Paws and Pivot

805 Living Summer 2020, Paws and Pivot story by Leslie Dinaberg. Photos by Victoria Pearson.

805 Living Summer 2020, Paws and Pivot story by Leslie Dinaberg. Photos by Victoria Pearson.

After its closure during the COVID-19-related stay-at-home order, the Humane Society of Ventura County (hsvc.org) recently re-opened for pet adoptions. “We have room for three appointments per day,” says director of community outreach Greg Cooper. “We have stopped the intake of adoptable animals since the start of the pandemic, so our on-site population is way down,” he says.

Thanks to the power of social media and photographer Victoria Pearson’s Instagram pet portraits (@victoriapearsonphotographer; see a sampling above), Cooper says, “engagement on our feeds has increased by close to double since the pandemic began. People show a great deal of interest if they can see what the dog, cat, horse, or pig looks like before coming up for a visit at our shelter.”

He also credits the contributions of volunteers. “The work they produce is stellar,” he says. “We consider ourselves lucky to have access to such a great resource.”

805 Living Summer 2020, cover art by John Galan.

805 Living Summer 2020, cover art by John Galan.

This story was originally published in the summer 2020 issue of 805 Living. Click here to read it as it appeared in print.

 

Fetching Food for Seniors

805 Living Summer 2020, Fetching Food for Seniors, story by Leslie Dinaberg.

805 Living Summer 2020, Fetching Food for Seniors, story by Leslie Dinaberg.

Stuck at home for the remainder of his junior year at San Marcos High School in Santa Barbara due to the pandemic, Daniel Goldberg felt the urge to help others in some way. He texted a few friends about it, and within a matter of days, Zoomers to Boomers (zoomerstoboomers.com), a free grocery delivery service for the elderly, was born.

Since early March, the program has grown to encompass 29 cities nationally and an affiliate in India.

“With the pandemic, I think there is this universal feeling of helplessness,” says Goldberg, “where everyone is just trying to stay away from people, and you feel like there’s nothing you can do. Just seeing how many people are reaching out and saying, ‘I want to do something similar [to Zoomers to Boomers],’ has been a very welcome surprise.”

Jackie Kaplan, one of more than 100 local volunteers, recently finalized a partnership with The Foodbank of Santa Barbara to deliver hot meals from Chef’s Kitchen to seniors, further cementing Zoomers to Boomers community collaborations.

805 Living Summer 2020, cover art by John Galan.

805 Living Summer 2020, cover art by John Galan.

This story was originally published in the summer 2020 issue of 805 Living. Click here to read it as it appeared in print.

 

Unraveling the Kinks in the Local Food Chain to Build and Sustain a Resilient Food System

This story was published on cecsb.org on May 13, 2020.

Like a heat map, the COVID-19 pandemic has drawn attention to areas of strain, places where we need to pay greater attention. One of the most noticeable of these is the food system.

This week, two of the founding members of the Santa Barbara County Food Action Network — Erik Talkin, CEO of Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, and Sigrid Wright, CEO of the Community Environmental Council — sat down with food writer Leslie Dinaberg to discuss how COVID-19 is sending shock waves through a fragile global food system, and why this is a particularly good time to build a healthy, sustainable and decentralized food system. They draw on the guiding framework of an action plan published in 2016 and developed in collaboration with the Santa Barbara Foundation, the Orfalea Foundation, and more than 200 community members.

Leslie Dinaberg: A few years ago when you were developing the Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan, your intention was to “future proof” the local food system, though presumably, you weren’t anticipating that a pandemic would test it so brutally. What are you thinking now?

Sigrid Wright: We’ve had other disasters that have had a ripple effect through the food system, but the COVID 19 pandemic is sending reverberations through the system unlike anything most of us have experienced in our lifetime, in part because it’s global, and in part because it’s both a public health crisis and an economic crisis. This is a good time to be talking about why we want to build a healthy, sustainable and decentralized food system, because the global system has a lot of fragility to it.

