Those of us who live in Santa Barbara know that one of our greatest local treasures is the abundance of fresh produce, meat, and seafood that can be sourced regionally. However, you might be surprised to find out that while Santa Barbara County is in the top 1% of agricultural producing counties in the U.S., 95% of the produce we eat is imported. In more extreme cases, the food we eat was sourced locally, shipped overseas for processing and sent back to Santa Barbara to end up on your plate. Take calamari for example.
Transportation accounts for 15% of the energy used in the food system – and the food system in the U.S. accounts for about 15% of our national energy consumption. For those of us committed to moving our region away from fossil fuels, supporting a local food system is an important step. Not only that, by choosing local foods you’ll get to know local food purveyors and farmers and you may even find yourself getting more creative in the kitchen.
October is Eat Local Month – in which CEC, Edible Santa Barbara, the FoodBank of Santa Barbara County, and Santa Barbara Farmers Market are challenging you to eat locally-sourced foods for the month.
Are you up for the challenge? It’s easy to participate.
First, determine your radius. Customize the challenge to suit your needs and lifestyle. Your “eat local radius” can be defined as 100 miles, the tri-county region, or even the state of California.
Second, define your exceptions. You may not be ready to give up non-local items like coffee, tea or certain spices. Some people choose to allow food that they have already purchased, harvested, preserved or frozen. Set these parameters early so you don’t get thrown off along the way.
And finally, eat local. Dive in. Shop at farmers market, join a community supported agriculture (CSA) program, trade with friends, and check out local food shops. You may find there is more available than you had thought. Or you may find the challenge to be, well, challenging. In either case, we’ve put together some resources to help you get started.
Eat Local Challenge Facebook Group : this is the place to ask questions, share ideas, and get tips from new and veteran locavores.
Building a Locavore Pantry: this article from Edible SB outlines everything you need for a well-stocked local pantry.
Santa Barbara CSA Programs: By joining a CSA you’re supporting a local farm (and some even deliver produce directly to your door).
Santa Barbara Farmers Market Schedule: You can find a farmers market in Santa Barbara year-round, 6 days a week.
Markets and Grocers: Discover an array of local items at these great stores around the county.
Eat Well Travel Guide: Find local food while you’re on the road.
We’d love to hear about your experience with the challenge. If you want to share the story of your eat local adventure with our readers, send us an email. Good luck and stay tuned for more stories on local food in the coming weeks.