Sparked Cultural Interest in Gardening and Locally Grown Produce

Locally Grown Food Inspires Consumers to Learn More, Garden at Home 

By Laurie Greene, Editor

Cultural changes in eating habits are sparking an added interest in locally grown produce. Scott Steinmaus, professor in the Biological Sciences Department at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly SLO), outlined the surge in local produce purchasing and how it is igniting consumer interest in growing their own gardens.

“The food craze is a real big movement right now,” Steinmaus stated, “especially with urban folks. Some of the biggest scenes are the foodie craze—that farm-to-table idea of buying locally, organically-produced food.”

Scott Steinmaus, professor of Biological Sciences Department at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Scott Steinmaus, professor of Biological Sciences Department at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Continuing, “And the cooking shows are out of control-popular, right? Where does the food come from? It comes from here; this is what it’s all about,” he said, with pride.

The growing trends are also reinvigorating students to become more involved, according to Steinmaus. “Students are asking where their food comes from,” he commented, “and who the farmers are that produce such healthy fruits and vegetables. That is an exciting part of our discipline as well—this foodie craze, and I think our students want to become a part of that,” he reflected.

The push for local produce is also inspring more people to grow their own home gardens. “When they garden, they get it,” Steinmaus explained. “And as soon as people get their hands dirty and as soon as they produce their first tomato; there’s nothing more empowering than producing your own food,” he said, “even if it’s a little bit.”

With this renewed interest in home gardening, Steinmaus observed, many are discovering their preconceived notions of farming were not quite accurate. “We’re working with the American Horticultural Society, putting together the videos that show people farming isn’t what you might think it is; it is actually completely different.” Steinmaus said.

“Farming involves a lot more than a green thumb,” he elaborated. “It requires the understanding of growing cycles and identifying various deficiencies. It utilizes very high technology. It is producing food; there is nothing more empowering than putting food on your kitchen table that you grew in your garden, or was grown by a farmer you know just down the street, and you know his [or her] name,” said Steinmaus.

A Thought on Sustainability

Scott Steinmaus on Getting the Sustainability Message Out

By Charmayne Hefley, Producer and Associate Broadcaster

When considering the longevity of a farmer’s land, the question of the sustainability of modern day farming practices is often raised. Scott Steinmaus, professor and department head of the Horticulture and Crop Science Department at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, said that it is important to get the message out to consumers that farmers are sustainable because their land is the future for their own children.

“Farmers are sustainable,” Steinmaus said, “even when the general public might say that unsustainable activities might include pesticide applications. There’s no farmer out there who wants to spray pesticides—it costs money. And they don’t want to hand off their land having exposed it to something that’s not sustainable. They have a piece of land, something they value and cherish, and they want to hand it off to their sons or daughters.”

Steinmaus said it is important for consumers to realize that farmers are humans too, and they care about the health of the planet in a way that more directly relates to their careers.

Steinmaus believes it is important for consumers “to understand that direct connection farmers have with the earth, to realize that farmers are humans too, with kids of their own, and to acknowledge that farmers care about the planet more than a lot of urbanites might do themselves. There’s nothing more important than sustainability—minimizing all farm inputs for safe, acceptable food production.”