Erik Talkin: The food system now is so hyper-organized and so dependent on every little link of the chain from here to China and back, that one break in that chain creates a lot of problems. The Foodbank has seen a 60% decrease in the amount of food that we get donated because grocery stores are selling out of food that would normally be provided to us. At the same time, our donations from the agricultural community, primarily the Santa Maria Valley, are up by 50% from this same month last year.

So that’s an indication that local growers have products available. Obviously they have their own problems with food distribution, as there are no schools or hotels operating, but we have a system in place that has allowed excess food to be effectively used. People are reading in the New York Times and elsewhere about milk being poured away and crops being plowed under, but that’s not happening really significantly in California.

LD: Are there any supply chains that are likely to be disrupted so that you won’t be able to access certain products a few months from now?

ET: Yes, there already have been disruptions in that the supply chain is overheated and unable to respond to requests. The Foodbank spent a quarter of a million dollars a couple of weeks ago on food that we haven’t received yet, because it’s slow in coming and our order is not as big as other orders.

Overall, in theory, there’s enough food in the country, but in terms of specific foods, we are already unable to get everything we would like.

SW: The modern food system is designed for speed and convenience. It’s highly efficient and certain aspects of it are really compacted, particularly around meat processing. From what I’m hearing, I would expect to see shortages of meat within the next few months.

This relates to Santa Barbara County because although we’ve traditionally been a cattle region and still do raise a lot of cattle here, we no longer have processing facilities. The same is true of fisheries. We have access to a good amount of animal protein on the Central Coast, but everything has to be shipped out, processed, and shipped back. That was one of the many issues that surfaced with the Food Action Plan: how do we decentralize some of those processing facilities so they are local?

LD: What have you learned about Santa Barbara’s food resilience in the past couple months that you didn’t anticipate?

SW: On the production side, pretty much every small farmer and fisherman is having to think on their feet and make some drastic adjustments to their business models as people are shopping less at farmers markets, and as schools and restaurants stop their orders. They’re having to go direct-to-consumer, often in inventive ways, whether that be a pop-up farmstand or more community supported agriculture boxes. Managing those new market routes is like picking up a second job: the first one being food production, the second being the delivery and marketing through different channels.

I’m also really concerned for our local restaurants. After the Thomas Fire, many businesses were barely hanging on or were just starting to recover, and now they’ve gotten hit again. We may lose a lot of local capacity, both on the producer end with farmers and fishermen and then on the consumer end with restaurants. That to me is a sadness. I personally am not ready for a future in which I get most of my food from Amazon.

ET: There haven’t been the types of runs and shortages over the last few weeks that theoretically could have happened, but I think we are still at the beginning of this crisis. People are afraid to go out and stand in line to get food. Toward the end of the summer, once the economic impacts have really cut deep — with people who are working but have large debts, and people who are still out of work — we’ll have a huge need for additional food for the community. That food can’t all be produced here, but has to be purchased or donated within the state and nationally.

LD: Is there a government entity to help with that?

ET: There’s a national emergency food program called the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program that is designed to pay local distributors to put together food boxes and make those available to either Foodbanks or to be distributed directly. So we’re having to go out to all of these people and say, “Do you want to be involved in this program? You get paid to provide this food, you get paid to truck it to a particular location.” But it’s a hugely complex 17-page application. Companies like Jordano’s, which is probably our largest local direct food distributor, don’t want to be involved because there’s not enough money in it for them.

The government, in a way, is trying to respond to this issue of food being dumped by offering incentives further down the chain than previous incentives. But there’s not the time or the organization or the planning to make them successful in anything more than the very short term.

SW: The Santa Barbara County Food Action Network, which was spearheaded by CEC and the Foodbank to implement the Food Action Plan, is looking at how we deal with all of this locally. One solution is to create a food hub, so that those who have products have a central vehicle for getting information out about them.

LD: Let’s talk about how this situation is affecting labor. According to the Food Action Plan, the agricultural sector is Santa Barbara County’s primary economic driver, and nearly 20,000 residents work in food and beverage stores or service locations. What are you seeing?

