KOLD 13: Startup Tucson helping local farmers innovate during COVID-19

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -

Many small food producers in Tucson have suffered during the pandemic but there’s some hope in sight through Startup Tucson who has secured a two year federal grant through the USDA to help local farmers innovate their businesses.

“Our entire food supply and value chain has changed in a lot of ways," said Chaz Shelton. He and his wife, Brooke Shelton own Merchant’s Garden, a 10,000 square foot green house off of Tucson Boulevard

“The heart of the work here is to make fresh food more accessible for people in the state," Brooke Shelton said.

COVID-19 has shaken up the agriculture industry in Tucson, a city of gastronomy, that’s famed for its rich food culture. “A lot of small farmers utilized this amazing sort of restaurant economy that’s in Tucson," Chaz Shelton said. "A lot of that is struggling, hurting and reduced massively.”

Startup Tucson has partnered with Merchant’s Garden, Visit Tucson, BRINK Creative Group, and University of Arizona Department of Agricultural Education, Technology and Innovation for the project. They plan to help farmers pivot their businesses and give them an online presence.

“Allow them to sell directly to consumers and or advertise their products to visitors or restaurants and that’s where Visit Tucson comes in," Chaz Shelton said.

The project will teach farmers new skills, how to diversify the items they sell and build websites to connect with customers easily. “It’s no longer the days of the lone farmer out there who can do it all on his own or her own," Brooke Shelton said. "We really need to come together to support the local food economy”

Startup Tucson plans to help 30 local food producers with the grant and applications will be opening soon.

See original email: https://www.kold.com/2020/10/25/startup-tucson-helping-local-farmers-innovate-during-covid-/

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