Living La Vida Local

November 19, 2015
Grass with a truck

Today's blog post comes from Madison Conrado. Madison is a fourth year Environmental Studies major working for Residential Dining as an Environmental Intern. Madison says that she has always been interested in environmental issues and today she shares her thoughts about sustainable local produce.

Do you frequent the salad bar at Ortega? Scarf down the veggie tacos at DLG? Or maybe grab a fresh piece of fruit from Carrillo on your way out the door? If so, you have almost certainly eaten the fresh and sustainable produce provided by Harvest Santa Barbara. This Santa Barbara native small business prides itself on working with local farms to supply fruits and vegetables amongst “kitchens of all sizes” including schools, universities, and restaurant chefs as well as corporate and institutional customers. They act as the middleman between local farmers and the businesses that they partner with. Their mission sounds simple: to be the catalyst for a healthier, more sustainable food system by strengthening the ties between farmers and the community. But what the dedicated team at Harvest Santa Barbara does is anything but simple, working extremely hard to make their mission a reality. 
One of the many amazing things about this company is that produce is harvested to order, and it is usually done in less than 24 hours. UCSB is one of the major customers of Harvest Santa Barbara, providing Residential Dining with 40 percent of the produce used in the dining commons. As a major university that prides itself on being earth-friendly and sustainable, Harvest Santa Barbara is exactly the kind of business UCSB Residential Dining Services enjoys working with.  
Last week, I had the chance to check out Harvest Santa Barbara’s facilities and was lucky enough to get a tour from owner Jasper Eiler and Sales Manager Micah Elconin. Their facilities are smaller than one might expect, and Eiler mentioned that they would be moving locations to a new and bigger facility in Carpentaria in January. However, I must say, their current rustic and modest workspace in Goleta is exactly what I would expect a seasoned, local farming business to appear.  Along with their bright and friendly staff, Harvest Santa Barbara offers a unique and welcoming environment that anyone unfamiliar with their business would be pleased to experience. I have always been interested in food systems and sustainability and my first step into learning more about the diverse world of food and agriculture was becoming a sustainability intern with UCSB Dining Services. This is what brought me to the doors of Harvest Santa Barbara and after just one hour with a few friendly team members, my interest in the business of sustainable farming sparked even more. 
Each staff member at Harvest Santa Barbara has a diverse background with agriculture making for an eclectic team of passionate individuals who embody the movement of food production from large corporations to a local level. According to a study done by UCSB Professor David Cleveland, more than 99 percent of produce grown in Santa Barbara is exported, and more than 95 percent of the produce eaten here is imported into the county. The business practices, as well as environmental ethics that Harvest Santa Barbara maintains, are ones that more and more individuals in the food industry must begin to adopt. The benefits of eating locally and seasonally grown food not only includes reducing the enormous carbon footprint of large-scale agriculture and food production but also makes for the best flavor and best nutrition. More fruits and vegetables reach their nutrition peak at the time they should be harvested, which is conveniently mean they taste best. The “fresh” produce most people buy in the supermarkets has been traveling for days or maybe even weeks before it makes it into your home. With businesses like Harvest Santa Barbara, you are guaranteed food that is fresh and seasonal and on top of that you are facilitating lasting positive effects on the environment. Next time you need produce, stop by one of Santa Barbara’s many Farmer’s Markets and check out the locally grown fruits and vegetables; if you are lucky, you may just see a Harvest Santa Barbara team member making their rounds amongst the crowd!

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