SW: It’s a bitter irony that people who work in the food system — in the fields or grocery stores for example —are deemed as essential workers, and yet they are not being protected as essential workers.

In our region we are really seeing this with farm workers who just don’t have the proper protection and are often having to work shoulder to shoulder. We saw similar inequities in other crises like the Thomas Fire, where it wasn’t until groups like CAUSE and MICOP got involved when farm workers had access to the N-95 masks that everyone else already had. We need the public to strongly advocate for protection for our farm workers, our seasonal workers, our grocery workers, so that they have safe conditions.

ET: It should be a requirement for the employers to do that. Even at the Foodbank — we have very stringent rules and we’ve been wearing masks and gloves for weeks — people just can’t help congregating together in tiny spaces and I’m constantly chasing away people. (Laughs) I’ve been doing that for years, but now I have an excuse to break up the party.

LD: What are you seeing at the home level? Food waste is certainly top of mind right now because no one wants to go out and buy food any more than they have to.

ET: At the most basic level of individuals, people are being forced to reckon with having to provide for their own nutritional health and to sit down and make something to eat, which wasn’t necessarily the case in the past. This may be an opportunity for people to increase food literacy and their understanding about how to take care of themselves and be healthy with food.

SW: We’re clearly seeing a shift in shopping and eating patterns as more people are cooking at home. I know the news media are using the word “hoarding,” but I don’t love that language. What I’m seeing is that people are trying to do a couple weeks of shopping at one time to reduce their exposure. It’s good people are shifting their behavior, but that caused some of the slowdown that Erik referred to.

Again, it’s not that the supply chain has a shortage of food, although there may be some gaps in things that we may not have access to when and how we want it. I think we’ve gotten quite spoiled, frankly, because we’ve built a food system that was designed around getting things fast and conveniently. To really be resilient you need some amount of redundancy and things that are less consolidated.

LD: When you are providing food from the Foodbank, how many days worth of food are people picking up at one time?

ET: We typically give out bags of groceries that are about 30 pounds. We’ve begun to switch to boxes which are slightly bigger, so there’s a variety of dry goods, canned goods, fresh produce, fresh meat, but it’s not your total dietary or meal requirements for that period of time. The food that we provide is supposed to be a supplement to the other food you’re getting. It is possible to go to more than one place if your need is greater.

We see the need for that type of food increasing dramatically and there’s been a real kind of blockage with the USDA food. There’s definitely problems with the emergency food distribution network, as well.

LD: Beyond the critical need for emergency feeding, at this moment is there anything else that stands out from the Food Action Plan?

ET: I think people’s understanding of the need to have more fully developed local networks for both distribution and availability of food is important.

We talked earlier about the need for local processing for seafood and meat, but that’s also a need for agricultural products. For example, if facilities were available we could make spaghetti sauces and other things out of produce before it goes bad. There’s a lot of potential there, but it requires an investor. It may be something we have to think about in more of a tri-county way.

LD: That feels like such a great way to use some of those kitchens that aren’t being used right now.

SW: One of the projects of the Food Action Network was to map out sites that could serve as community kitchens. In good times they might be used to make the value-added products that Erik was talking about. If farmers had a bumper crop of tomatoes, they could hand that off to a caterer to go in for a couple of weeks and make tomato sauce, for example. In bad times like now, community kitchens could be used to help with disaster feeding.

LD: This is obviously an excellent opportunity for us to illustrate the importance of protecting the local food system. What are some things that individuals can do right now?

ET: Continuing to utilize local farmers markets, purchasing from smaller local stores to enable those stores to be able to weather the current situation, and keeping away from chain stores. I think that restaurants will be gradually opening up in a more limited fashion, so just make sure that you’re supporting local restaurants, even with a kind of take out environment that we have at the moment.

SW: At the moment there are still some strengths in the local food system, and there is some scrappiness. We are a community that does seem to care about this kind of stuff.

One of the outcomes of all of this is that people are actually talking about things like the food system, either using that phrase or having a great awareness. Hopefully that will have a positive effect. But protecting the local food system will mean that we will have to step in as individuals and really support it.

