When I’m not blogging, working on my book, or delving into other creative projects, I have the great pleasure of writing magazine articles. One of my favorite publications to write for, Edible Santa Barbara, is right here in my own backyard.
Krista Harris and her husband, Steve Brown, started Edible Santa Barbara in the spring of 2009 with hopes of sharing in-depth stories behind the food and culinary traditions of Santa Barbara County. This beautifully produced magazine provides a visual and literary feast for anyone interested in food.
This quarter I had the joy of writing about the history of fortune cookies. Though they may not have specific ties to Santa Barbara, per se, fortune cookies do have surprising and intriguing West Coast roots. Several other stories I written for the magazine over the past few years include pieces on artichokes, almonds and latte art.
Krista happens to be one of of my favorite editors to work with, so it gives me great pleasure to interview her here today. Take a peek to see what makes this shaker and mover tick, and see how her passion is elevating Santa Barbara’s food movement.
Q: Why did you start Edible SB? What was your motivation?
Krista: I felt like I had to start Edible Santa Barbara. The concept of a magazine that covered local food resonated with me like few things ever had. I had been interested in food and had been shopping at the farmers market for years. But after reading Michael Pollan’s The Ominivore’s Dilemma in 2006, I felt like I needed to do more. I started researching the local food movement and in the spring of 2008 a friend gave me a copy of Edible Finger Lakes. Although I had heard of Edible Ojai, I had no idea that there were other Edible magazines or that they were each independently owned and operated. I loved the concept and the mission of Edible Communities. It clicked for me that this is what I needed to do. So that year my husband, Steve Brown, and I started the magazine, with our first issue coming out in Spring 2009.
Q: What background did you bring to the magazine?
Krista: My very first job when I was in high school was at a weekly newspaper in San Diego, so I guess the groundwork was set in place pretty early. I have years and years of experience doing writing, editing, design and creative direction. But I think it’s the passion that I have for local food that really makes it possible for me to do this magazine.
Q: What has been the best part of creating the magazine?
Krista: Hands down, it’s the people I meet. We are a magazine that tells stories about all sorts of people—farmers, ranchers, fishermen, chefs, winemakers, food artisans and others related to the food industry. I feel so privileged to meet these people, and I’ve learned so much from them. I think that is really the appeal of it— that I get to learn so much with each issue. For one story, I’m finding out about pasture-raised cattle, the next we’re tramping through a vineyard for a photo shoot with a winemaker. I never get tired of what we do.
Q: What has been the most challenging?
Krista: Well, deadlines are no fun. But I think the most challenging part of producing the magazine is the business side of things—looking at spreadsheets, budgeting, figuring out which credit card merchant account to use. On the surface it looks like everything we do is creative, but like any business, there’s an operational aspect to it that is purely functional. And the hard part is that we’re not big enough to farm everything out. Some days I have put my big girl panties on and figure out the intricacies of credit card processing fees.
Q: What impact do you think the magazine has had on the Santa Barbara community?
Krista: It’s interesting because lately I’ve been thinking about how things have changed in Santa Barbara in the 5 years since we started the magazine. The local food movement here has grown and gained so much recognition. I don’t how much of that is due to our magazine, but I do know that the feedback that we have received from people throughout Santa Barbara County has been incredible. Advertisers tell us how much it has helped their businesses, readers tell us about the recipes they’ve tried or how it’s changed their shopping and eating habits. I love hearing these things.
Q: What are a few of your favorite stories you’ve published so far, and why?
Krista: There are so many! But in 2009 we published our first article that had to do with bees, and it’s a subject that has continued to fascinate me—and our readers. After meeting some of the beekeepers during a photo shoot, I really started getting interested in the idea of getting a hive and a year or so later ended up sharing a hive with my neighbor. After that I started the Santa Barbara Beekeepers Google Group, which led to Paul Cronshaw and Todd Bebb starting the Santa Barbara Beekeepers Association, which has done so much for our local bees. It all came full circle for me when I ended up writing an article this last summer about the effects of pesticides on our local bees.
Q: What do you look for in a pitch when deciding to hire a writer for a story?
Krista: I’m always looking for unique story ideas about local foods and beverages made in Santa Barbara County, and topics relating to all aspects of the food movement. I’m also interested in why the writer is interested in writing about a certain topic. What prompted the idea? And the format really matters. I love to see a brief outline or summary, a sample opening paragraph, what the writer intends to focus on, possible people who will be interviewed. If it’s a writer who we haven’t worked with, it helps if they submit a writing sample and any background they have with the subject matter.
Q: And finally…if you were to throw together an impromptu meal for friends, what 3-4 things would you consider your “go-to” items?