Edible Monterey Bay

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A new business goes behind the
scenes to bring healthful local treats
to bands on the road

Backstage Organics’ Scott Manning

Photography by Josué Rivas

Decades ago, musicians were not exactly renowned for their healthful habits. In the era of sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll, many reveled in their ability to absorb a variety of toxic substances.

Fast forward to present day, and young performers are choosing to keep themselves fit for performing by eating right and choosing nutrient-rich and organic foods. But finding healthier fare can be tough when you’re on tour, and that’s where Backstage Organics is stepping in to help. A collaboration between Scott Manning of San Francisco and his sister, Santa Cruz resident Melissa Manning Collins, Backstage Organics started earlier this year and has already provided a unique blend of healthy snack food, natural medicinal products and holistic healing for performers, including The Doobie Brothers, the Wailers and up-and-coming acts like Yonder Mountain String Band and Beats Antique.

Manning lays out a table for the band, including easy grab-and-go, all-organic treats from local purveyors, like juices from La Vie of Santa Cruz; raw, organic Ayurvedic desserts from Talya’s Kitchen, also of Santa Cruz; and jams from Happy Girl Kitchen Co. of Pacific Grove.

Also on his menu are yerba mate shots, herbal teas and natural supplements; Manning even mixes up smoothies for the bands with items he’s gathered from local farmers’ markets, like ginger and kale. (The Monterey Bay Certified Farmers’ Market in Aptos is a favorite.) For local shows, Collins, who owns a Santa Cruz healing clinic business called Livity Rising, provides a crew of holistic practitioners who provide massage, reiki and other techniques to de-stress performers.

The musicians “get really run down when they’re touring—they need all the help they can get,” says Manning, who notes that the performers he works with recognize that a healthy lifestyle will help them handle the demands of the road. And most of what is typically offered for backstage sustenance isn’t very healthy, he points out: “Red Bull is not going to serve them well.”

Manning isn’t a newcomer to organic living. He says he had an “awakening” in 2001 which led him to revamping his diet, working on organic farms in Hawaii and more recently, organizing farm-to-table dinners in Southern California’s Topanga Canyon area.

What has set Backstage Organics apart is an inventive business model which utilizes social media. Performers served by Backstage Organics support the organic brands by taking photos, tagging the brands and posting through Twitter and Instagram; everyone benefits from the exposure. Backstage Organics further encourages healthy eating by donating to school garden programs in low-income areas.

Manning and Collins are personally ministering to several bands playing in Santa Cruz in the fall and winter, but since they can’t be everywhere at once, they’ve come up with a solution. Manning says they’ll drop ship boxes of healthy snacks and herbal products so that musicians can receive them wherever they’re playing, and can either take advantage of the goodies during their show or enjoy them on the tour bus. Naturally, the shipping boxes are 100% biodegradable and compostable.

“It’s fitting for these times,” Manning says of his business. “There’s a new generation coming up.”

Kathryn McKenzie, who grew up in Santa Cruz and now lives on a Christmas tree farm in north Monterey County, writes about sustainable living, home design and horticulture for numerous publications and websites.

Backstage Organics
scott@isness.biz • 808.268.7016 • www.backstageorganics.org

About the author

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Kathryn McKenzie, who grew up in Santa Cruz and now lives on a Christmas tree farm in north Monterey County, writes about the environment, sustainable living and health for numerous publications and websites. She is the co-author of “Humbled: How California’s Monterey Bay Escaped Industrial Ruin.”