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LEAF Initiative Builds Momentum in 2016 with Achievement of Project Milestones and Small Grants

Partners from the carbon farming pilot project on the
Ted Chamberlin Ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley.

Launched in 2015, the LEAF Initiative (Landscapes, Ecosystems, Agriculture and Food Systems) seeks to strengthen community resilience by preserving and enhancing the landscapes and ecosystems that sustain nature, human health and well-being, and the economy. LEAF’s two foundational projects, the Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan and the Santa Barbara County Conservation Blueprint, are complemented by a small grant program, which help build capacity for future project success.

After an 18-month planning process, the Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan was released this year as a strategy-based community “blueprint” with recommendations for achieving an accessible, thriving, sustainable and healthy food system. The Santa Barbara Foundation, in partnership with the Community Environmental Council (CEC) and the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, is moving forward on plan implementation in 2017 with specific emphasis on support for projects that address priority goals.

The Conservation Blueprint, which is scheduled to launch in spring 2017, will be the first comprehensive compilation of Santa Barbara County’s natural resources and land uses that will be accessible through an easy-to-use online interactive ‘Atlas’ of maps and spatial data. The project aims to describe the current landscape, natural resources and community values related to land uses in Santa Barbara County to help the community make informed decisions about our shared future and keep Santa Barbara County a beautiful, desirable and healthy place to live and work. This collaborative project is being led by the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County and the Cachuma Resource Conservation District in partnership with a 12-member Steering Committee representing agriculture, conservation and resource management.

In support of these community-driven planning processes, the LEAF Initiative has also distributed a total of $300,000 through a small grants program. This program was created to provide support for on-the-ground projects and innovative approaches that work toward preserving the natural beauty, ecological integrity, and productivity of the wild and working lands in Santa Barbara County.

This grant cycle, and the last cycle for 2016, awarded $100,000 to seven local organizations that represent the wide range of issue areas that LEAF encompasses and demonstrate the geographical diversity of conservation, restoration and preservation efforts in Santa Barbara County. The recipients are California Rangeland Trust ($6,500), Community Environmental Council ($19,500), Friends of Wallar Park ($10,000), Lompoc Valley Community Healthcare Organization ($18,000), South Coast Habitat Restoration ($15,000), Trust for Public Land ($15,000) and UCSB Natural Reserve System ($16,000).

“The goal of the LEAF small grants program is to support projects that help conserve land, restore habitats or demonstrate ‘best practices’ in agriculture and food systems,” said Sharyn Main, Senior Director of Community Investments for the Santa Barbara Foundation. “We are excited by the range of high-quality projects we were able to support from all parts of the county, including Cuyama Valley, Santa Maria, Los Alamos, Lompoc, Gaviota and Goleta.”

The diversity of these investments by the LEAF Initiative are exemplified most recently through the Community Environmental Council (CEC) and the Lompoc Valley Community Healthcare Organization (LVCHO).

CEC and the Cachuma Resource Conservation District are collaboratively working to support and complement a carbon farming pilot project on the Ted Chamberlin Ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley – one of 17 study sites in California. This grant will be used to leverage the results of a statewide pilot project and work to expand this practice to other ranches in the county as a way to improve soil health and support agriculture and grazing operations, as well as help to sequester atmospheric carbon.

On the other end of the spectrum, LVCHO plans to use the grant to implement a nationally-identified best practice of matching Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) dollars one-for-one in order to encourage greater access to local healthy produce and increase participation at local farmers markets.

“This grant is a wonderful opportunity to strengthen our relationship with the Santa Barbara Foundation and bring much needed funds into the Lompoc Valley,” said Ashely Costa, Executive Director of LVCHO. “Our project not only implements a strategy of the Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan by increasing healthy food access points, it spurs economic activity at local farmer’s markets as well, making it a ‘win-win.’”

This was the final grant cycle in support of the LEAF Initiative this year. To learn more about LEAF and grant opportunities for 2017, contact Sharyn Main at or (805) 880-9352.
North County Headquarters:  (805) 346-6123  |   2625 S. Miller Street, Suite 101, Santa Maria, CA 93455
South County Headquarters:  (805) 963-1873  |  1111 Chapala Street, Suite 200, Santa Barbara, CA 93101