Vendors, farmers educate festivalgoers about importance of using sustainable food practices within local community.
This year’s fifth-annual Sustainable, Organic and Local (SOL) Food Festival brought live music, contests, cooking demonstrations and an array of local food vendors to Vera Cruz Park in downtown Santa Barbara this past Saturday.
The festival kicked off at 10 a.m. with local food vendors creating a “Garden of Eatin’,” in which Kombucha, smoothies, flatbread and sliders were just some of the food and drink enjoyed by festival goers. The “Garden” was followed by an “Oasis Beer and Wine Garden” that had Happy Hour from 6 to 8 p.m. and served local handcrafted beer from Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company as well as Santa Barbara’s Telegraph Brewing Company.
Attendees also took part in hands-on seminars, where they could learn the art of beekeeping, how to pickle veggies and how to ferment wine. The event also sought to be kid-friendly, providing a petting zoo and “Top Chef” cook-off for kids.
According to Larry Saltzman of the California Rare Fruit Growers Channel Islands chapter, the local feel of the festival invites all members of the community to come together and explore new ideas about eating.
“My favorite part of the festival is meeting new people,” Saltzman said. “I especially like the multi-generational aspect of the festival; from very young to old and everything in between. It is not exclusive in any way, which is key to building a healthy community.”
Ashley Audycki, Isla Vista Food Co-op Community Outreach and Education Coordinator, who tabled for the Co-op at the event, said the festival was a great way for the community to become familiar with sustainable practices and to local farmers and producers.
“From my own experiences, this festival brings our local food system to life and makes it fun,” Audycki said. “It’s a great opportunity to learn hands on why local sustainable and organic foods are important. It’s also a great way to see the names and faces behind the products we consume.”
Audycki also said that while many consumers feel buying local and organic produce is pricey and out of their budget, in actuality sustainable eating can be easy and affordable. By informing the Santa Barbara community about local and organic foods, the SOL Food Festival makes each attendee a more knowledgeable consumer of sustainable, organic and local products, Audycki said.
“My favorite part of the festival is having a concentrated day dedicated to joy and happiness and SOL food with passionate people in our community,” Audycki said. “It allows people to connect to our food processes, whether someone is curious about learning more about our food system or they are a total foodie.”
Jonah Gabriel Haas, Marketing Director of SOL Food Festival and co-founder of Lucidity Festival, said SOL is geared toward “education, empowerment, community, interconnectedness and fun.”
“The driving force of the festival is to incorporate seasonal organic food and to make people more aware of our local food system; to increase local interconnectedness of the food system and encourage a community dialogue,” Haas said.
Haas also said SOL is an effective avenue for individuals to contribute to solving faults in our food supply chains and consumption methods.
“The philosophy behind SOL is important and it runs deep,” Haas said. “If you look at our global food system there’s a lot of challenges, from genetically modified organisms to social and environmental impacts, to the high levels of toxicity used to produce our food … So many questions arise when you think of what is wrong and it can be overwhelming.”
According to Haas, since Santa Barbara is a hot spot for growing produce with a diverse economy, there are also huge economic benefits to supporting SOL.
“One of the major reasons for buying and eating SOL food is the economy. Spending money local keeps money local,” Haas said. “The money we put into our community through supporting local producers recirculates this money back into the community.”
Haas, who helped put the festival together, also said “SOL food is a solution.”
“The biggest solution is to support our local food system,” Haas said, “through getting to know the farmers, shopping at the farmers market, reading labels and truly understanding where the food we eat is coming from.”
This article appeared in Thursday, October 2, 2014’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.