ET: Every generation needs something to wake it up a little, so I guess this is it.

Originally published on cecsb.org on May 13, 2020.

Solarizing Made Simpler

Originally published in Santa Barbara Independent May 14, 2020.

CEC Makes Sun Power Easy and More Affordable

As everyone shelters in place, our home energy use is going through the roof. Why not use that roof to harness the power of the sun to create energy?

If the nuts and bolts of researching, purchasing, and installing a solar panel system seem overwhelming, the Community Environmental Council (CEC) offers a group purchasing model to help homeowners install solar electricity through a streamlined and hassle-free process, at a discounted price.

As of March, CEC programs have served almost 800 homes, according to April Price, the organization’s renewable energy program senior manager. The programs run for a limited time to make sure that the recommended vendors and products are fully vetted.

“In this ever-changing market, we want to make sure that we’re working with companies that are currently doing well financially and offering solid services and products,” Price explained. “Every time we run one of these programs, we will negotiate a discounted price. A local committee reviews the vendor applications, and each time we run a program, we come at it with a clean slate to determine who we’re going to partner with.”

This summer, CEC will run a Solarize Ventura and a Solarize Santa Barbara program for residential customers and is also relaunching the Solarize Nonprofit program, which helps nonprofit organizations install photovoltaic solar systems, free of charge.

Pairing your solar power with energy storage is becoming a trend and is an option that is also available through the CEC programs. “There are two reasons why people consider pairing their solar with energy storage,” Price said. “The most straightforward one is you want to have power when the electricity goes in the event of a public safety shutoff or for any other reason. The second is there’s a definite financial savings for most customers that pair their solar and storage.”

If installing solar is on your wish list, the federal tax credit available for residential solar systems provides a great incentive to do it sooner rather than later. Systems installed before the end of 2020 have a 26 percent tax credit, which goes down to 22 percent in 2021 and disappears in 2022.

 See cecsb.org/go-solar.

Stay at Home and Garden, special issue of SB Independent May 14, 2020.

This story was originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on May 14, 2020. Click here to read it as it appeared in print.

Stay at Home and Garden

Stay at Home and Garden, special issue of SB Independent May 14, 2020.

INTERIOR AND EXTERIOR DESIGN EDITION WHEN HOME MEANS MORE THAN EVER

Welcome to the Santa Barbara Independent’s annual Home and Garden special issue.

With all due respect to the very serious health and economic issues facing us right now, finding the joy and beauty in everyday life is also so important —maybe now more than ever, when our worlds have become so much more insular.

As Alice Walker wrote, “Whenever you are creating beauty around you, you are restoring your own soul.”

We hope you’ll find some restoration and inspiration in these pages. From practical stories about solar panels and ADUs to garden advice from experts and creative musings from some of our town’s top architects and designers, there’s a whole lot here to help light your creative spark or just inspire you to dream about a new project.

Enjoy!

Advice to Grow By

Santa Barbara’s Master Gardeners Keep Calm and Garden On

Big Ideas for Small Spaces

Authors Isa Bird Hendry Eaton and Jennifer Blaise Kramer Discuss Small Garden Style

Premier Party Planner’s Home Entertaining Tips

Dishing With Merryl Brown, Event Designer Extraordinaire

Solarizing Made Simpler

CEC Makes Sun Power Easy and More Affordable

Is an ADU for You?

Allen Construction’s Ryan Cullinen Discusses Granny-Flat Rules

The Original Garden Wise Guy

Landscape Architect and TV Host Billy Goodnick

Creative Inspiration for Home Improvements

Where Santa Barbara’s Pros Go to Find Their Muse

A Monthly Guide to Mastering Your Garden

UC Master Gardener Program Suggests What to Plant and When in Santa Barbara

2020 H&G

Stay at Home and Garden, special issue of SB Independent May 14, 2020.

This special section of the Santa Barbara Independent (May 14-21, 2020) contained the following stories. Click on each one to read it, or view the entire section here, with additional web exclusive content here.

