Hungry for Change: Mikaela Joins Local First AZ's Local Foods Team

Tell us a bit about your background:

I was raised in Tucson and am so proud to call this place home.  I appreciate so much about this stark, sometimes harsh environment.  My elementary school, middle school, and high school are all essentially on the same block, which is right across the street from the University of Arizona.  When I finished high school, I was ready for a new street. I studied environmental studies, Spanish, and geography at Portland State University in Oregon. It was in Oregon where I really stated to develop a passion for food, it's kind of hard not to in a place where everything just grows.  After college, I was a Peace Corps volunteer in The Gambia, West Africa.  Living in an agrarian society where every one is a subsistence farmer reinforced my passion for a resilient food system.  After my time in The Gambia, I briefly lived in a small town outside of Girona, Spain.  I lived on a property that was home to a small wine-grape vineyard, huge fig trees, pecans, oranges, walnuts, chestnuts, etc. I spent my days harvesting and cooking. After more than 3 years living abroad, I finally returned to Tucson. In Tucson I've worked as a baker and a chef and I have worked closely with many local food producers.

What drew you to Local First Arizona?

Arizona is an incredible state with so much to offer.  In my time away, I realized just how important it is for people to support where they are from because no one else is going to do it. I am very passionate about living a simple life and part of that is to try my hardest to reduce my personal burden on this earth.  Local First is all about supporting the people and institutions that are right here, within reach. When I got the chance to be the first food team member in Tucson, it all seemed so serendipitous. A job where I get to think about, write about, and learn about all things related to Arizona food systems, are you getting me?!?  Job come true.

What is your favorite local business and why?

Hands down Casa Video.  It's not just my favorite because it's right around the corner from my childhood home and that I have very fond memories of Friday night VHS decisions (or arguments) with my mom and my brother.  I love it because it says so much about my community and the type of people living here that in an era of video streaming, an era where giants like Blockbuster go under, Casa not only survived, but has expanded.

Tell us about one of your life's passions:

I love riding my bike.  It's such a simple and revolutionary invention.  It gets me where I need to go and I feel good when I get there.

What makes you proud to be an Arizonan?

So many things!  I am proud to be an Arizonan because I think I understand the word epic in a unique way.  There is unparalleled beauty here and I get to enjoy it everyday.  

What are you most excited to be working on at Local First Arizona? 

We do not live in a food desert. I want everyone to understand that and know where they can go to find fresh, sustainably and ethically produced food. I want to support people who are already producing delicious food and I was to encourage others to do so as well.  I am excited to be surrounded by like minded individuals who love this place as much as I do.