Overcast skies didn’t put a damper on the soft-opening kickoff of the Gaucho Certified Farmers Market (GCFM) on October 23. Indeed, twenty minutes into the event, which opened at 11 am, a pretty even mix of students and faculty/staff (that is, older-looking folks) ambled about, buying up produce and products. Adam Rondepierre, working the Ellwood Canyon Farms booth, admitted, “I’m almost sold out of tomatoes and carrots.”
Roane Akchurin, one of the event’s organizers, estimated over a thousand people attended; 600 filled in free raffle tickets, so that’s the bottom-line figure. “It was extremely successful,” Akchurin said in a phone interview after the event. “We heard a lot of buzz on the street about it. All the farmers were in shock it did so well the first week.”
A farmers market at UCSB has been a long time coming. According to Akchurin, her group is the fourth or fifth to try to get one on campus. She says this effort, “Grew out of a Gaucho U [a professional development program on campus] course a group of staff was taking. Part of that was to create a project that would improve the campus environment, and we thought a farmers market would do that.”
Planning in earnest started last April. Akchurin is co-chair with Hazel Ando, leading what she calls a “committee of dedicated staff and two student interns.” The GCFM is independent from the Santa Barbara Farmers Markets, so developed everything from scratch. “It took a heck of a lot of convincing people it would be a great idea,” Akchurin said, “but we’ve designed it so the farmers will keep coming and we can show them we’re in it for the long haul.”
The sellers come from a 150-mile radius, from Friend’s Ranch Ojai Citrus to the Pepper Creek Family Farm in Arroyo Grande. And while the size of the market will increase slightly – there will be 15 vendors for today’s installment – Akchurin also explained a clever plan to keep those people happy. “We wanted one of everything – one strawberry farmer, one citrus, etc.,” she said. “That way there’s only one bread person, or jam person, or citrus person and there aren’t competing interests.”
The new market is also taking its place on a university campus seriously, hoping to maintain education programs too. Some weeks it might be UCSB Health & Wellness with their blender-bike making smoothies; for Thanksgiving it might be a live turkey on-site so the IV School students can make a field trip. “We want to help build up excitement for places on campus and chefs like those at the faculty Club,” Akchurin insists. “We really want to welcome the community.” They’re even trying to work out a deal with parking; for now the best spots are in the nearby Lot 22 structure.
To help kick off things with a bit of a bang, there’s a Grand Opening on Wednesday, October 30. There will be food trucks (at least Georgia’s Smokehouse) and live music by the Bren Grass Band – both of which will likely become a monthly occurrence. The education segment will feature former UCSB staffer Katie Falbo doing a fermentation demonstration. Akchurin sums up it by saying, “This community of 25,000 people is ready for the market.”
Join the latest local food community at the Gaucho Certified Farmers Market on Wednesdays, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., Lot 23 (by the Faculty Club), UC Santa Barbara, facebook.com/gauchocertifiedfarmersmarket.