SANTA BARBARA — The Santa Barbara Ecological and Edible Garden Project will create a network of community gardens that increase access to homegrown produce and connect community members to natural ecosystems.
Santa Barbara City College, Explore Ecology and five other community partners formed the project and received a $100,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Education Program to launch six gardens.
“This is the largest EPA Environmental Education grant ever awarded to an organization in Santa Barbara County, and one of the largest in California in recent decades,” Rachel Johnson, SBCC Foundation Director of Grants, said in a news release. “It speaks to the collaborative work and far-reaching impact of Santa Barbara City College, Explore Ecology, and our many incredible community partners.”
The gardens will be at the following locations: the SBCC permaculture garden, Explore Ecology school garden sites, Mesa Harmony Garden, the westside location of United Boys and Girls Club of Santa Barbara County, El Centro (Santa Barbara Lower Westside Community Center), Youth Drought Project and the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden.
In addition to providing a place to grow, the project seeks to educate the public on critical issues, like ecological health, native habitats and water conservation.
Students and faculty from SBCC’s permaculture program will help sites cultivate and expand their gardens. Hugh Kelly at Mesa Harmony Garden, and Chuy Valle, Chelsea Lancaster and the Somos Semillas Collective at El Centro are integral to this step as well.
“The power of this grant lies in its emphasis on both ecological and social processes. We are utilizing a resilient community design model with our community partners, which allows us to engage the larger Santa Barbara community, students and faculty at SBCC and local organizations towards place-based ecological literacy training, social justice analysis and community organizing,” Daniel Parra Hensel, adjunct faculty member in SBCC’s environmental horticulture department said. “The impacts will be felt far and wide!”
Students at SBCC started a biodiverse garden on campus in 2015 to create a habitat for native plants and pollinators and produce food for the college’s food pantry. The EPA grant will help develop this garden and link it to other community sites.
“This grant will allow us to create spaces that restore biodiversity, grow healthy food, connect with the community, and educate students. These efforts show how a community college can reach out beyond its borders and partner with residents, community groups, and local schools to make Santa Barbara a healthy and enjoyable place to live and raise your family,” said Dr. Adam Green, professor of biology and environmental studies at SBCC.
Dr. Denise Knapp and Kylie Etter of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden will be collecting data at the gardens, noting the biodiversity of native pollinators and creating a guide for supporting them.
They will also look at the effect on run-off pollution to help the City of Santa Barbara inform sustainable landscape design.
Explore Ecology oversees 30 school gardens throughout Santa Barbara County and is focusing on the six closest to SBCC for this project.
“Explore Ecology is thrilled to be part of this EPA grant which will lead to greater environmental education opportunities for our community. We look forward to the collaborations and partnerships that this grant will foster. This is a big moment for environmental education in Santa Barbara,” Lindsay Johnson, Explore Ecology’s executive director, said.
A series of workshops and webinars free to the public will help community members learn how to cultivate their own yards.
To register for the first event and learn more, go to exploreecology.org/sbee-garden-project/.
— Annelise Hanshaw