Students harvest produce from Harding Elementary School Garden.
Students harvest produce from Harding Elementary School Garden. (Courtesy photo)

The Santa Barbara Ecological and Edible (SBEE) Garden Project partners has received a 2021 Golden Leaf Award from Santa Barbara Beautiful. One of three winners, the SBEE Garden Project is being recognized as an outstanding project that achieves community beautification while epitomizing the strength of collaboration as it supports biological and cultural diversity through ecological edible gardens.

The project comprises a network of community gardens that promote biodiversity, increase access to locally grown food, and foster a connection between the community and natural ecosystems.
The SBEE Garden Project award recipients are: Prof. Adam Green, SBCC professor of biology and environmental studies; Daniel Parra Hensel, SBCC instructor of environmental horticulture; Lindsay Johnson, executive director, Explore Ecology; The Somos Semillas Program, El Centro Santa Barbara; Hugh Kelly, board president, Mesa Harmony Garden; Denise Knapp, director of conservation and research, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden; Jesse Gonzalez, club director Westside Unit, United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County; Brad Smith, Youth Drought Project; Geoff Green, CEO, Santa Barbara City College Foundation; Rachel Johnson, chief program officer, Santa Barbara City College Foundation.

“The SBEE Garden Project is so grateful to have received a 2021 Golden Leaf Award from Santa Barbara Beautiful. Being recognized for contributing to the beauty of our community, while also educating that community about edible gardens and healthy ecosystems, is an honor,” said Rachel Johnson.

“The SBEE Garden Project is truly a collaborative effort, bringing together SBCC faculty and students, elementary school students and their families, researchers, educators, garden enthusiasts, and the community as a whole,” she said.

“The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is proud to work alongside our community partners on the SBEE Garden Project,” said Knapp. “The data that our SBCC intern has been collecting are showing that native plants are important for supporting insect pollinators. We’re honored to see this work recognized by SB Beautiful and look forward to watching it flourish in years to come.”

“Explore Ecology is thrilled that the SBEE Garden Project was recognized by Santa Barbara Beautiful with a Golden Leaf Award,” said Lindsay Johnson. “We’re honored to be part of such an outstanding community project. We look forward to working together to grow our network of biodiverse permaculture gardens that will add such beauty to our community. Thank you, Santa Barbara Beautiful.”

SBEE Garden Project sites include the SBCC Permaculture Garden, Explore Ecology School Garden sites, Mesa Harmony Garden, the Westside location of United Boys and Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County, El Centro (Santa Barbara Lower Westside Community Center), Youth Drought Project, and the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden.

The array of sites and partners connect K-14 students, teachers, the public, and local researchers around the critical issues of ecological health, water conservation, restoration of native habitat and biological communities, and the production of local, healthy food.

Earlier this year, the project received a $100,000 EPA Environmental Education Grant, the largest ever awarded to an organization in Santa Barbara County. For more information, visit the SBEE Garden Project website.