Ojai has long lodged a homespun-set of individualists,
but several dozen folks in the sleepy valley
are about to stick to their roots like never before.
They’re growing their own and they’re
picking the rest from the farmer’s market –
their modern Eden in an unorganic, emissionladen
They are the locavores, and there will soon
be more than 100 of them in the Ojai Valley, if
Kristofer and Joanne Young – the Adam and
Eve of the movement in Ventura County – can
orchestrate their plan.
Though it may sound like a Spanglish term
for a crazy dinosaur, "locavore" in fact describes
someone who eats only food grown locally.
"We have two basic reasons for doing this,"
said Joanne earlier this month. "The first one is
that we’re concerned about global warming. And
while Al Gore’s solution of changing a light bulb
is a good one, it’s a minuscule one on the scale of
how big a problem global warming is.
"The second is that we want to support local
farmers. It’s very difficult for them to compete
against corporate ag businesses."
The Youngs are on a mission to find 100
locals who will commit to eating only food
grown within 100 miles of Ojai for all of 2009.
A handful of people have already signed up
and climbed into their gardens to begin planting
for the yearlong experiment in sustainability.
"Just in the last three weeks roughly, since
we’ve really started telling people about it, my
connections with other people in our community
are already starting to blossom just about
as fast as my zucchini plants are starting to
put out little zucchinis," Kristofer said.
The ground rules of the project are simple:
each person must only eat local food, except for
three exempt items of their choice – "whatever
their thing is," says Kristofer – like chocolate,
bananas, rice or other food that isn’t
grown locally. The three food exceptions can
be changed throughout the year, as long as a
person or family doesn’t have more than three
nonlocal items "in their possession at any given
time," Kristofer said.
Kristofer and Joanne, both 56, haven’t yet
laid down the law regarding restaurant dining,
largely because they haven’t been able to come to
a consensus yet on the issue.
Kristofer, the hardliner, thinks people
shouldn’t eat out unless they’re sure they can
order an exclusively local meal. Joanne, the
moderate, thinks people should be able to go
to a restaurant that serves nonlocal food a few
times a month.
The Farmer and the Cook in Ojai already
serves mostly locally grown food, so the locavores
will have at least one dining-out option, Kristofer
said. He hopes to persuade other restaurants, like
Mary’s Secret Garden in Ventura, to offer a local
meal occasionally, he said.
Although they don’t always agree, the Ojai
couple is used to working as a team: They head
up Ventura Chiropractic and Massage, where
Kristofer works as a chiropractor and Joanne, a
massage therapist.
While they have long been interested in diet
and health, they began to think more seriously
about becoming locavores after reading Animal,
Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara
Kingsolver, who lived on a family farm in
Virginia and ate only local foods for a year.
Where the locavores roam, and what they
end up eating, will be captured by Quarter Mile
Films, Inc., an Ojai production company that is
making a documentary about the experiment.
"We happened to pass the Youngs on an evening
walk in our neighborhood and they told us
what they were doing. We said, ‘Hey that sounds
great. How about letting us make a documentary?’"
said Briana Beebe, the producer of the
film; her husband Steve is the director.
They hope to submit the documentary to an
independent film festival or possibly the Public
Broadcasting Service, Briana said.
"It seemed to be a timely subject matter, and
it was just something that appealed to us," she
said. "We buy our vegetables at the local farmers
market and are part of a CSA (Community
Supported Agriculture program)."
The Beebe’s said they probably won’t
become locavores next year, because they
have two young children and they travel
However, Joanne is
encouraging families
with children to participate,
and when
people travel,
"all bets are off"
regarding eating
only local
foods, she said.
"We’re saying
young children
should absolutely
be involved,"
Joanne said, emphasizing
the benefits of
eating fresher foods and
more fruits and vegetables.
Kristofer added that rare
health conditions could make it impossible
for some people to participate in
the project.
"But if people have diabetes, elevated
cholesterol or hypertension, this
could very much be something that
could alleviate or resolve that condition
by getting people off some crummy
food," he said.
In addition to personally becoming
healthier, the locavores say they will also
make the environment healthier by reducing
carbon emissions, because their food
won’t have to travel across the world in gas
guzzling trucks or airplanes to get to Ojai.
"The average distance that food travels
from farmer to plate is 1,500 miles,"
Joanne said.
The fertile Ojai Valley and neighboring
cities Ventura and Oxnard
churn out hundreds of different
crops annually.
The 100-mile radius
surrounding Ojai
stretches north to
San Luis Obispo,
south to Irvine
and encompasses
Bakersfield and
Palmdale to the
Ventura County
residents who can’t
commit to being a
locavore for an entire
year are welcome to try
eating locally for a few days
or longer, Kristofer said.
"We want to encourage everybody
to do what ever feels right to them. We
don’t want to leave them out. If someone
does one local meal in the year,
that counts."

The Young’s will hold an informational
meeting at their Ojai home at 7 p.m. on May
10. To register, log on to groups.google.com/
group/eat-local-one-year or call 640-7629.