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Local Foods at Your Fingertips

news_farmOnline market lends power and convenience to Cruzans who want to buy and sell local

“It’s no secret that the Internet has become something of a disconnecting factor in our society—a simulated world of convenience and entertainment that is all too easy to be sucked into. And, in the midst of the over-stimulation, two enterprising young Santa Cruzans have found a way to use the Internet’s omnipotence and convenience to get people to eat healthy, be involved in the local community, and support the local economy.

Santa Cruz Local Foods (SCLF), created by Noah Pinck and Eleanor Taylor just over three months ago, is a year-round online local foods market dedicated to bringing people fresh foods (picked that day in most cases) from within a 100-mile radius of Santa Cruz. “Our intent is to really paint a picture that you can eat local, and it’s not hard, and there’s a great abundance here,” says Taylor.

The website, which Pinck designed despite not having owned a computer in five years, enables producers to list what foods they will have available each week. “We see ourselves as being a catalyst for small producers,” he says. Users of the site can then add items to their shopping—or in this case grocery—cart, using an interface similar to those on popular sites such as eBay and Amazon.

Jackie Olin, founder of Sustainabites (a local, seasonal baby foods company) and winner of the first annual UC Business Plan Competition, says that SCLF “gives a chance for small purveyors and startups like me to have a place to sell their product.”

Olin says there are a lot of local food producers out there that can’t meet the demands of supermarkets, even the smaller chains.  “I think we’ve seen a lot of corporate structures where everything gets outsourced,” she says. “It’s nice to know there is some way that you can have something in-sourced now.”

While there are several local foods options in Santa Cruz already, such as the Farmer’s Market and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs, the energetic couple says their company differs from these in some important ways.

“A lot of people have CSAs in the area,” Taylor admits, “but [with us] you get more choice. You can get as much or as little as you like, you don’t have to order every week, you can get whatever you want, and there’s no obligation to buy ever.”

Farmer’s Markets are fine, says Pinck, but the waiting lists and lack of space mean there are a lot of local farmers who can’t get into them. The export mentality this creates is something he hopes to change. “If we can create local demand and this need for real food then folks won’t have to drive 200 miles everyday [to sell their products].”

SCLF does require that their seller’s products be organic, though not necessarily Certified Organic. “We’d like to go beyond [the regulations of] organic,” says Pinck, explaining that they think of organic “as a holistic way of managing the land, being aware that everything is connected.”

“It costs money [to become Certified Organic],” Taylor adds. “It’s tough to be a small farmer and make it work.”

Items ordered from SCLF’s website (santacruzlocalfoods.com) are available for pick up the following Tuesday from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Live Oak Grange, 1900 17th Ave., or from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Circle Church, 111 Everett Circle. Pinck and Taylor hope to expand their list of pick-up sites and do two days of pick-ups every week as the company grows.  They also hope to begin working with commercial vendors (i.e. restaurants and stores) and are deeply interested in getting their foods into schools.

However, the easy-going pair’s mentality is far from all and work and no play.  “To me, this is fun, this is great,” says Taylor. “We want to bring that kind of energy to it.”

Pinck adds, “The more we make it fun, the more we make it attractive, the more we make it affordable and accessible, the more people see these young folks and beautiful people doing this stuff, and having fun with it, supporting each other and knowing where their food comes from ... it’s just easy then.”

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