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Local Food Hero’s Passion Feeds on Sustainable Gardening

Judy Sims, a former local elementary school teacher, will be the recipient of the Local Food Hero Award at the 9th Annual Santa Barbara Community Seed Swap on Jan. 29. The event is from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. in the Santa Barbara Central Library, Faulkner Gallery, 40 E. Anapamu St.

Judy Sims Click to view larger
Judy Sims (Santa Barbara Permaculture Network)

Sims' contribution to local food systems starts with children. Having taught for many years at Monte Vista school, Sims used her classroom to teach children about the environment through gardens, incorporating outdoor areas into all her teaching practices.

Into her lessons, she incorporated butterfly gardens, raised-bed gardens, and a remarkable half-acre ethno-botany garden and nature trail that demonstrates the importance of California native plants. Later, along with permaculture friends, students and other community members, Sims, in 2005, installed the first Food Forest/Orchard Garden at a Santa Barbara public school site.

Sims always had programs and projects in mind — for the entire school. She and the students began growing food from the gardens for a weekly farmers market, where parents shopped when picking up their kids after school.

Eventually, with funds raised from the farmers market, a salad bar lunch program was initiated into the school cafeteria, an award-winning pilot project, that was later adopted district-wide. A worm-farm project Sims and students created diverted school food lunch waste from the trash, instead converting it into rich compost for the gardens.

In time, Sims retired from teaching, but never from gardening. In 2009, she joined the s’Cool Garden team at Santa Barbara City College Center for Sustainability as education coordinator, a part of the Orfalea Foundation School Food Initiative project, where more than 25 local county schools were assisted in starting up and maintaining school gardens.

A longtime passionate community activist, Sims has been a key participant in numerous local garden organizations and projects. She helped create Trinity Gardens, Santa Barbara’s newest community garden on the grounds of Trinity Lutheran Church.

At Trinity Garden, individuals can rent plots, but there also is a large communal growing area with a farm manager, growing fresh produce for food banks and other organizations who help the needy.  Sims volunteers at and developed the docent program for La Huerta Historic Gardens at the Old Mission, where early California Mission era plants are researched and grown.

Seed saving is one of Sims' passions. She participates every year with the Annual Santa Barbara Community Seed Swap, providing all the children's activities, and sharing seeds collected from her many garden sources. In assisting the future for children and gardens, in 2015 she helped create the first Growing Edible Education Symposium.

The community salutes Sims for her commitment and contribution to gardens, seed saving, and the Santa Barbara food system.

Past recipients for the Santa Barbara Local Food Hero award  include Marshall Chrostowski (Pacifica Market Garden), Lorenz Schaller (Kusa Seed Society), Matt Buckmaster (Island Seed & Feed) and Oscar Carmona (Healing Grounds Nursery).

The Local Food Hero award is an international award developed by Vandana Shiva & the Navdanya Foundation to honor those involved in protecting seeds and contributing to a healthy sustainable food system. More than 70 percent of the world’s food comes from small farms and gardens.

— Margie Bushman for Santa Barbara Permaculture Network.

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