UCSB’s first Gaucho Certified Farmers Market took place yesterday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., offering an array of fresh produce and baked goods from local farms for the consumption of students, staff and community members.
Hosted by Gaucho University — a six-month community-building course for faculty members — the open-air display was located at Parking Lot 23 and featured goods from local farms, including Ellwood Canyon Farms, Pepper Creek Family Farms and the Tamai Family Farm. Farmers set up booths offering a wide range of different fruits and vegetables, along with other specialized stations selling fresh honey, jams, bread and flowers.
Co-chairs of the Gaucho Certified Farmers Market Roane Akchurin and Hazel Ando worked with 10 staff members and two student interns for nine months in order to make the farmers market happen. Akchurin said the market will provide campus community members with an on-campus venue for farmers from Santa Barbara County, Ventura County and San Luis Obispo County.
According to Forrest McMillan, third-year environmental science major and student intern for the market, the members of the team that worked to set up the event underwent a process of visiting downtown farmers markets and inviting them to attend the Gaucho Certified Farmers Market.
McMillan said the market creates a vital opportunity of accessibility for customers in the area since, apart from the Isla Vista Food Co-Op, there are few local stores offering fresh produce and a chance to talk to the individuals responsible for farming the food.
“We’re very disconnected with the food we eat,” McMillan said. “When we go to the grocery store, all of the food is packaged on shelves and we don’t really know where it comes from, whereas here it’s much more personable. You can see the people who grow the food and talk to them and have a conversation with them, and I know, personally, it just really shapes the way I view the food I eat.”
The market received support from both on-campus organizations and local groups, including UCSB’s Health & Wellness program, which provided a bike-powered smoothie-making station. Each week, the market will present a booth promoting an educational theme, such as yesterday’s bike-powered blender.
Next week’s farmers market will showcase a presentation on the fermentation of vegetables by UCSB alumna and staff member Katie Falbo, and the week after that will feature a booth on reusable and sustainable bags. According to Akchurin, this instructive aspect of the weekly market will help the project increase student knowledge, giving the market an educational angle that is fitting to its location at a university.
“There will be some kind of education, too,” Akchurin said. “It’s part of our mission at the university.”
Adam Rondepierre, who worked on behalf of Ellwood Canyon Farmers in Goleta, said he was impressed by the large student-customer presence and said the market appeared successful. According to Rondepierre, Ellwood Canyon sold out of organic carrots, strawberries and melons in just an hour.
“The turnout has been incredible,” Rondepierre said. “Everybody’s excited, and there’s a lot more people than expected.”
He said he will be sure to come back to next week’s market, with an even larger amount of goods to offer.
“Next week, we’ll probably bring double to triple of what we brought this week,” Rondepierre said.
With the variety of organic produce, first-year computer science graduate student Daniel Imberman said the market offers an easy way to make healthy food choices amidst midterm stress.
“This is probably one of the coolest things I’ve seen at UCSB,” Imberman said. “Especially with midterms, I haven’t really been eating that well, so just to get some fresh fruits and veggies is a really big help.”
Tamai Family Farms offered a variety of produce, as well as popular recipes and information on increasing the longevity of food. According to manager of Tamai Family Farms, Donna Tamai, farmers markets offer students an extra opportunity for reaching fairly affordable food in an easy, convenient way.
“I’ve been doing markets longer than anyone else in the circuit, since I was a teenager,” Tamai said, adding that her own college-aged children shop at farmers markets because of the great convenience. “My three kids were starving students and they would hit up the farmers market so people they knew would help them out.”
Yesterday’s market acted as a trial run and next week’s market, on Oct. 30 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., will be the actual grand opening, featuring a live band.
Photos by Cameryn Brock, Peter Vandenbelt and John Clow / Daily Nexus
A version of this article appeared on page 3 of the Thursday, October 24, 2013 print edition of the Daily Nexus.