Cultivating a Robust Local Food System
We all know the basic needs of life: air, water, food, and shelter. Here in Santa Barbara County, all four are at our fingertips, although not always in our grasp. The Santa Barbara County Food Action Network (SBCFAN) is working to ensure that food is not as fleeting. Their work is cut out for them: 99% of the produce we grow is exported while 95% of the produce we eat is imported.
SBCFAN Executive Director Shakira Miracle points out that this drastic imbalance between what we grow and what we eat is due to such things as a need for regional infrastructure, access to resources, and updated policy.
In order to have a robust local food system, Miracle believes Santa Barbara County will need to develop these three areas to build resilience and sustainability into our communities across the region.
Farmers Mike and Lorena Iñiguez of Ebby’s Organic Farm have leased farmland in Goleta for 42 years, but recent problems severely threatened their livelihood. In a one-two punch, climate change lessened rainfall while city water prices soared. Mike stopped growing vegetables that demand more irrigation. He focused on crops that require little water and provide a stable revenue stream. But that wasn’t enough. They were forced to lease less expensive farmland that included water access – both in short supply throughout our region.
SBCFAN connected Mike and Lorena with both immediate and longer-term support: legal consultation; emergency and longer-term funding; support with farming methods; marketing; and secured new revenue streams through SBCFAN’s video storytelling.
As the Thomas Fire and Montecito Mudslide took their toll, Leslie Person Ryan quickly realized that Summerland had no grocery store or access to fresh produce. Digging into her farming roots, Leslie decided to help ensure that food access wouldn’t be an issue during the next disaster. According to Ryan, it was SBCFAN that helped her raise $2 million to purchase the last remaining acres of farm-ready land in Summerland. As a result, Leslie was able to secure Sweet Wheel Farms in Summerland, an educational farm just a few blocks from her farm stand. Leslie was able to expand the farm stand offerings and build long-term sustainable food security for the local community.
Miracle sums up just how much we are all connected in good times and bad. “People know what they need,” she says. “They just need help accessing it. SBCFAN navigates the food system for individuals and communities to create direct access to information, people, resources, and policy. Together, we’re rebuilding a stronger, more resilient food system, from the ground up.”
Executive Director: Shakira Miracle
SBCFAN connects, aligns, and activates food system changemakers to develop a robust local food economy, a healthy and just community, and a well-stewarded, resilient foodshed.
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The SBCFAN grant not only allowed the Collaborative to purchase vital equipment that supports farmers in planting locally adapted and heritage varieties of grain that are suited to the climate and the culture, but it led to other kinds of member investment. As a result of this network, people have been a lot more open to sharing equipment, knowledge, and resources, which makes all of us farmers more resilient.
Help the Local Food System Thrive
SBCFAN is a hub for regional food system information, resources, and policy navigation. Granted 501(c)(3) status in 2022, the network needs $30,000 per month to support the activation of the Food Action Plan’s four areas: Economy, Health, Community, and Foodshed. Current and/or developing projects include: financing and impact investment; workforce development; farm to school; processing and distribution of seeds, grains, meat; medically supported food interventions; community kitchens; farmland preservation; food waste.
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