A Monthly Guide to Mastering Your Garden

UC Master Gardener Program Suggests What to Plant and When in Santa Barbara, originally published in Santa Barbara Independent in May 2020.

UC Master Gardener Program Suggests What to Plant and When in Santa Barbara

Spring has sprung, and with social distancing restrictions in place, most of us have a lot more time to putter in the garden. Here are some guidelines on what to plant when from the UC Master Gardener Program, with an emphasis on edibles to help avoid extra trips to the market.

May

Almost any warm-season edible can be planted now, with the exception of peas and lettuce. Plant seeds or starts of beans, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, melon, peppers, tomatoes, and squash. Basil plants can go in now, as well as just about any other kind of herb, such as lavender, marjoram, rosemary and thyme, all of which originate in southern France, so they thrive in Santa Barbara’s similar climate. Avocado, banana, cherimoya, mango, and strawberry guava trees can be planted now, and spring (through May) is also a great time to plant citrus.

June

If this month offers our typical “June gloom” weather, these gray, often overcast days allow gardeners to make a last planting of warm-season crops. This includes transplants of cucumber, eggplant, pepper, and tomatoes, as well as seeds of beans, beets, carrots, summer squash, and zucchini. Herbs such as basil, chervil, chives, marjoram, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, and tarragon also grow well.

July/August

You can still plant beans (for drying) and corn; also tomatoes (especially dwarf varieties), eggplant, peppers, chard, cucumbers, green onions, kale, and summer and winter squash. Tip: Transplant in the late afternoon or early evening, water well, and mulch around plants. Provide temporary shade as needed from the harsh midday sun. From late July into August, sow seeds of carrots and cole crops (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower). Keep soil moist and shaded until seedlings emerge; gradually increase sun exposure over a week. It’s also a good time to plant basil, dill, summer savory, and heat-loving Mediterranean natives such as lavender and rosemary. Plant kumquat, lemon, lime, orange, avocado, cherimoya, and mango (depending on where you live; mangoes love heat and don’t like fog).

Harvest ripe crops regularly (at least every other day) to encourage further production. Dispose of any fruit that falls to the ground to eliminate a food source for vertebrate pests such as squirrels and rats. Most dropped fruit can be composted, except for citrus, which should especially be avoided in worm bins.

September

September is the best time of year to plant anything and everything in Santa Barbara County. This includes seedlings of beets, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, green onions, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce and salad mixes, radishes, rutabaga, spinach, sugar snap peas, chives, cilantro, lavender, lemon grass, parsley, rosemary, winter savory, salad burnet, and turnips. Artichoke and strawberry plants can also go in, as well as onion sets.

California natives do not need water, as they are still “resting” and awaiting winter rains. Use of mulch in planted beds can be helpful to slow moisture loss due to evaporation, but be sure to keep mulch well away from plant stems and trunks.

October

Fall is the time for transplants of artichokes, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and strawberries; and sow seeds of leafy greens, beets, carrots, celery, chard, garlic, leeks, onions, peas, radish, and turnips.

This is a great month to plant California natives: island bush snapdragon, ceanothus, California poppy, Dana Point buckwheat, Douglas iris, Matilija poppy bush, sages, toyon, and others. Visit the nursery at Santa Barbara Botanic Garden during their fall plant sale for a wide selection of native plants best suited for our area.

November

Artichokes, beets, carrots, leafy greens, onion sets, parsnips, peas, radishes, Swiss chard, and turnips grow well this month. Strawberries are best planted during the first half of this month, before temperatures drop.

Herbs such as chives. marjoram, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, savory, and thyme grow well in November, too. They may not look their best until next spring, but planting them this early allows them to become established with the onset of winter rains.

December/January

Bare-root roses should be planted in December, when nursery selection is at its best. They are generally less expensive than container-grown specimens, they require less care, and they are easier to handle and plant. Plant them the same day they are purchased for best results.

