Agriculture is the number-one industry in Santa Barbara County, yet few residents ever get a close-up look. So on Saturday, September 28, 13 farms will open their doors to the public in what will be, surprisingly, the first-ever Santa Barbara County Farm Day.
The free event is organized by Students for Eco-Education and Agriculture (SEEAG), which was founded in 2008 by Mary Maranville. A dairy farmer’s daughter, she was inspired to connect kids to where their food comes from by watching a 3rd-graders’ field trip to a farm in Santa Paula. In 2013, she started a similar day in Ventura County, which has grown from 10 farms and 2,000 attendees to 22 farms and more than 5,000 people.
“This unique day creates educated consumers, agricultural ambassadors, and a conscientious regional community that understands their local growers,” says Maranville, who tells us a bit more about what to expect and why.
How is this the first-ever Santa Barbara County Farm Day? Good question. Most discussions I have had with people in Santa Barbara County who considered organizing the day felt the scale and scope was too big an undertaking. It definitely takes many dedicated hours to pull off. Because SEEAG’s mission is agricultural education, it is part of our scope of work.
What can participants expect? We have five categories: fruit and veg, berry hoop house, livestock, technical, and wineries. I would pick one location in each category, such as Babé Farms, Union Valley Ranch, Rancho Laguna Farms, and Tres Hermanas cattle ranch and winery.
With the rising popularity of farm-to-table cuisine and organic buying and farmers’ markets, are kids better off today knowing about where their food comes from than they were 10 years ago? Definitely. In the next few years, SEEAG’s nutrition program will educate and expose 10,000 3rd graders to local crops that are growing in their backyards. As we educate ourselves about what is healthy and tastes great, we tend to purchase and eat these foods. Kale is a great example. Ten years ago, kids did not know what kale was. Today, they are raising their hands to say, “My mom puts kale in my smoothie, and I like it.” Avocados are another great example. Exposing kids to healthy treats at a young age creates lifelong healthy habits.
What are some of the issues facing modern farmers? Truly, farmers are not appreciated, whether by politicians or the average community member. Most people think farmers are not providing the best, most safe food possible, and they are.
Farming is one of the most highly regulated industries today. Third-party labs are constantly checking for pesticide residues and other pathogens, making sure our food is extremely safe.
The average person says, “Monoculture farming is bad,” and then goes out and wants to purchase delicious bread or pasta or drink wine and beer. It’s kind of hypocritical. There is a place for all growers, both biodynamic and monoculture.
Our local farmers need to feel appreciated and they don’t, yet we depend on them for our survival. Farmers should be treated like rock stars. Farm Day is a call to action to go out and visit a farm and farmer in your own backyard to educate yourself on their operations from seed to soil to kitchen table.
4•1•1 | Santa Barbara County Farm Day is Saturday, September 28, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., and kicks off with a food & wine fundraiser Friday, September 27, at Tres Hermanas Winery. For more info and tickets to the Friday event, see SantaBarbaraCountyFarmDay.com or call (805) 901-0213.