Our mission is to support the development of a sustainable and just local food system in Ajo, Arizona and the Tohono O’odham Nation.
What We Do
We are a Native American governed 501(c)3 non-profit organization that provides agricultural education, reduces barriers to healthy and culturally-appropriate foods, preserves and revitalizes agricultural traditions, fosters local, food-based economic development and establishes valuable partnerships.
We have numerous agricultural education opportunities for all ages and experience levels. All of our workshops are free of charge and cover a wide array of agriculture topics from business development to sustainable farming practices. We provide agricultural education by way of the…
Ajo Gardeners Network
Annual Food Festivals
Beginning Farmer Apprenticeship
Youth Agriculture & Culinary Arts Internships
Native Foodways Gathering
We reduce barriers to healthy and culturally-appropriate foods by partnering with public health and nutrition programs such SNAP, Double Up Bucks and WIC at the Ajo Farmers Market and as part of our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Ajo CSA, along with community partners and funders started the COVID-19 Emergency Food Relief Program and later the Ajo Food Pantry. We organized Ajo Emergency Food Partnership and continue to collaborate with districts on the Tohono O’odham Nation
We create and participate in spaces dedicated to Native American culture including the Southwest Native Foodways Gathering, Tohono O’odham Youth Programming Group, etc. We also have a citizen participation crop conservation program, Adopt-A-Sonoran-Desert-Crop, traditionally grown through “Ak Chin” (mouth of the wash) dry-land farming.
We foster community, food-based economic development through our Ajo Farmers Market, O’odham Farmers Market, Kaij Ki, Beginning Farmer Training program (agricultural internships and apprenticeships) and Micro-business incubators, Ajo Farmers Market & Café (Community Commercial Kitchen, Mini-Grants, Incubator Farm, Vendor Opportunities). ajofarmersmarketcafe.com
We value our partnerships and believe that they are essential in creating a stronger community. Our shared understanding and values allow us to make for a collective focus towards lasting progress. Some of our partnerships include the Tohono O’odham Farm and Food Working Group, Arizona Food Systems Network, AmeriCorps Vista and NCCC, National Young Farmers Coalition, National Incubator Farm Training Initiative, Ajo Emergency Food Partnership, Districts of the Tohono O’odham Nation, Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, Arizona Ag workforce Development Coalition, AZ Food Bank Network. We also view our funders as our partners. These include Pima County and Freeport McMoRan.
Interim Executive Director
Pati played a key role in bringing together Native people to form a National organization dedicated to addressing Native Food Sovereignty, by calling upon people who have been working in the community on Native Food issues for many years co-directors formed NAFSA Founding Council. This work has taken Pati to NGO events in China, Italy, and the United Nations, where the co-directors conducted workshops and trainings and shared their community development model. In addition, they have worked with organizations such as; the First Nations Development Institute, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, the Rural Development Leadership Network, the Sister Fund Grantees, and working through an Oxfam America Mentorship Program with seven Native American organizations. She has vast experience in program and organizational development as well as project management and evaluation. She has worked to raise millions of dollars for communities.
Originally from Long Island, NY, Caitlin Smyth moved to Ajo after previously serving there as a Team Leader for three months with AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), where she was a service member for two years. During her time in college at SUNY Farmingdale, while receiving her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management, Caitlin learned about AmeriCorps NCCC. In her current position as Program Director, Caitlin works with youth, gardeners and farmers in Ajo and throughout the state of Arizona. Caitlin works on developing and implementing programs including the Adopt-A-Sonoran-Desert-Crop Program that gives out native grown seeds, and a variety of youth programming including schools and youth internships. Building relationships with vendors, she works with the O’odham Farmers Market on promotions, marketing and the development of websites for the organization.
I have lived in Ajo my whole life. I have a lot of family here. I love our close knit community. I was a pharmacy technician from 2006-2022. I am the Operations Director/ Human Resources. I have 2 amazing kids. My son started in 2019 as an intern and promoted to apprentice in 2023. We love helping our community.
Cody Manuel is a Native American chef and member of the Gila River Nation, Akimel O'odham. He has been in the culinary field since the age of 17 and is a graduate of Scottsdale Culinary Institute, a Le Cordon Bleu school. He was a culinary arts instructor at Ajo High School for 3 years where he worked and learned with his students. Cody learned much from his family and elders about native ingredients but was able to broaden his horizons once he joined Ajo CSA. Once with Ajo CSA, Cody had the opportunity to use more Native ingredients and learn how they are used traditionally. Using his culinary background and the new tools given, he puts a bit of a modern twist on traditional ingredients. He does love to pay respect to where he came from by giving what knowledge he has to all he speaks with. Cody has spoken with classes from all over the country about the importance of traditional foods and how they are grow and used. He enjoys his weekends when he makes chumuth or fry bread where he and his family spread their knowledge to the next generation.
Hello my name is DeAnndra Porter. I am a member of the Tohono O'odham Nation, and the Outreach Coordinator for Ajo Center for Sustainable Agriculture. I am an alumni of Tohono O'odham Community College (TOCC) and University of Arizona with a bachelors of science in Nutrition and Food Systems. I am working towards growing and promoting Tohono O'odham crops as well as health and nutrition throughout the Tohono O'odham Nation and other communities. I began my journey of traditional Tohono O'odham foods as a youth with Tohono O'odham Community Action (TOCA) and as an agriculture intern with TOCC. I also work with Tohono O'odham Community College as a Traditional Food Systems Outreach with the same goal and mission of creating a food secure and sovereign system. My hobbies are gardening, cooking, reading and jogging, I enjoy spending time with my family, learning, and nature.
My name is Jesse Garcia and I'm from Cowlic Village on the Tohono O'odham Nation and have been farming for over 10 years. I have worked with Ajo CSA for a few years now and am currently the Garden Supervisor. I have started my own garden business/ nursery at home from the skills I have learned from Ajo CSA and other places I have worked over the past 12 years. The skills I have learned I use in my own garden as trials to see what works and what does not work and used these try outs to help others start their own garden at home. It is exciting to see how far I have come in doing this kind of work. I'm hoping to pass it on to my kids and the next generation and so on to help others grow their own foods.
I've lived in Ajo most of my life. I have two beautiful daughters that are 3 and 4 years old. I started with Ajo CSA working at the cafe and then started the position as Case Worker where I work with Ajo Food Pantry clients to connect them with other resources such as SNAP, TEFAP, AHCCCS, etc. I assist clients with accessing additional resources and benefits. I work alongside Alessandra, the Pantry Manager, with all distributions including the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona. I enjoy helping others and trying to make a difference in our community.
The Board of Directors