February

February is usually our rainiest month. It’s best to stay out of your garden when the soil is wet. If necessary, lay down pieces of plywood to walk on instead of directly on soggy ground. Tip: Take your houseplants outdoors during the rain for a nice, deep, cleansing soak.

Sow seeds of beets, celery, carrots, chard, collards, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, peas, radishes, spinach, and turnips. Plant garlic, onions, and shallots. If you want to grow unusual varieties of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant, start seeds indoors now. Artichoke and asparagus crowns, as well as rhubarb rhizomes, can be dug and transplanted.

March

You can still transplant artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and rhubarb. At month’s end, seedlings of early-variety tomatoes can be planted. Continue sowing seeds of lettuce, peas, radish, and spinach. Plant starts of chives, parsley, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon, and thyme. March is a good month to select and plant citrus as well as bare-root stone fruit such as cherry, apricot, and peach.

April

Sow or transplant beets, carrots, celery, kale, kohlrabi, and rhubarb. On the coast, continue planting chard, leeks, radishes, and spinach. Transplant early varieties of beans, cucumber, and tomatoes. This may be the last month to transplant artichokes, asparagus, and cole (or brassica) crops like broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. Just about any kind of herb can be planted now. Lavender, marjoram, rosemary, and thyme originated in southern France, so they thrive in Santa Barbara’s similar Mediterranean climate.

Find more extensive monthly planting guides, at tinyurl.com/master-your-garden.

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on May 14, 2020.

Advice to Grow By

Santa Barbara’s Master Gardeners Keep Calm and Garden On

Working to cultivate home gardeners who want to learn about soil, sustainable landscaping, plant and tree care, and growing their own fruits and vegetables, the UC Master Gardeners of Santa Barbara County are 163 trained and 74 currently active volunteers trained to share their knowledge with the community.

They come from all walks of life.

“My class had students just out of UCSB and retirees in their seventies,” said Master Gardener Amy Mayfield. “We all loved our crash course in all things related to plants from top professors from UC Davis and Riverside.” Once they’ve gained some garden knowledge, helping others is a key component of the Master Gardener program. “Volunteering in our community is a great connection to people and plants,” said Mayfield. “My go-to place to volunteer is the community helpline because every question makes me use my brain and research skills to find an answer. I love helping at Harry Potter night at the Public Library, too.”

While the group is currently observing physical distancing, they are also “encouraging the public to prioritize mental and physical health by gardening, and volunteers are still standing by to answer questions through helplines,” said Danica Taber, the Master Gardener Program Coordinator. Volunteers are available to help by phone ([805] 893-3485) or email (anrmgsb@ucanr.edu), and Taber suggested submitting photos along with questions.

“Pictures of the problem and details about your plant’s history and environment, like watering and fertilizing schedules, daily sun exposure, and location on your property, are helpful.”

Not all problems are easy to solve: Earlier this year, the Santa Barbara Zoo’s ponytail palms (which are more closely related to yuccas than palms) turned black at the tops. “The problem? Sprinklers in the field behind them would hit them with water on windy days,” said Taber. “This was not an obvious diagnosis to make for the zoo horticultural staff, because sprinklers weren’t aiming at the ponytail palms, and wind is an invisible, irregular force.”

The program, which is part of the UCSB Extension Program and is for anyone interested in a thriving garden, is designed to “empower home gardeners to help themselves by sharing knowledge and resources that are important for their particular gardening challenges,” said Taber.

Currently in the process of adapting to providing online education, the Master Gardeners offer intensive, practical courses on horticulture, soil and plant nutrition, pests and diseases and their control, plant management, and diagnosis of plant problems, as well as various public outreach events.

Said Mayfield, “It’s the best bang for your buck if you like people, plants, and knowledge!”

For more information, see cesantabarbara.ucanr.edu/Master_Gardener . For a complete list of what to plant now, see independent.com/hg2020.

Stay at Home and Garden, special issue of SB Independent May 14, 2020.

This story was originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on May 14, 2020. Click here to read it as it appeared in print.

Faces in the Crowd: Michael Christie

Faces In the Crowd: Michael Christie, photo by Gary Moss. This story appeared in 805 Living, December 2019.

