2009.05.28: May 28, 2009: Headlines: COS - Madagascar: Cooking: Restaurants: Santa Ynez Valley Journal : Madagascar RPCV Joe Swain is a humanitarian, environmentalist and organic burrito aficionado

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Madagascar: Peace Corps Madagascar : Peace Corps Madagascar: Newest Stories: 2009.05.28: May 28, 2009: Headlines: COS - Madagascar: Cooking: Restaurants: Santa Ynez Valley Journal : Madagascar RPCV Joe Swain is a humanitarian, environmentalist and organic burrito aficionado

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Madagascar RPCV Joe Swain is a humanitarian, environmentalist and organic burrito aficionado

Madagascar RPCV Joe Swain is a humanitarian, environmentalist and organic burrito aficionado

Swain stayed on the East Coast and graduated from Duke University with a degree in environmental science in 1994. He then joined the Peace Corps to study the rain forest destruction in Madagascar. The experience, however, was not what he expected. The native people were starving, and the good farming land was unavailable to them, so they continuously cut or burned small tracks of rain forest to farm for food. “The hillsides were just on fire the entire time,” he says sadly, remembering. The group went there to try and stop the destruction of the forest, thinking methods used in other countries would work in Madagascar, as well. The Madagascar people, however, were angry because they were starving, and they believed the outside world only cared about the forest, he recalls. Swain felt he could not fulfill the Peace Corps’ environmental goals, so he spent most of his time helping purify water and grow vegetables with the local people. “I got kicked out of the Peace Corps,” he says, laughing, “which is very hard to do.” Swain’s sentiments about the program’s goals did send him home, though not before he developed cerebral malaria. The disease can kill within 24 hours if left untreated, and Swain went six days untreated before spending 45 days in a Madagascar hospital.

Madagascar RPCV Joe Swain is a humanitarian, environmentalist and organic burrito aficionado

PASSION, CAMARADERIE, COOKED UP IN LOCAL KITCHEN

By Lauren Crecelius, Staff Writer

Caption: From left: Octavio Gayosso Castillo, Jesus Gayosso Castillo, Bernadino de los Angeles Cazares, Jaime Lemus Castillo, and Joe Swain all smile together behind the counter at Santa Ynez Burrito. - Photo courtesy of Joe Swain

Santa Ynez Burrito’s Joe Swain is a humanitarian, environmentalist and organic burrito aficionado.

Many locals know the delicious secret inside the Rio Market in Santa Ynez. High school kids, suits and farm hands are among the regulars who flock to the far side of the liquor store for local, organic burritos, tacos, quesadillas and other savory delights.

Besides the customers in line for some fresh food, you may also see some ladies in line sneaking glances at the face of the man behind the counter. Though he looks like he could be on the cover of a GQ Magazine, Joe Swain would be the first to tell you he doesn’t like talking about himself.

Sitting in the sunshine outside the Rio Market, Swain folds his hands and looks a bit uneasy talking about his life’s story.

The Santa Ynez Burrito owner and Los Olivos native has traveled and lived around the world, but he always found his way back to Santa Barbara County.

Swain is the middle child of three sons and was born to intellectuals who both worked for Midland School, a private boarding school. Swain’s father was headmaster, and Swain recalls the institution providing a solid education without the “country club” sentiment attached to some private schools.

Though his parents taught there and his older brother attended Midland, Swain opted for Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts.

“I grew up thinking everyone went to boarding school,” he says with laugh.

Swain stayed on the East Coast and graduated from Duke University with a degree in environmental science in 1994. He then joined the Peace Corps to study the rain forest destruction in Madagascar. The experience, however, was not what he expected. The native people were starving, and the good farming land was unavailable to them, so they continuously cut or burned small tracks of rain forest to farm for food.

“The hillsides were just on fire the entire time,” he says sadly, remembering. The group went there to try and stop the destruction of the forest, thinking methods used in other countries would work in Madagascar, as well. The Madagascar people, however, were angry because they were starving, and they believed the outside world only cared about the forest, he recalls.

Swain felt he could not fulfill the Peace Corps’ environmental goals, so he spent most of his time helping purify water and grow vegetables with the local people.

“I got kicked out of the Peace Corps,” he says, laughing, “which is very hard to do.”

Swain’s sentiments about the program’s goals did send him home, though not before he developed cerebral malaria. The disease can kill within 24 hours if left untreated, and Swain went six days untreated before spending 45 days in a Madagascar hospital.

After returning to North Carolina, Swain befriended many people from Mexico. He also lived in a small apartment with a Mexican family for a while and says living with them helped him understand why some people risk everything to come to the United States.

Swain still travels to Mexico two or three times every year to visit a small mountain town east of Mexico City, where many of his friends are from.

Eventually, Swain said he found himself back in Santa Barbara County, working on ranches and multiple organic farms, which made him want to use local, organic produce in a restaurant.

“The main-stream American food system is so backward, mass produced and filled with chemicals,” he states.

Santa Ynez Burrito was launched in 2006, and while Swain took a brief hiatus from ownership, he took it over again in September of 2008 to the delight of hungry valley residents everywhere.

Santa Ynez resident Guy Walker says he’s known Swain’s family for 30 years, though he really became good friends with him after he opened the burrito restaurant.

Walker, who favors carnitas, calls Swain “a wonderful, caring soul who’s passionate about people.” He says Swain is good friends with his kitchen coworkers and is genuinely interested in their welfare and providing good food to the community.

“Joe’s passion is not a marketing scheme but to give good quality food to people,” he says.

Jesse Wallace, also a Santa Ynez resident, says he befriended Swain after buying a burrito from him three years ago. As a professional fighter, Wallace says he eats a lot of the organic burritos because they’re healthy, and he says he admires Swain’s effort to keep improving his food.

“He’s almost running a perfect model for a business,” Wallace says. “He does the best job he can using healthy ingredients and is environmentally sustainable.”

Both Walker and Wallace agree Swain’s contributions back into the community make the burrito restaurant more like a co-op. Ten percent of Santa Ynez Burrito’s profits are donated to various local nonprofit organizations. Santa Ynez Burrito also participates in school lunch programs and helps sponsor other activities, such as the recent Masters in Chalk Festival.

“The only way to be successful here is to have local support, which we receive,” Swain says. “And we return the support.” In his free time, Swain enjoys hiking and, according to Walker, is becoming more of a jazz enthusiast all the time.

As for the future, Swain says he’d like to open another shop that features fresh, organic frozen treats made from local produce.

And the present? How about answering some more questions about personal characteristics? Swain runs a hand through his Patrick Dempsey hair, bypasses any question that could be self-promoting and answers that his biggest flaw is impatience.

Later, he’ll go back behind the counter and joke with his coworkers. When it’s time to take Swain’s picture, he tells them to jump in and smiles with them like it’s a family photo.

Reach Lauren Crecelius at lcrecelius@syvjournal.com




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Headlines: May, 2009; Peace Corps Madagascar; Directory of Madagascar RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Madagascar RPCVs; Cooking; Restaurants





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Story Source: Santa Ynez Valley Journal

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Madagascar; Cooking; Restaurants

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