The second annual Sustainable, Organic and Local Food Festival will kick off tomorrow at Plaza de Vera Cruz Park to provide a tasty and educational emphasis on the importance of thoughtful food choices.

The SOL-ful festivity will feature local farmers, foods, wines and beers, several sustainable food vendors such as the UCSB Student Food Collective and Isla Vista Food Co-op and demonstrations including a worm-composting workshop, a salsa-making lesson and a beekeeping tutorial. The gala’s organic food court, Garden of Eatin’, will sell dishes such as ratatouille and sliders created by chefs with ingredients from local farmers to stress the connection between food production and consumption.

According to eco-lifestyle company Loa Tree co-founder Eric Cardenas, the event will educate local residents about eating mindfully.

“The intention is to really connect people with their food to the degree that we can promote SOL food production and consumption,” Cardenas said.

Cardenas said the food booths provide a visual display so consumers understand where the various ingredients of their food originate.

“If a vendor is selling pizza, the farmer will be right next to the booth with the produce for the pizza,” Cardenas said. “Food doesn’t just grow from supermarkets — it comes from people. We want people to understand where food comes from and how it relates to them.”

This year’s sponsors include the Santa Barbara County Foodbank, Santa Barbara Certified Farmer’s Markets and the Isla Vista Food Co-op.

According to festival co-founder Alison Hensley, organizers established the celebration last year to increase the community’s knowledge about the myriad of local efforts to make Santa Barbara sustainable.

“We started brainstorming this idea of what it would be like to bring people together for one or two days and make strides for Santa Barbara County to become more sustainable, local and organic,” Hensley said. “The food festival is not a business; it is a manifestation of community.”

The SOL food chef competition will feature last year’s winner Erik Stenberg defending his crown against local challengers Virginia Fletcher and Bethany Marker. The contest’s judges are Bradley Ogden — deemed Chef of the Year in 2000 by the Culinary Institute of America — and Chef Adrien Nieto — a season two finalist from MasterChef.

Cota Street will be closed between Anacapa Street and Santa Barbara Street to prepare for Saturday’s event. Hensley said organizers expect to surpass last year’s attendance of over 5,000 participants.

“We are hoping for sunshine and for even more people this year,” Hensley said. “I’m excited for the food and I’m excited to see what people take away from this. I’m looking forward to the conversations [of the] day and to being part of a community.”

Admission is free and food and drink vouchers are available on-site. A full schedule of festival events and attractions can be found at