Our Foundation

  • Arizona Rural Development Council
  • Healthy Local Foods
  • Fuerza Local Business Accelerator

In this section, you will learn more about LFA's sister organization, the Local First Arizona Foundation, which focuses on community and economic development throughout the state in order to build self-reliant, healthy and prosperous communities.

Fuerza Local 

Business Accelerator Program


The Fuerza Local Business Accelerator Program is a six-month business education program designed to teach Spanish-preferred micro-business owners important basics for successfully growing their business. Participants attend a series of classes on a variety of topics including marketing, business planning, customer service, and more. Participants also learn the importance of financial management by participating in an eMoneyPool, which is then matched by a scholarship from the Local First Arizona Foundation. Each student also has the opportunity to access credit at fair market rates by opening a line of credit at Arizona-based MariSol Federal Credit Union. With a certificate of completion from the program, they have the opportunity to apply for a line of credit at fair market rates with Marisol Federal Credit Union in lieu of any credit history. 

LFAF launched the Fuerza Local Business Accelerator Program in 2013 because we discovered there is a need among underserved microentrepreneurs to learn basic best practices for operating a business. By helping these businesses acquire the tools and resources needed to thrive on their own, we have empowered these businesses to support themselves and their families, while building a stronger and more vibrant community with more opportunity for all.

2015 Outcomes

  • Number of graduates from the Fuerza Local Business Accelerator Program: 44
  • Number of new jobs created from participating businesses after graduating program: 59
  • 5 participants have reported receiving an award or recognition by an organization of their industry
  • 25 participants opened a checking account for the first time while in the program
  • 17 participants reported appearing on radio or television following the program 

2015 Highlights

  • 2 graduates received media coverage in Phoenix Magazine as “Best Restaurants” in Phoenix, Colados Coffee and La 15 y Salsa
  • Gelatin Nation, LLC and Manualidades Rosalba, LLC went from simply creating home made crafts to officially creating products and selling for the first time
  • 8 out of 12 participants in Cohort 5 became newly registered businesses with the State of Arizona
  • 12 business professionals were brought in to teach the accelerator classes
  • The program established collaborative partnerships with GoDaddy, Univision, Chicanos Por La Causa 

Thank You To Our 2015 Program Sponsors

  • Alliance Bank
  • APS 
  • Arizona Community Action Association 
  • Arizona Community Foundation 
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of AZ 
  • Desert Schools Federal Credit Union 
  • Marisol Federal Credit Union
  • Phoenix IDA 
  • Phoenix CDIC 

Key Successes Since The Accelerator Has Launched

  • 44 Fuerza Local Business Accelerator graduates
  • 21 new websites
  • 26 formed an LLC while in the program (42 total businesses now have LLCs)
  • 36 new social media pages with 15,824 fans
  • 25 first-time checking accounts
  • 3 first-time loans approved
  • 59 new jobs created
  • Estimated new revenue generated post-graduation $876,450 
This is one of the best programs, an unforgettable experience. My favorite part was getting mentorship from the best trainers and I learned so much.
— Braim Villela Los Clamatos de Tito
This has been a great experience for my business. My questions are always answered and I have grown so much professionally and personally.
— Juan Amaya J & J Amaya General Services

Arizona Rural Development Council 

Local First Arizona Foundation is the Rural Development Council for the state of Arizona, which hosts the annual Rural Policy Forum. The Rural Development Council works to create new models of community and economic development that tie together small businesses, historic downtown main streets, tourism strategies, and community planning. The Rural Advisory Board consists of representatives from all 15 counties that work to develop quality topics and a diverse array of speakers for the Rural Policy Forum each year.

Rural Policy Forum


The Annual Arizona Rural Policy Forum offers a venue for connecting rural economic development professionals, nonprofits, community leaders, business owners, and other rural stakeholders who are interested in sustaining rural communities. This year’s 9th Annual Arizona Rural Policy Forum convened 225 representatives from every Arizona county to participate in two and a half days of workshops, speakers, breakout sessions, tours and more. Over 50 speakers from Arizona and 3 national leaders in rural economic development joined us in Clarkdale to share successes and best practices. 

Arizona’s rural communities tend to be somewhat remote and can feel isolated from each other, so the Rural Policy Forum brings those communities together to discuss similar issues that each community faces. Rural Policy Forum attendees work collectively to find solutions and celebrate successes that are driving development and prosperity in rural areas. 

