Eat From Your Yard

Photo By Steve Brown

Eating Very Local This October

By Jennifer LeMay

Edible Santa Barbara is partnering with the Santa Barbara Certified Farmers Market and the Community Environmental Council to sponsor an Eat Local Challenge for the month of October. Now in its fourth year, the Challenge encourages people to take a pledge to eat and drink local products October 1–31. This year a group of people are taking it just a step further by eating from their backyard for one week of the monthlong challenge.

When Charity Dubberley and her husband, Matt, decided to eat exclusively from their garden for one week as part of the Eat Local Challenge, they knew some planning was in order. An attempt made last year on a whim was not successful, so this time they got a head start by planting a wide variety of edibles and increasing their flock of chickens to 10. “We are taking on the ultimate gardening challenge: sustaining ourselves with what we grow,” says Charity. Part of her inspiration came from reading Novella Carpenter’s book Farm City, a memoir full of stories about Carpenter’s urban farm in Oakland, California.

Mark Fennell, a friend of the Dubberleys who participated in the Eat Local Challenge last year, proposed that they all take on this Eat “Very” Local Challenge for a week to demonstrate how feasible it is to survive—and thrive—on abundant and diverse food production from small spaces like backyard gardens. They saw additional benefits as well, including an increased connection to their food sources and a fun challenge that would involve growing, harvesting, foraging and cooking creatively. A key element of the challenge is preparing a wide variety of interesting and tasty meals. By documenting their experiences, the participants hope to inspire others.

“One of the reasons for doing this is to step up my game,” says Katie Haldeman, another friend of the Dubberleys who decided to join them by eating exclusively from her own garden during the designated week. She expects to be a better gardener and cook after taking the challenge. All are gaining a better understanding of the challenges of sustainable food production, which have included scrub jays harvesting newly planted beet seeds, the scourge of aphids, and diseased tomato plants. They have embraced the learn-as-you-go approach and accept that there will be some losses along the way.

Their ground rules for the week allow for foraging in public areas, trading among participants and with other local gardeners and noncommercial food producers, and eating previously harvested food (frozen, dehydrated, pickled or fermented). 
They will also start the week with an allotment of salt, pepper, olive oil and vinegar. 

The Dubberleys’ garden on the Mesa boasts an impressive array of edibles, including several kinds of squash and tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants (the Rosa Bianca variety has done exceptionally well throughout the year), herbs, corn (a special semi-dwarf variety called Golden Bantam that grows better in their microclimate), barley, millet, buckwheat and amaranth.

Since they only have a few fruit trees and love to make smoothies, Matt and Charity plan to trade with other gardeners for avocados, frozen blueberries and other essentials. They are planning a number of recipes that call for eggs from their chickens, including vegetable frittatas. Some other mouthwatering dishes on their menu include squash ribbon salad, chili, spaghetti squash with roasted tomato vegetable sauce and Japanese “pizza” featuring cabbage, egg, buckwheat flour and onion. While it will surely be a challenge to rely on über-local food for a week, it also sounds like delicious fun. 

Follow Charity Dubberley’s journey eating very local as you read her guest blog entries on the our website beginning on October 1.


Jennifer LeMay is a designer and artist who appreciates great local food. 
Her business, J. LeMay Studios, provides communication and design services. Visit


Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on Pinterest
Categories Fall 2012