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Thoughts From the Garden of Ed

Fresh Event
by Billy Goodnick


Fresh produce from Fairview Farms

There's a bit of a misconception about who I am, which sometimes makes me feel like the protagonist in The Emperor's New Clothes. A lot of people think I'm Mr. Sustainability. I'll cop to that as long as we keep the focus on landscape architecture-I think I do an okay job getting the word out regarding landscapes around our homes.

But don't leap to the assumption that I drive a hand-built solar powered hovercraft, wear a homegrown biodynamic hemp toupee or that everywhere I walk, a rainforest sprouts up.

One of the big gaps in my resume has to do with growing food. I dabbled in vegetable gardening a few decades ago, but have had neither the time for it nor a garden in which to play.

To remedy this gap, I've recently been making an effort to hang out with locals who are growing their own food, raising activist voices about the corporatization of agriculture and caring about how we treat the land.

It's this new interest that lured Lin, my spousal support unit, and me to the Goleta Community Center last Tuesday night to view a screening the film Fresh, sponsored by HopeDance. Fresh is a must-see documentary that describes itself as "New thinking about what we're eating."

The main point of the movie is that Big Ag doesn't get it right and our health, our communities and our system of commerce is suffering because of it. But rather than coming away from the movie with a doom and gloom cloud over my head,
Shelly Cobb

Shelly Cobb, of Hope Dance, introduces Fresh

film-maker Sophia Joanes provides so many uplifting examples of people bucking the system and doing it right, that I felt a strong sense of hope. Please check the trailer at the film's website, then keep an eye on the HopeDance home page for the next screening.

As much as I was turned on by the film, I was equally delighted by the community event before the show. Packed into the cozy courtyard at the Goleta Community Center were a dozen or so tables loaded with camera-ready fresh produce bursting with color, the aroma of sautéing abalone, and enthusiastic community groups spreading the word about their efforts.

Easy Pickings

My first connection was Jim Roehrig, spreading the word about the Backyard Bounty Program run by the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County. Jim and a group of 74 volunteers will come to your home and pick surplus fruit from your trees (with your permission of course; no midnight ninja assaults). Then they distribute the bounty to local families. The program is always looking for willing donors, so if you have more fruit than you can use, contact the program.

Bio-diversity Matters

Jill Frandsen's business card says Bean Counter. Given that Edible Gardens is in the business of selling heirloom seeds from around the world, I'm not sure whether to take that term literally or if she manages the money. Regardless, Edible Gardens promotes backyard food farming as a way to assure that hard-to-find vegetable seeds remain in circulation and not quashed by Big Ag. Edible Gardens consider themselves a hedge against Frankenfood march of the industrialization of our diets. Following on the work of Vanda Shiva, an Indian physicist, environmental activist, and author, Edible Gardens helps promote biodiversity. They sell beautifully packaged seed kits including the Kids Discovery Garden, Chefs Garden, Thai Garden and Chili Garden.

Support Your Local Growers

The greater Santa Barbara area is the home of a number of farms known as Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA. The concept is simple: Organic farmers grow a variety of seasonal produce that they sell directly to members. Prices vary between local CSAs, but average about $20 a week for the finest, freshest,
Fairview Farms

Jen Corey, Fairview Farms marketing manager

organically grown, in season produce you'll find. I love the fact that all the profits stay right here and funnel back into the local economy.

One of the best-known CSAs at the Fresh event was Fairview Gardens, a non-profit that also provides educational programs for kids, as well as cooking classes. They offer "large shares" for $36 per week, "designed for a family or two dedicated, vegetable loving cooks" or smaller $20 shares for singles or "couples who cook most nights."

Shepard Farms was there, handing out samples of the best strawberries I've tasted in years. Tom Shepard is a fifth generation Santa Barbaran who has been farming organically since 1973. He offers his CSA subscribers three pick up sites each week in Santa Barbara, Carpinteria and Santa Ynez. There are also special events from time to time that are fun for kids.

I didn't get a chance to talk with the folks at John Givens Farm, but they've been around the Goleta area since 1980, where they started out with one acre. They now organically farm 180 acres in 12 locations, so we know they're doing something right.

Can I Eat The Pages?

Krista Harris is the publisher of Edible Santa Barbara, a relatively new magazine that features sections like Edible Notables, events on local food; In Season, recipes and tips from local chefs; Liquid Assets, wines, microbrews and coffee; Edible Heroes, food-base orgs & school programs; and What Kids Are Eating, healthy foods that appeal to kids.
Edible Santa Barbara

Krista Harris, publisher of Edible Santa Barbara Magazine

The publication is beautiful to look at while striving to advance readers' appreciation of where our food comes from and the benefits of supporting local contributors.

It's Not Just For Hippies Anymore

I had so much fun talking with a couple of folks from the Isla Vista Food Co-op. Melissa Cohen, store manager, and Shawn McMahon, produce manager, were so enthusiastic about their operation that their energy flew across the display table. The IV Co-op is the only community-supported natural food store in the area, which is more than we can say about the soon-to-arrive big daddy, Whole Foods. The Co-op has been in operation for 36 years, slowly growing and spreading their goodness. A sign of their success is that last year they turned their first profit, which was distributed back to the members. They are open to the public, offer lots of bulk items to help reduce the impacts from food packaging,
IV Co-Op

Melissa Cohen and Shawn McMahon, Isla Vista Co-op

and serve UCSB students as well of "big basket" customers who come from as far away as Ojai for their fine service and offerings.

Just before the film started, I tracked down the source of the alluring aromas that first greeted me. Chef Kate Komaiko, owner of Earthen catering company, was gently preparing the last servings of her abalone creation into a sizzling sauté pan. The abalone, provided by Cadena's Fresh Fish, purveyors of local seafood, had been dredged in an organic egg, seasoned flour and crumbled butter cracker coating, then sprinkled with a tiny bit of sea salt and gently laid on a thin slice of lemon. I had just enough time to pop one in my mouth as I entered the assembly room, then do a double take as I pondered going back for a second helping.

Alas, that will have to wait for the next screening.

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Billy Goodnick is a nice guy who knows a lot about plants and garden stuff.


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