Steven L. Musick, our beloved friend and local farmer, passed on Dec. 11, 2014, in Santa Barbara. Born in Ardmore, Oklahoma on Nov. 30th, 1955, Steve’s family moved to Wichita, Kansas, where he was an all-city offensive guard for the Southeast High School Golden Buffalo, senior class president, and voted “most likely to succeed”. After high school, Steve moved out West, and settled in Goleta.
A familiar, and friendly face, for many years at the downtown Santa Barbara Farmer’s Market, Steve sold his famous “three times washed” mixed lettuce that he raised at the MTD property, or Steel River Farm, for the nearby freeway. Each bag came with the message: “Thank you for the privilege of serving you. You are helping “One of a Kind” farm survive and thrive, and maintain this heritage in a world where few traditions remain.”
For 20 years he tilled various plots of the shrinking farmland in the fertile Goleta Valley, raising tomatoes, watermelons, garlic, peppers, figs, cut flowers, and, of course, his famous lettuce. “Goleta has the best climate and soils in the world for farming and your market is all around you”.
It was in his Oklahoma blood to work the land: “Like my father and his father before, I’ve learned to farm with nature. They were organic farmers before it was popular.” And Steve, too, was a champion of urban farming and local agriculture long before it was popular, believing that we “need to exercise the democratic right to force decision-makers to recognize the incredible heritage and agricultural value of The Good Land”.
A poet and a songwriter, Steve played and sang with his guitar at open mikes around town. He loved to pun and joke. He would often say, while farming, that “he was outstanding in his field”, which he truly was.
In 2012, Steve was diagnosed with throat cancer, and valiantly fought the disease with courage and faith for two years. In his final moments, an old farmer friend, who knew Steve’s fighting spirit, was urging him not to give up. After being told the gravity of Steve’s situation, the friend shifted and said: “Steve, I want you to run free. Run free with the buffalo across the plains. “ Steve passed moments later. He is running free.
Steve is survived by his brothers, Andrew Musick of Garden City, KS, and Michael Musick, of Lone Grove, OK, and predeceased by his parents, Margaret and Andrew Musick Jr. A celebration of his life will be held in March. He will be especially missed by his longtime friends: Jane Pomerantz and Chris Shemet.