Tomatoes

About

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.

Agriculture Education

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

  • Train-the-trainer

  • Ag Club

  • Workshops

  • Technical Assistance

  • Annual Food Festivals

  • Beginning Farmer Apprenticeship

  • Youth Agriculture & Culinary Arts Internships

  • Native Foodways Gathering

Food Justice

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

Cultural Preservation

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. 

 

Economic Development

We foster community, food-based economic development through our Ajo Farmers Market, O’odham Farmers Market, 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

Valuable Partnerships

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.

The Team

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Nina Sajovec

Nina was born and raised in Slovenia, and immigrated to the United States in 2007 to do research for her PhD in Anthropology of Food after receiving her Bachelors’ Degree in Law at the University of Ljubljana. Nina was a program director for Tohono O’odham Community Action for four years, and established a successful beginning farmer training and an extensive community outreach program including school and community gardens on the Tohono O'odham Nation. Nina co-founded Ajo Center for Sustainable Agriculture in 2008. The Center is a Native American-governed 501c3 and dedicated to preserving and revitalizing traditional and sustainable food systems in Ajo, on the Tohono O’odham Nation and the surrounding region through education, seed conservation, and job creation. The Center started Ajo Farmers Market in 2009, and has now expanded it into a bricks-and-mortar food incubator, including a farm-to-table menu. The Ajo Farmers Market & Café houses mostly Native American microbusinesses. The Center administers an agriculture and culinary arts youth internship and a beginning farmer training program in cooperation with Alexander Pancho Memorial Farm, Tohono O’odham Farm and Food Group, and other partners. The Center is also the lead on the Arizona-wide Agricultural Workforce Development Coalition.

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Sterling Johnson

Sterling Johnson, Farm Manager and Farmer Mentor, Tohono O’odham Sterling was born and raised on the Tohono O’odham Nation in a ranching and rodeo family, and is an accomplished bull rider himself. Sterling is a graduate of the former Tohono O’odham Community Action’s Beginning Farmer Program, and has continued the teaching to develop a new youth and adult education program in Ajo and on the reservation through his work with the Ajo Center for Sustainable Agriculture. He currently farms 2 dry-land fields, and three urban market gardens farm, teaches weekly classes in two high schools, and has overseen 22 farming apprentices and 22 youth interns over the past three years, 70% of whom are Tohono O’odham. Sterling has extensive experience in marketing of traditional Native American crops and other local crops and products, and working with Native and other producers. Building on the 8 years of experience with Ajo Farmers Market, he is one of the leads on developing the O'odham Farmers Market.

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Amaia Vega

My Name is Amaia Vega-Montijo and I’m the Farmers Market Coordinator. I am an Ajo native and come from a large family with deep Ajo roots. I am currently attending Tohono O’odham Community College pursuing a degree in early childhood education and raising a son. I thoroughly enjoy working with native artists and being a voice for the Native American community. I look forward to the future when I can integrate my degree with my love of the native community and look forward to meeting many of you in the future.

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Joyce Millar

Joyce Millar is the Ajo Food Pantry Manager. Joyce is originally from Scotland. After traveling extensively, living and working in three separate continents as a Music Teacher, Joyce opted for a quiet life living in her small Campground in Why, with her senior dog, Maggie and their chickens.  She enjoys being part of a small community and helping others. Joyce was part of the second cohort of Beginning Farmer Apprentices from 2018-2019.

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Caitlin Smyth

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 Outreach and Programs Coordinator, 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 Ajo Farmers Market and O’odham Farmers Market on promotions, marketing and the development of websites. 

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Kyle Watkins

Bio coming soon.

The Board of Directors 

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Terrol Johnson

Uneven Orange Wall

Victor Garcia

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Mara Branson

Cactus on Yellow Wall

Jose Castillo

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Cindy Sandoval

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Jesse Garcia

Desert Nature

Dionne Vega

Red Oil Painting

Adrian Vega

Annual Reports