C.S.A. Program Makes Fruitful Isla Vista Debut
by Megan Barnes


Isla Vista’s food delivery options just got a whole lot healthier. 

Farms of Humanity, a new local Community Supported Agriculture program (CSA), brings locally grown organic produce to doorsteps throughout I.V. and surrounding areas with the goal of cultivating a healthy and caring community. 

Each Monday, Farms of Humanity provides customers with varyingly sized boxes of freshly picked organic produce directly from farms located within 2 to 50 miles of Isla Vista.  Included with the delivery are recipes and a fact sheet corresponding with the week’s produce, which consists of whatever is available from farmers each week.

CSAs are increasingly popular programs wherein members receive weekly boxes or baskets of produce grown on local farms. The idea behind them is that because there is less handling of produce in its journey from farmer to consumer, consumers are guaranteed low-priced, seasonal, organic produce while supporting their local farmers. Farms of Humanity is not the only such program in Santa Barbara, but is different from traditional CSAs in that it is more student-oriented, requiring no membership and allowing customers to order on a week-to-week basis. 

“It’s about growing food from all over the world in the same garden and then being able to make it accessible for anyone to have,” said Alessandra Baer, a fourth-year UCSB student who began the program last fall with co-operator Christopher Kennedy Hammond. 

Baer and Hammond have been involved in similar programs in Northern California and decided to bring the concept to Isla Vista.  Last quarter, Baer sold the organic produce boxes in front of Eclectic I.V. Mondays through Fridays. 

Hammond said the program highlights the commonality of food among all cultures. “What we’re doing here in California and in other places is growing foods from different cultures in the same garden as a statement,” he said. “We’re celebrating local culture from the whole globe.” 

Farms of Humanity currently supports 14 local farms and serves about 40 regular customers, but has had up to 100 in a week. Customers include the Santa Barbara Housing Co-ops as well as students, community members, and university faculty and staff. Families often remark that because of the produce boxes, they are hosting more dinner parties and parents have even started making their own organic baby food. Some customers also receive special orders because they have specific dietary requirements. 

“People are really happy to be eating such good food,” said Baer. “It helps them in their studies but it also helps because they’re getting a large quantity of fruits and vegetables that they might not eat if they didn’t get a box.” 

In addition to individual customers, Farms of Humanity supplies produce to a number of local businesses such as I.V. Market and Sam’s To Go, and provides ingredients for baked goods sold in Java Jones and new organic coffee house Caje Café. 

“We’re really just trying to make the whole [Embarcadero] loop organic so that when students come through, whatever they choose to eat helps their brain figure out the immense work they’re working on to help make the planet a better place hopefully,” said Hammond. 

Hammond and Baer said they do not see competition as a bad thing and are really just concerned that people go organic. 

“We’re really trying to get the idea out there; to get the trend started so that everybody eats well,” said Hammond. “As much as consciousness seems to be reserved for the liberal people who first embraced CSA boxes and organic farming, now it’s become a constant in all families. Every family wants good food for their children.” 

Baer said additional benefits of the C.S.A. are the social and interactive aspects. 

“It’s about getting food but it’s also about talking to somebody who knows what you’re getting,” she said. “I see that people really like interacting and knowing that somebody in this community is taking the time to get their box for them.” 

Customers also opt to pick up their own boxes, and these organized pick-ups have become social gatherings. 

Farms of Humanity is currently gearing up for its next endeavor: the re-opening of local eatery Eclectic I.V. on January 23. 

“Eclectic I.V. will be a local, organic, vegan and vegetarian restaurant with a performers’ co-op of musicians, theater people, philosophers and writers,” said Hammond, who will be the restaurant’s new owner. 

The restaurant will also be the center point of several projects stemming from Farms of Humanity. An ongoing compilation of family recipes from around the world called Recipes of Humanity will be prepared in the Kitchens of Humanity at Eclectic I.V. Farms of Humanity also has a catering service. 

Hammond said the concepts behind the “- of Humanity” programs represent a return to responsible capitalism. 

“It’s like Ben Franklin style hand shake capitalism where people are nurturing each other with all of their energy and creating a long term, mutually benefiting arrangement based on an idea of abundance, as opposed to irresponsible capitalism where you take what you can get as long as you can pay the lawyer less than the money that you’re basically grabbing from someone else,” he said. 

Hammond said Farms of Humanity exemplifies this kind of capitalism because it gives both students and farmers the best possible deal. “One of the downsides of CSAs is that they yield a really low profit, so it’s like teaching; you’re not in it for the money, you’re in it because you love what you’re doing.” 

In addition to the “-humanity” projects, Baer and Hammond plan to plant 1,000 trees in Isla Vista, are working with the Parks District and other groups to plant ingenious plants in Pardall Park, and are working with local humane meat and dairy farmers to encourage better treatment of animals. 

Questions about Farms of Humanity or how to get involved, as well as family recipe submissions, may be sent to farmsofhumanity@gmail.com.