Located in the Sonoran Desert, Tucson has the longest agricultural history of any city in the United States of America. It has a 300-year tradition of vineyards, orchards, and livestock ranching that have forged the wide array of the local heritage foods, a source of identity and vitality for the local population of 1 million inhabitants. The distinctive cuisine of Tucson has developed from a culturally layered history, a variety of heri tage food ingredients, and a continuity of traditional food preparation techniques. To maintain its thriving culinary sector, the city focuses particularly on innovative programmes and regulations for food security and sustainable local food production and distribution.
Numerous farmers' markets and more than two dozen annual food festivals, fairs, and tastings occur year round and offer tastes of the region's specialities and food traditions. Often multidisciplinary, an event such as the Tucson Meet Yourself showcases performances of music, crafts and gastronomy, and attracts more than 100,000 participants each year. In addition, a thriving contemporary culinary scene is led by award-winning chefs and independently owned restaurants creating traditional and contemporary dishes using local foods, and is celebrated by film and book festivals.
Tucson is undoubtedly a model of a gastronomybased economy. It has however intensified actions toward using gastronomy as a key engine to achieve sustainable urban development. Building community gardens for public housing is just one of the many projects aiming to revise the city’s zoning regulations and remove barriers for urban food production and local food sales. The popular project saw the creation of home and community gardens, urban farms, greenhouses, farmers’ markets and small animal husbandry in residential areas.
As a Creative City of Gastronomy, Tucson envisages:
- establishing the Center for Food Justice, Security, and Innovation aimed to increase access to healthy foods, improve sustainable local food production and distribution, and expand job opportunities in food industry;
- nurturing cross-cutting approaches by engaging Creative Cities of Gastronomy and Literature to the Food & Farm Writing and Literature International Forum, focusing on the promotion of consumption of healthy foods;
- cooperating with other Creative Cities of Gastronomy on developing resources and strategies for conserving and disseminating heritage crop varieties, as well as promoting the use of culturally-appropriate, nutritious, regional foods; and
- exchanging best practices on how to support artisanal local producers, the development of cooperatives and public markets, urban food production, conservation, and distribution.