We are thrilled to welcome Natalie Morris to the Local First Arizona team! Although Natalie has only just officially joined the team as the Local Foods Coordinator for the Local First Arizona Foundation, she has a long history with LFA and the Arizona local foods scene. She, along with Gary Nabhan, created Good Food Finder, an online local foods directory which she handed off to LFA to manage in 2014. She's also helped organize the Arizona Food and Farm Finance Forum and Arizona Farmer+Chef Connection, both of which are programs of the Local First Arizona Foundation. It only makes sense that she joins the team in an official capacity to help expand our local food programs! Get to know Natalie and help us in welcoming her to the team:
Tell us a bit about your background:
As an Arizona native raised on the west side of Phoenix in Peoria when it was still primarily cotton fields, I grew up in a family of four plus an adopted Dutch-Indonesian grandmother whom I credit with my love and understanding of all things food and culture. After high school, I attended culinary school while working for Banner Health and realized both the culinary and nutrition systems were not sustainable. This realization propelled me into my current career as a "good food advocate." I wanted to change how both these professions viewed and sourced food. After a stint under Greg LaPrad at Quiessence, who introduced me to Pamela Hamilton of Slow Food Phoenix and eventually led to my work at the Urban Grocery in downtown Phoenix, my husband and I left everything behind after I was accepted into the Masters in Food Culture and Communication program at the University of Gastronomic Sciences at the Slow Food headquarters near Torino, Italy. There, I studied everything from sensory analysis of wine and beer or even honey to food systems to (one of my favorites) the sociology of consumption and food anthropology.
We spent some time there, traveling around the EU, the UK, and northern Africa and experiencing all that these cultures had to offer. I particularly enjoyed watching how food was so integral to daily lives. Post-school, we lived for a time in Brooklyn, where I worked as social engagement coordinator for the film advocacy company, Wicked Delicate Films, spending most of my time on the youth-oriented urban gardening campaign, Truck Farm, all the while getting a real-time view of the development of FoodCorps.
When I returned to my home state nearly five years ago, I focused my newfound energy into Good Food Finder via a fellowship given to me by the Kellogg Foundation and the University of Arizona, and eventually became a professor in the Sustainable Food Systems program at Mesa Community College and a proud resident of Garfield Historic District in central Phoenix.
What drew you to Local First Arizona?
As a consumer and former business owner, the natural answer here is it's mission. Supporting the small businesses where you live only makes sense. When I literally put my dollars in the hands of a store owner and their staff, I know that I've helped to put food on his or her family's table. More so, I've helped to keep my community's economic stability in tact. Now, being a part of the Local First Arizona Foundation team allows me to follow the lead of Kimber and the rest of her staff, all of whom are tenacious, talented, and passionate about the local movement each in their own way.
What is your favorite local business and why?
The not-so-obvious choice for me is Framed Ewe. I am a closet fashion addict, buying cool clothes and never wearing them because I have no idea how. Christy and the team at Framed Ewe have a good eye (pun intended!) for beautiful and stunning eyewear of all kinds, while simultaneously supporting other small businesses in their sources and business development. I'm particularly looking forward to their upcoming expansion at the end of the year, in partnership with good guys at GrowOp Boutique.
Tell us about one of your life's passions:
Everything always seems to come back to food for me personally. I particularly love craft beer and distilling, and artisan cheese making and cured meats (the smell of the cellars!). But in a more general sense I'd say I'm passionate about passion. One of my favorite things is to see people completely excited about and absorbed in their craft, whatever that may be.