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Arizona Farmer+Chef Connection Brings Together Local Food Producers, Suppliers To Grow Food Community

Published: Monday, September 12, 2016 - 4:47pm
Updated: Tuesday, September 13, 2016 - 10:07am
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(Photo by Lauren Gilger - KJZZ)
Hayden Flour Mills business manager Emma Zimmerman and her 4 month-old son, Fitz, outside at Sossaman Farms in Queen Creek.
(Photo by Lauren Gilger- KJZZ)
Emma Zimmerman and her dad, Jeff, restarted the historic Tempe brand in 2010 with the goal of bringing back the grains that Charles Hayden had milled in 1984.
(Photo by Lauren Gilger - KJZZ)
The sifter at Hayden Flour Mill in Queen Creek.

Hundreds of local farmers, ranchers, chefs and wholesalers gathered in Tucson Monday to celebrate Arizona’s growing food community.

At the annual Arizona Farmer+Chef Connection conference, nonprofit advocacy group Local First Arizona connects our state’s food producers with suppliers.

The event is open to the public, but aimed at those in the food industry. Local First Arizona brings in Arizona farmers, ranchers, food producers, as well as chefs, restaurant owners and managers, and purchasers for grocery stores, hotels and community centers to connect at the conference.

“We actually started our business at Arizona Farmer+Chef Connection,” said Emma Zimmerman, business manager of Hayden Flour Mills in Queen Creek.

“My dad had a little table, and he just had a sign and it was like ‘I have a mill. I need farmers. I need chefs.’”

Zimmerman and her dad, Jeff Zimmerman, restarted the historic Tempe brand in 2010 with the goal of bringing back the grains that Charles Hayden had milled in 1984.

It was at the Arizona Farmer+Chef Connection conference that he met Marco Bianco, who said his brother, Chris Bianco, owner of Pizzeria Bianco, had been looking for local grains for years.

“So, he became our first chef partner,” Zimmerman said. Then, they met Steve Sossaman there, of Sossaman Farms, who agreed to grow the grains, and they completed their team.

Now, six harvests in, their business has grown substantially. They’re selling products online to chefs across the country and you can find Hayden Flour Mills grains in Whole Foods and Sprouts grocery stores throughout Arizona.

According to Zimmerman, the annual conference is a great opportunity to grow the local food community in Arizona.

“It’s cool because a mill is a great link in a food system,” she said. “So we’ve enabled farmers to grow these heritage grains and then, on the other side, we have chefs supporting what we do.”

This year at the conference, she said they’ll have a table full of 25 different products, instead of just one little sign.

“I think we can, kind of, say, ‘weah, we’ve revived the Arizona grain economy that was nonexistent or had gone away since Charles Hayden’s days,’” she said.

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