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Oct. 3, 2018

Explore Indigenous and Local Foods at Desert Fiesta

  • What: Desert Foods Fiesta
  • When: Saturday, Oct. 6, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
  • Where: Cooper Center for Environmental Learning, 5403 W. Trails End Road

TUCSON, Ariz. – The Cooper Center for Environmental Learning will celebrate indigenous, natural and local foods at its fourth annual Desert Foods Fiesta.

"One of the things we do in our education and research programs with kids is explore the different dimensions of nature, including the ways that we rely on the natural world," said Colin Waite, director of the Cooper Center, which is an interactive desert classroom run by the University of Arizona College of Education in partnership with Tucson Unified School District.

"The Desert Foods Fiesta is another approach to that concept and connecting with nature through touch and smell and taste," Waite said. "Even if these foods are somewhat novel for most of us today, they've always been key to wildlife survival in our desert environment, and traditionally they've been vital food resources for indigenous populations."

The festival will include a keynote presentation by Don Guerra, UA College of Education alumnus and founder of Tucson-based Barrio Bread. Guerra will speak about his choice to use heirloom grains, including Sonoran white wheat, in building his bakery business. Guerra began sourcing the grain locally following a 2012 USDA $50,000 research grant for sustainable agriculture that helped local farmers revive this once prolific heirloom variety suited to the arid Southwest.

In addition to Guerra's presentation, the fiesta will include:

  • Guided nature walks led by Cooper Center environmental educators 
  • Mesquite pancakes with prickly pear, pomegranate or maple syrup ($8 per plate)
  • Workshops on making prickly pear treats, processing olives and harvesting rainwater
  • Solar telescope viewings, roving musicians, and information on solar cooking, natural compost, community supported agriculture, and more

Attendees are invited to bring mesquite pods to be milled into flour for $3 a gallon, payable by cash or check. Bike-powered smoothies and packaged food items from local vendors will be available for cash purchase. Pancake breakfasts can be purchased in advance online at or with cash at the event. 

The following businesses donated resources for the event: 

  • Barrio Bread – locally produced wheat flour for pancakes
  • La Madera Mesquite – mesquite flour for pancakes
  • Aqua Vita Natural Food Market – oats for pancakes
  • Cheri's Desert Harvest – prickly pear and pomegranate syrup
  • Trader Joe's – maple syrup

Media contact:
Colin Waite
Cooper Center for Environmental Learning
Ana Luisa Terrazas
UA College of Education
Established in 1885, the University of Arizona, the state's super land-grant university with two medical schools, produces graduates who are real-world ready through its 100% Engagement initiative. Recognized as a global leader and ranked 16th for the employability of its graduates, the UA is also a leader in research, bringing more than $622 million in research investment each year, and ranking 21st among all public universities. The UA is advancing the frontiers of interdisciplinary scholarship and entrepreneurial partnerships, and is a member of the Association of American Universities, the 62 leading public and private research universities. It benefits the state with an estimated economic impact of $8.3 billion annually.