Becoming more sustainable: A ‘Toward Zero Waste’ plan was implemented and 77.5 lbs of waste was diverted from landfills 

The Rural Policy Forum provides a venue for democratic deliberation, information gathering, and resource gathering for rural communities across the state of Arizona that don’t really have access to this kind of information.
— Alexandria Wright, Yavapai College

Workshops & Rural Community Profiles

In order to give local businesses the tools they need to be competitive, the Local First Arizona Foundation conducts workshop and outreach initiatives for rural communities across the state focused on a variety of topics, including food entrepreneurship, marketing and communications, business best practices, branding strategies and more. 


Held in the fall in beautiful and historic Ajo, key players representing the food system from all over Arizona educated over 40 attendees on everything from organic agriculture implementation to farmers market 101 and small business best practices to incorporating youth into farming and gardening programs. 


LFAF is working currently on a business retention and expansion plan for Superior and has facilitated a number of community workshops and dozens of key stakeholder interviews in order to deliver a plan in March 2016 that will outline strategies for reducing economic leakage and building economic opportunity for residents of Superior.


LFAF is helping Safford with its economic development strategy and that, in part, includes becoming a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math) community. In partnership with the Sci-Tech Festival, LFAF developed Science Happens Here, which is a game for kids grade 3 through 8 that includes collecting trading cards with science experiments on them. The kids then visit the locally owned businesses to collect the cards, each of which contains one example of science relating to that business. For example, the bakery has the science of yeast, the cafe has the science of caffeine, the clothing store has the science of dyes, and so on. There are 12 cards to collect and a new website with fun prizes for the kids who conduct the science experiments. The goal here is twofold: to help kids start to think about all the science that really happens in the world and to get excited about simple experiments; and to get the local business community more involved with STEM education. 

Greenlee County

LFAF is working with members of Greenlee County's Tourism Council to develop a plan to bring new visitors to the region to create economic opportunities. Tourism in Greenlee will bring increased awareness and new dollars into the region.


LFAF worked with the Downtown Prescott Business Alliance to bring together 30+ Prescott businesses for a workshop on How to Pitch the Media. The group was encouraged to think like a team to drive tourism, and media expert Tony Felice of TFPR shared inside perspective on the stories that gain traction.


LFAF worked with the Downtown Prescott Business Alliance to bring together 30+ Prescott businesses for a workshop on How to Pitch the Media. The group was encouraged to think like a team to drive tourism, and media expert Tony Felice of TFPR shared inside perspective on the stories that gain traction.

Rural Community Profiles 

LFAF is working on community profiles and videos that highlight the unique destinations we have in rural communities statewide. 



Our WeekendZona initiative curates one-of-a-kind excursions to different parts of Arizona to showcase the great towns and culture that this state has to offer. Encouraging tourism within Arizona’s borders to rural areas keeps those tourism dollars circulating in the statewide economy and supporting local jobs, as well as celebrates those specific communities’ sense of place. 

Sonoita & Patagonia Trip 

26 people traveled with us to Sonoita and Patagonia for a wine weekend getaway that included tours of Callaghan Vineyards and Dos Cabezas Wine Works where attendees learned first hand how to splice varietals and maneuver grape crushing equipment as well as witnessed the bottling process. These semi-curated getaways offer educational, behind-the-scenes looks into leading industries across the state, while offering plenty of time to relax and have a look around. 

Drink Local WeekendZona Sweepstakes 

Local First Arizona has partnered with Hensley Beverage Company to launch a “Drink Local” campaign and sweepstakes that will be featured in more than 200 grocery stores across Arizona. Participants can enter to win one of several staycation packages to rural Arizona towns including Bisbee, Pinetop-Lakeside, and Cottonwood. The campaign will promote these communities as tourism destinations and encourage tourism within Arizona’s borders. 

Arizona Rural Development Council | Leadership 

The Arizona Rural Development Council is led by an Advisory Council, which consists of one person from each county plus one Mayor. 