Faces In the Crowd: Michael Christie, photo by Gary Moss. This story appeared in 805 Living, December 2019.

THE NEW MUSIC DIRECTOR OF NEW WEST SYMPHONY BRINGS HIS GRAMMY AWARD–WINNING TALENT TO THE VENTURA COUNTY ENSEMBLE’S 25TH SEASON.

After winning the 2019 Best Opera Recording Grammy Award for The (R)evolution of Steve JobsNew West Symphony’s (newwestsymphony.org) new music director Michael Christie is bringing his own kind of (r)evolution to the West Coast.

“We threw a lot at the audience,” Christie says of his first concerts in his new role with the Thousand Oaks–based symphony this past October. “Our concert format is slightly tweaked,” he says, “and we had our new venue [Rancho Campana Performing Arts Center in Camarillo], so people had a fair amount to take in.”

Patrons were treated to a Gershwin concerto, Corigliano’s “Salute” with kazoos, and a “Scheherazade” performance that Los Angeles Times critic Mark Swed praised as, “supplying far and away the most spectacular playing from what should no longer be considered a regional symphony.”

“The biggest difference,” says Christie, “is that we are using intermission as an opportunity for people to experience some new things if they choose.” This includes a question-and-answer session with the guest artist and an entr’acte. Up next is the global celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday on January 25 and 26, featuring the Eroica Trio, whom Christie calls, “three very vibrant, genius women who are just amazing [with] the energy that they bring.”

Christie has led top orchestras all over the world and served as music director for Minnesota Opera, The Phoenix Symphony, and the Brooklyn Philharmonic (now defunct). He now lives part-time in Ventura County, while his wife, Alexis, who is a physician, and their two children are in Minneapolis.

Much of the life of a musician-conductor is spent on the road, says Christie, a trumpeter, who first conducted when his middle school band director let him give it a try back in Buffalo, New York. “I was never sure how one became a conductor,” he says. “I just knew I wanted to know more about it. People were very generous with their time and always willing to answer questions.”

In February he’ll pay it forward with a one-month teaching and conducting stint at Indiana University. Christie is eager to communicate with students about the duties of an American music director, which he says, “are very specific to our particular situation of creating artistic vision and raising lots of money. It’s very particular to our country. I feel a great sense of responsibility for helping to convey that information, having lived it for the last 25 years. It’s fun to be asked to help the next generation start to figure that out.

“We [music directors] are the face of the organization in many ways,” Christie says. “We should be viewed by our audience as open, friendly, fun, and adventurous but also sensible, engaging, and concerned for our community, what it’s going through, and what it’s aspiring to be. And none of those words really say Mozart or Gershwin,” he says, laughing. “It’s all kind of wrapped together.”

Leslie Dinaberg

805 Living cover Dec. 2019Click here to read this story as it appeared in 805 Living magazine, December 2019 805 Living Faces in the Crowd Dec 2019

AHA!’s Peace Builders Put Social-Emotional Education First

AHA From Schools of Thought, Santa Barbara Independent, November 7, 2019.

AHA’s Peace Builders From Schools of Thought, Santa Barbara Independent, November 7, 2019.

Nonprofit Makes Social-Emotional Learning Engaging and Fun 

Today’s students live in a world where fear of violence and concerns about mental health, anxiety, stress, depression, and feelings of isolation are sadly an acknowledged part of their lives. But there are also several bright spots in this picture. 

For one thing, educators, parents, students, and employers increasingly recognize the value of social-emotional learning (SEL) as a way to combat these challenges. Here in town, the nonprofit AHA!’s Peace Builders program works in Santa Barbara and Carpinteria schools “to help build a learning and doing community for young people who want to use their SEL skills to play a leadership role in improving the climate of their school campuses,” explains Melissa Lowenstein, AHA! programs director and facilitator. 

Ryan Sportel, the dean of student engagement at Goleta Valley Junior High, is a fan. “What is unique about AHA! that nobody else has is that they have figured out how to present and teach and practice the skills associated with social and emotional learning in a way that’s really incredibly engaging and fun and also makes sense as a human being,” he said. “It’s very relatable, and it’s very natural and organic.” 

