Center as part of the Center Management Team, leading communications, partnership development and programmatic operations.

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