Written by Sarah Siedschlag, Recycling Coordinator, Associated Students
Surrounded by some of the best agricultural land in the country, UCSB has a long established appreciation for local and sustainable food. The dining commons in particular has built a network of over 52 farms that supply our students living in University Housing with sustainable and local options. Students do not live on campus for very long, however, and access to healthy and sustainable food can be much more difficult for those in Isla Vista and other nearby areas. Locations such as the Isla Vista Food Co-Op and the Associated Students Food Bank provide excellent support, but a 20,000 student university needs a wide variety of options.
Enter the Gaucho Farmer’s Market. Originally conceived of as a Gaucho U project by university staff, the market celebrated its first birthday on Wednesday, October 8th. Since its grand opening, the market has become a hub not only for farmers from Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo counties, but also for local artisans, food trucks, and student organizations. Staff members provide a weekly recipe that uses in-season items available from the market to give attendees a starting point when deciding what they may want to buy. Together, these efforts have helped establish the market as not only a place to shop, but also a way for the UCSB community to come together and to keep sustainability and local food as part of a daily routine and not just a slogan or distant ideal. Because UCSB hosts the market itself rather than contracting with a farmer’s market association, students also have a greater ability to participate through tabling and internships and therefore gain direct experience they can carry with them for the rest of their lives.
The Gaucho Farmer’s Market’s positive impact extends beyond UCSB and is paving the way for similar programs across the UC system. Recently, UC President Janet Napolitano launched a new UC-wide initiative to focus on sustainability and global food security, and UCSB has taken the lead in several aspects. In particular, the Gaucho Farmer’s Market founders Roane Akchurin and Hazel Ando are participating in a system-wide working group to explore and document best practices when starting a campus farmer’s market. Their efforts, successes, and lessons learned will spread across the UC campuses, and students all over the state will hopefully have a chance to learn about and access local and sustainable food options.
The Gaucho Farmer’s Market is open from 11-3 every Wednesday. It’s moved from its original location in Parking Lot 23 and can now be found near Campbell Hall.