The Eiler Family:
Jasper, Brook, Owen and Austin
Farms and family have been central to both of us since we were little sprouts. As a kid, Jasper explored his great-grandparents' Santa Barbara orchards, picking avocado and citrus along the way. Brook spent long afternoons riding on her grandfather's tractor on her family's fifth-generation farm in the Central Valley.
These early farm days inspired Jasper to work toward strengthening people's connection to how and where their food is grown, starting with an environmental studies degree focused on ecologically sustainable agriculture from Prescott College. Between 2000 and 2003 he wore a variety of hats at the Center for Urban Agriculture at Fairview Gardens in Goleta, doing everything from managing sales to introducing kids to sustainable farming. He later taught garden-based nutrition to elementary school children in Berkeley's public schools.
When we met, farming was one of the first things we talked about. Brook had been transforming her great-grandparents' 100-year-old raisin monoculture into a diverse farm that incorporates everything from native valley oaks to thriving pomegranate trees. As a UC Berkeley-trained landscape architect, she's always looking to incorporate agriculture into more-traditional landscape designs.
Back in Santa Barbara, our skills came together at Shepherd Farms. Starting in 2009, Jasper managed the community-supported agriculture program and developed farm-based education programs for local schools. Brook designed an event space at the Carpinteria farm that drew people to the farm for dinners, workshops, and other events.
In 2011, Jasper joined Farmer Direct Produce Network to help bring local, sustainable produce to school cafeterias throughout Santa Barbara County. Now we're building on this work with Harvest Santa Barbara, linking the farmers who grow the finest fruits and vegetables with people who love their food.
We've got two other farm-lovers in our family too: our sons Owen and Austin. Owen took some of his earliest steps in Shepherd Farms' strawberry fields. These days, he plays soccer in and around the Harvest Santa Barbara warehouse. Austin is only 1, but can eat more broccoli and raspberries than anyone else in our family! We want Santa Barbara's kids—and people of all ages—to share the same connection to local farms that we've been fortunate enough to experience.
A few of our favorite vegetables: carrots from The Garden Of..... and potatoes from Roots Farm. And Brook loves cauliflower, too. She chops it; tosses it with olive oil, capers, turmeric, and salt; and then roasts it in the oven.
Harvest Santa Barbara has strong roots. Until June 2012, it was known as Farmer Direct Produce Network and managed by Wesley Sleight and Anna Breaux. Wesley and Sam Edelman started FDPN in 2005 after spending many years with the Santa Barbara Farmers' Market Association, where they built strong connections with farmers. As FDPN , they shared fresh, sustainable food with the local community and purchased more than $2 million of produce from local farmers.
Sam is now the executive director of the Santa Barbara Farmers' Market Association. Wesley and Anna are married and farming in Arkansas, and enjoying time with their son, Finn. They also plan to bring their family's 300-year-old farm in upstate New York back into production, sharing what they've learned at FDPN along the way.
As the produce manager
at the Isla Vista Food
Shawn McMahon created local buy-in programs and made connections with local farmers. Then, he became one himself—first, as an apprentice to Shu Takikawa at The Garden Of... (he'd race from the co-op in the afternoons to get to the farm, then work long past sunset). Then he started Out Of Step Farms, where he specialized in Goleta-grown salad greens. Shawn has a history degree from San Francisco State, and now has a passion for collecting oral accounts of local agricultural history. A couple years ago, he was tapped to be the farm manager at Fairview Gardens. Now Harvest Santa Barbara is lucky to have him as our produce buyer.
A farmer at heart, Shawn says one of the real joys of farming is really enjoying each fruit and vegetable in its season. In spring, fava beans are his favorite thing on the planet; come summer, he loves Jimmy Nardello's sweet peppers.
A native of Santa Barbara, Maria Flynn is excited to be a part of a company that promotes the rich agricultural history of our region. Maria's education in sustainable agriculture as well as her experience working in farmer's markets, community gardens, and the restaurant industry has instilled in her a love for fresh, locally grown produce. Maria was particularly influenced during her time as an intern at the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at UC Santa Cruz and a summer spent helping out at the Winyan Toka Win garden in South Dakota. After college Maria spent five years in Portland, Oregon where she enjoyed being a part of a community at the forefront of farm to table dining. Maria is grateful to be back in Santa Barbara and enjoys her time off hiking, kayaking, and gardening, and volunteering for the Backyard Bounty Program, sending her across the county harvesting produce for the Food Bank.
Maria’s favorite vegetable is a sweet, crisp green bean fresh off the vine.
A native of Los Olivos and Santa Barbara, Jason Steward can often be found at the Tuesday and Saturday farmers' markets, meeting directly with farmers and helping to bring our customers the best produce around. After graduating from San Diego State, Jason returned to the Central Coast and began working with Harvest Santa Barbara. Jason enjoys being involved in all facets of produce distribution - from meeting local growers directly on the farm, to carefully packing produce orders, and then delivering the fresh fruits and vegetables to schools, restaurants, and retailers all around town.
Jason can't get enough of the colorful and flavorful heirloom tomatoes abound during the summertime in Santa Barbara.
Born and raised in the lush Almolonga region of Guatemala, Francisco has been surrounded by fresh produce his entire life. In fact, the community where he is from is known as the “Vegetable Basket of the Americas.” He came to the US when he was 15 years old and immediately began his career in food distribution. He has seen the produce distribution industry in Santa Barbara grow from independent, locally owned, to large scale, national companies. When he started with Harvest Santa Barbara, he wanted to get back to his roots of locally sourced, locally owned produce distribution. Francisco’s nearly 20 years in the business as well as his passion for produce is evident in the excellent and efficient customer service he provides on his routes each day.
Francisco’s favorite vegetable is the chayote, especially when prepared by his loving wife as a “Chayote Relleno”.
Raised on a cattle and alfalfa hay ranch in the Owens Valley, Megan Smith has always loved agriculture—particularly local and sustainable agriculture. Many happy summers were spent in the rows of her grandmother’s garden planting seeds, pulling weeds, eating the fresh vegetables, and putting up the rest for winter. Megan continued to pursue her passion for agriculture at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo where she obtained a degree in Animal Science and Range Management. During her time there she volunteered in the school’s organic garden, planting and harvesting for the Farmer’s Markets and the CSA. After college, her interest in grazing management led her to Zimbabwe where she completed a two month internship on a holistically managed ranch, and to New Zealand where she worked for five months on a grass fed beef farm. Megan is delighted to be working in support of the local foodshed.
Megan’s favorite vegetable is crookneck squash prepared with plenty of butter and salt.
Growing up around the port of Los Angeles, Tom Jacobson (TJ) has plenty of experience with warehouse work and logistics. While he's had little experience in produce he has shown enthusiasm to learn and grow as an employee at Harvest. He hopes one day to turn his new home into a sustainable suburban farm with the help of his wife and son. Most days though, you will find him at East Beach playing Beach Volleyball or at any of the local hardware stores picking up materials to begin, continue, or finish a honey-do project at the house.
Jesse was born and raised in Carpinteria and although he has moved all around California, from north to south, he’s always landed back on the sunny central coast. From working as a Surgical Technician to holding Notary Public certification, Jesse’s career path has always focused on helping people. Jesse’s favorite pastimes include reading (especially history, science, and fiction), playing Mario and Zelda on Nintendo, and spending time with his family. Harvest Santa Barbara and our customers are lucky to have his friendly, can-do attitude on our team.
Jesse’s local food favorites include Pluots, Blueberries, and fresh caught lobster prepared by his stepdad, a local commercial lobster fisherman.