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Leveraging Santa Barbara Foundation Funds for Greater Impact

The foundation's Sharyn Main with project partners at the Ted Chamberlin Ranch

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) granted the Community Environmental Council (CEC) with a 2017 Healthy Soils Program Demonstration Project award of approximately $200,000 to support carbon farming on the Ted Chamberlin Ranch and other ranches on the Central Coast. The award, which increases statewide recognition of the project among many large institutions and agencies, was made possible by help from the Santa Barbara Foundation, which provided integral funds that allowed the CEC and their project partner Cachuma Resource Conservation District (CRCD) to increase its capacity and better position themselves for the state grant.

The Santa Barbara Foundation first funded the CRCD’s Rancher-to-Rancher project, which supports rancher peer education, and then, in 2016, provided CEC a LEAF grant to help deepen interest in climate-friendly agriculture in our region.

“The foundation laid the groundwork for us to broaden our network, leverage our resources, engage county agencies and position the project to achieve funding from the state,” said Sigrid Wright, CEO & Executive Director at CEC.

The Healthy Soils Program derives from the California Healthy Soils Initiative, which is a collaboration between state agencies to inspire healthy soil development in California. The program encourages farmers and ranchers to implement practices that reduce greenhouse gases and improve soil health. The carbon farming project on the Chamberlin Ranch is one of 86 projects that were recognized in 2017 due to its focus on using compost application on ranches, which takes the excess carbon out of the atmosphere and stores it in the soil. This results in healthier soil and increased water-holding capacity, which not only makes agricultural lands more resilient to drought and other extreme weather patterns, but also shifts the role of ranches from contributing to climate change to actually solving it.

“A lot of Santa Barbara County’s economy is connected to agriculture,” said Emily Miller, Food and Climate Program Associate at CEC. “With extreme weather conditions having adverse effects on ranchers’ bottom line, we need to look at how we can support them with sustainable and resilient solutions for both their business and the environment. By showing ranchers the tangible results of carbon farming – the thicker, greener grass and healthier animals – we are also able to show them that adopting sustainable practices is in everyone’s best interest.”

In addition to partnering with the Ted Chamberlin Ranch, which serves as the project’s demonstration site and is led by a ranching family trusted among other Central Coast ranchers, the CEC and CRCD have partnered with the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Santa Barbara Air Pollution Control District, among others, to integrate the project into different sectors in the community.

“One of the largest challenges that we have confronted in the project so far is the gap in the goals of our different community partners, from waste management, government agencies and agricultural groups, who do not normally interact,” said Miller. “The funding from the Healthy Soils program will allow us strengthen our local network with partner organizations and is large networking opportunity for us to continue to bring funding into our area and achieve integrated sustainable goals, such as those outlined in the Food Action Plan.”

CEC, the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, the Orfalea Foundation and the Santa Barbara Foundation facilitated an 18-month planning process that resulted in the Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan. The plan assesses and provides recommendations about how to grow, distribute, consume and dispose of food. The carbon farming project on the Ted Chamberlin Ranch addresses several of the 16 priorities outlined in the plan, including one that relates to reducing the food system’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.

“The carbon farming project on the Ted Chamberlin Ranch is a win for everyone,” said Sharyn Main, Senior Director of Community Investments at the Santa Barbara Foundation. “Holistically, and when comparing it to priorities outlined in the Food Action Plan, it becomes clear how agriculture and our climate are deeply integrated into our food systems and how something as simple as laying down some compost can have a large and resounding impact on our entire county, making it healthier and more sustainable for all of the residents.”

The Santa Barbara Foundation supported both the Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan and the Ted Chamberlin Ranch project through its Landscapes, Ecosystems, Agriculture and Food Systems (LEAF) Initiative. Together with community partners, like the CEC, the initiative seeks to advance regional strategies to increase land conservation, improve ecosystem health, ensure agricultural viability and improve the local food system. For more information about how the LEAF Initiative, please visit the website or contact Sharyn Main at
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