Written By: Julia Sinn
it’s difficult to pin him with any one title. He’s a general Santa Cruz Food Activist; he serves as Companion Bakeshop’s Market Coordinator, helps in the warehouse for Route 1 Farms, and has worked farmed on Crystal Creek farm in Happy Valley.
At the moment, though, he channels much of his energy into Santa Cruz Local Foods, the company he took over in 2012.
Griffin’s “online farmer’s market” connects sustainable small farms and producers to residents as far apart Aptos and Los Gatos. Santa Cruz Local Foods partners with organic farms like Route 1 and Live Earth, plus producers like Companion Bakeshop, Farmhouse Cultures, Happy Girl Kitchen, even Mission Hill Creamery, and sells boxes of local goodies weekly, for pick-up or delivery.
“My passion lies in the social justice aspects of food culture,” Griffin says. To him, that means getting people to consider that where they get their food is a statement about their commitment to environmental preservation, economic stability, social responsibility, and community growth. At USCS, he studied Economics and Health Sciences, gearing his efforts toward food justice and the low-income food access.
As Santa Cruz Local Foods was fading into near non-existence 17 months ago, Griffin stepped up. He’d been involved with the company for less than a year at the time but had established relationships with local farms and producers, plus a desire to bolster Santa Cruz residents’ access to local, sustainably-produced food.
Luckily for Griffin, he’s in a town that knows what he’s talking about. “Santa Cruz is full of people who get it. With small farmers, the quality of food is higher. People see that.”
“The culture of Santa Cruz is nature-oriented,” Griffin says. Surfers and hikers and bird-watchers are all invested in the land in a certain way. Griffin wants to highlight the “connection between outdoorsy-ness and agriculture.” Knowing about our food “overlaps with taking care of that land, living in harmony with the land,” he says.
After a year and a half running Santa Cruz Local Foods, Zane Griffin senses the momentum growing.
“It will take some time before Santa Cruz Local foods can sustain a non-profit arm,” Griffin says. But that’s his goal. “I want to collaborate with non-profits to empower community members to take part in their local food movement.”
“We’ve all seen how the food movement has become mainstream and popularized.” To Griffin, that means both good and bad trends for small farmers and food producers. Awareness and demand is greater, but that means commercialization; once forms of activism, localism and sustainability have transformed into a trendy products. Griffin wants us all to get our hands dirty again.
“The next step is to inspire people to participate—anything from helping out in a community garden to starting their own gardens, being in their own kitchens. Taking back their kitchens,” he emphasizes.
Griffin’s journey with Santa Cruz Local Foods hasn’t been easy so far, but he gushes over the willingness of the volunteers who help run the program. He feels satisfied, for now, by his typical paycheck of the gratitude of enthusiastic customers and a trunkful of veggies (although securing a generous investor is on his to do list).
“We’re creating community—people gathering together over food.”