2015 Advisory Council

  • Julie Brooks, Chamber Director, Wickenburg 
  • Evelyn Casuga, Central Arizona College, Casa Grande 
  • Karalea Cox, Common Sense Facilitation, Eagar 
  • Levi Esquerra, NAU Tribal Economic Development 
  • David Gomez, Greenlee County Supervisor 
  • Victor Gonzalez, Sahuarita School District 
  • Jestin Johnson, City Manager, Bisbee 
  • Gary Kellogg (Chair), CEO, Partnership for Economic Development, Lake Havasu 
  • Linda O’Dell, Superintendent of Schools, Globe-Miami 
  • Casey Rooney, Economic Development Director, City of Cottonwood 
  • Danny Smith, Graham County Supervisor 
  • Doug Von Gausig, Mayor of Clarkdale 
  • Paul Watson, Navajo County Director of Economic Development 
  • Kevin Wilkins, Economic Development Administrator, Yuma 
  • DL Wilson, La Paz County Supervisor

Healthy Local Foods Initiatives 

Food is at the center of our daily lives, and agriculture and food production are major driving forces in the state's economy. Supporting Arizona food entrepreneurs, farmers, ranchers, and others in the local food industry is an important part of our mission in fostering food-based community economic development and expanding access to affordable, fresh and local foods in both urban and rural areas. Our portfolio of foods initiatives demonstrates the connection between food, health, community and the environment, as well as fosters new opportunities for Arizona farmers, ranchers and food artisans. 

Good Food Finder AZ


In 2015, the Local First Arizona Foundation launched an improved version of Good Food Finder AZ. Now featuring over 700 individual listings of where to find good food, Good Food Finder is Arizona’s most comprehensive online directory of local food. 

This year’s improvements:

  • Uses GPS to pinpoint exact location and narrow search to as close as within a five mile radius
  • Business owners can now take control of their own listings and make updates themselves
  • Sales outlets for local food now have a home on GFF. Farmers markets, CSAs, food hubs and restaurants that practice local sourcing can all now be listed
  • The site’s design has been completely reconfigured, and it is now much faster, visually appealing and better organized
  • New content and tools have been added to the Resource pages 
I am so excited and thankful to be discovering a good food movement in my own Arizona backyard. THANK YOU!
— Robyn Landis

Food & Farm Finance Forum


This year’s Food & Farm Finance Forum was held in historic Clarkdale in the Verde Valley. 132 farmers and producers, chefs and other local food buyers, economic development entities, local food system advocates, and students convened for two days to change the way our desert state feeds itself. This year’s focus was on marketing and outreach, food aggregation and distribution, and access to capital and business development with an overall emphasis on building food hubs and collaboration. 

2015 Outcomes

  • 100% of forum attendees reported gaining valuable networking and coalition building opportunities
  • Arizona food producers and entrepreneurs connected with organizations that are specifically interested in funding sustainable food enterprises 
When we change the conversation around local food to one that shows the real cost is not included in most foods, we can begin to see the benefits of eating locally and sustainably.
— Anthony Flaccavento Rural SCALE Inc., Keynote Speaker

Farmer + Chef Connection


In 2015, Local First Arizona Foundation took full ownership of the Arizona Farmer+Chef Connection, an annual event with the mission of building wholesale business relationships between food producers and buyers. The Farmer+Chef Connection has grown from being an intimate event to one that reached over 400 attendees of all kinds this year. Just over 50% of attendees were represented by buyers looking to set up direct wholesale purchase accounts with Arizona’s food producers. Additionally, buyers who attended this year depicted a wide array of those looking to procure closer to home, ranging from locally-owned restaurants like Mama’s Hawaiian Bar-B-Cue to large-scale purchasers such as Costco, Fry’s, Aramark and Panda Express. 

Shaping Policy

Local First Arizona staff participate in food policy groups across the state to network with other food system advocates and local policy officials in order to affect change to increase access to healthy local foods in our community.

2015 Participation

  • Maricopa County Food System Coalition
  • City of Tucson Commission for Food Security, Heritage and Economics
  • Yavapai Food Policy Council
  • Flagstaff Food Link
  • Arizona School Garden Network
  • Arizona Farm to School Advisory Council
  • Arizona Hunger Leadership Council
  • University of Arizona Center for Regional Food Studies
  • Arizona Young Farmers Coalition
  • Healthy Local Food System Working Group

Thank You To Our Funders & Donors 

Our supporters and funders are the ultimate Localists. By generously investing in our programs and initiatives, they are putting their money to work building an Arizona that we're all proud to call home. We would like to send a heartfelt thank you to each organization and individual that contributed to our mission in 2015. 

Our Key Funders 

Our Investors Circle Founding Members 

  • Tammy McLeod & John Hamilton
  • Jon & Leatrice Kitchell
  • Angie Harmon
  • John & Meg Smeck