Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Nancy Dudney of Allen’s Organics says the best day to visit the store at 741 S. Campbell Ave. is Sunday. That’s when her brother busts out the Weber to grill up samples of the huge variety of local vegetables the store specializes in.
The operation started last November with the goal of making more local vegetables available to people in the greater Tucson area. Dudley says they scraped by through the winter due to a rough growing season, but the business has taken off with gusto ever since.
“We started out with the goal to be a distribution hub for local growers, so they can get their products packed a little more professionally and distributed to local stores and restaurants,” Dudley said this morning. “But it’s really taken off. It seems like everyone in Tucson is behind this.”
Allen’s Organics has forged partnerships with farms throughout Southern Arizona, including the massive San Xavier farm operated by the Tohono O’odham Nation. The farm put in 30 acres of vegetables for Allen’s Organics this season, but demand for their produce has been so great that they’re increasing that to 120 acres next season.
“We deliver to five Whole Foods up in the Phoenix area and we cannot get them enough watermelon from (the San Xavier Farm)," said Dudney, adding that the farm has a capacity of 1,500 acres. “They were just growing alfalfa before this. We’ve also had people come over from the Pascua Yaqui tribe and other groups to see what we’re up to over there.”
Dudney says the company has also partnered with groups in Bisbee, Sierra Vista and other cities. The produce is collected, prepared for distribution and sold at a number of local farmers’ markets. They also open up the distribution center to the public three days a week.
It’s not just about retail, though. Dudney also sits on a council administered by the Arizona Board of Education that is looking at instituting farm-to-school programs across the state. The council has the backing of the Arizona Department of Agriculture, and Dudney says she’s optimistic about the progress the council is making.
Actually, Dudney is pretty optimistic about everything that’s happening right now.
“It’s exciting to watch the farms come alive because they have more opportunity,” she says. “We’re delivering to Janos, Omni Resorts want to get on board. It’s amazing to see all the support behind this.”
Allen’s Organics is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wednesday; 4 to 8 p.m., Friday; and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sunday. They can also be found at a number of farmers’ markets around town.