The curriculum trains participants to be great listeners, clear and courageous communicators, and allies who can confidently support others who are being bullied or who are otherwise struggling, explained Lowenstein. 

“We believe that students gain self-confidence on how to navigate through different points of views and being more accepting to all of the different people we are surrounded with in our community,” said Nathan Mendoza, dean of students at Santa Barbara High. 

Santa Barbara High teacher Mario Rodriguez praises the program’s diversity. “Some students are recognized strong leaders, active in the direction of the peace circles and whole group conversations,” he said. “Other students are timid yet finding positive role models to fortify their own role within the organization. Some students are very sure of their identities, confident in knowing who they are as adolescents within our school and community. Other students are in the process of finding themselves, feeling safe because they will not be judged in this setting but rather supported in their personal process. To be a part of AHA! is to be heard, celebrated, and uplifted.” 

Explained Sportel, “It’s at least as valuable as any other course of study that we provide to our children.” 

Click here to read this story as it originally appeared in the Santa Barbara Independent on November 7, 2019. SB Independent Schools of Thought Insert 11.7.19

SBCC Brings the World to the Kitchen 

Free Tuition Program Covers School of Culinary Arts and Hotel Management 

From Schools of Thought, Santa Barbara Independent, November 7, 2019.

SBCC Culinary Program, From Schools of Thought, Santa Barbara Independent, November 7, 2019.

Aspiring chefs whirl around the industrial-size kitchen classroom in clean white threads, cooking up a mouth-watering array of Northern African and Moroccan dishes like Mtuzi Wa Samaki (fish in coconut curry), homemade merguez sausage, and Ghanaian chicken-and-peanut stew. 

This intricate dance of chopping, stirring, sautéing, and learning is conducted by Chef Charlie Fredericks, who is clearly delighted to be orchestrating the SBCC class called “Modern Food: Style, Design, Theory, and Production.” Students create dishes from a different country every week — and once the global-themed feast is complete, they all share a meal together. 

“It’s so much fun,” said Fredericks, a graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, who has worked at restaurants in San Francisco, the Caribbean, Europe, and Napa before returning home to open bouchon in Santa Barbara in 1998. “This is definitely my favorite time,” he said. “It’s pretty much a Disneyland class.” 

Indeed, it’s a small world after all, and the Culinary Arts students seem to be enjoying the ride. “I really enjoy learning about the different countries and their different ways of cooking and different spices and how they have a connection to their culture,” said Claudia Garcia, a returning student who also has a son and a daughter enrolled at SBCC. 

The Chinese cooking lesson had a special resonance for Ava Engle, who grew up in Carpinteria and is attending the culinary school as part of the SBCC Promise Program, which provides the region’s high school graduates with the opportunity to attend for two years, free of charge. “I was actually adopted in China,” explained Engle, “and we made the Chinese food on my adoption day, just coincidentally, so that was great. I was kind of unfamiliar with the dishes we made, so it was fun to learn about them.” 

Alejandro Hernandez, a 2019 graduate of the SBCC School of Extended Learning Bilingual GED Program, is another one of 19 students enrolled in the Promise who’s attending the School of Culinary Arts and Hotel Management Program this semester. Hernandez has supported himself and his family by working full-time at a Vietnamese restaurant for many years. He says the Promise — which covers enrollment costs and all required fees, books, and supplies for two years — is a great opportunity for him to bring a global perspective to combine with his family culinary roots from Guerrero, Mexico. “Hopefully, I’ll open my own restaurant in the future,” Hernandez said. 

“I’d love to work in a hotel and travel internationally,” said Miriam Martinez, another aspiring chef. “The Modern Foods is definitely my favorite class. I love the opportunity to taste — and cook — food from every country.”

Click here to read this story as it originally appeared in the Santa Barbara Independent on November 7, 2019. SB Independent Schools of Thought Insert 11.7.19