Name: Oscar Carmona
Farm: Healing Grounds Nursery
Location: PO Box 60103, Santa Barbara, California 93160
What they grow: A large selection of planted vegetable and herb seedlings, including watermelon, pumpkins, squash, tomatoes, broccoli, peppers, green beans, beets, cabbage, cauliflower, peas, potatoes, edible flowers, and a wide variety of healing herbs.
Where to buy: Farmers markets including Saturday in downtown Santa Barbara and Sunday in Goleta.
In season now: Cucumbers, zucchinis, kale, spinach, arugula, sorrel, swiss chard, romaine lettuce, basil (Thai, lemon, opal), jalapeño, habanero, serrano, and padron peppers, and over 20 varieties of tomatoes including low acid varieties such as brandywine.
Their story: Started as a horticultural therapy program for the Transitions Mental Health Association, Healing Grounds was one of the first certified organic nurseries on the Central Coast. Started by UCSB alumni Oscar Carmona, the nursery is committed to the local community, donating their overstock of plants to local schools and charities.
“I love this community. I really enjoy helping people find what they need or want,” said Carmona. “You can’t do this everywhere. We are so blessed to have year-round great weather.”
Certified biodynamic, the nursery works on increasing soil health. Healing Grounds seedlings are planted in potting soil rich in organic nutrients, fed with worm compost tea, fish emulsion, and kelp concentrate. Growing without chemical fertilizers or pesticides, the company is committed to sustainable agriculture.
“Food is only as good as the soil it’s grown in,” said Carmona. “I am focused on the energetic health of the plants, which essentially enhances the biological processing.”
Growing in Ellwood Canyon, the farm emphasizes the holistic development and interrelationship of the soil and plants, creating a self-sustaining system. In an effort to maximize flavor and quality, Carmona offers gardening and composting consultations to educate the local community.
“While the farmer is the orchestrator, it’s all a cycle,” said Carmona. “Choosing fresh, eating fresh, it’s all about consciousness and awareness.”
Working alongside the Santa Barbara Seed Saving Guild, Carmona saves seed stock for the Santa Barbara Food Bank, as well as promoting seed exchanges and workshops within the community. The next workshop will be held Sunday, April 28, at Pacifica Graduate Institute from 3:30-5:30 p.m. in Carpinteria.
“Access to seeds is the most important,” said Carmona. “In order to secure food security, we have to have access to seeds.”
Encouraging market goers to think creatively, the seedlings can be planted in the ground, in hanging containers, or in any ambient structure. Growing their plants in an open greenhouse, the plants are primed for local conditions, as Carmona says, “sowing the seeds of possibility for a brighter future.”
“It’s important to grow in a way that’s congruent to the garden,” said Carmona. “We want people to be successful in their gardening, making it palatable to all.”