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UCSB Honors Singer Jack Johnson as Distinguished Alum for Edible Campus Project

Jack and Kim Johnson's nonprofit foundation has long supported the effort to start farming food on the Santa Barbara campus

A group of UCSB students is working with the university and singer Jack Johnson’s foundation to create the Edible Campus Project, the pilot of which will involve two citrus trees being planted on campus. The eventual goal is to establish a student farm at UCSB.
A group of UCSB students is working with the university and singer Jack Johnson’s foundation to create the Edible Campus Project, the pilot of which will involve two citrus trees being planted on campus. The eventual goal is to establish a student farm at UCSB. (UC Santa Barbara photo)

Two orange trees will be planted in UC Santa Barbara’s Storke Plaza this week, the first step in a larger campus sustainability conversation that involves singer Jack Johnson.

The presence of the Washington navel orange trees marks a launch of the Edible Campus Project, which aims to repurpose underutilized campus space to produce food for students and to engage them as growers and producers.

The ultimate goal is to create a full-scale student farm, the logistics of which are being explored by project partners, including the university, students and the famous UCSB alum.

Not so coincidentally, UCSB plans to honor Johnson and his wife, Kim, this week as well during a private 2015 UCSB Distinguished Alumni Awards event Friday night.

The Johnsons have used musical success to encourage environmentally friendly practices through their nonprofits — enough reason to earn an award from the UCSB Alumni Association for embodying this year’s All Gaucho Reunion theme.

The singer’s namesake nonprofit, the Johnson Ohana Foundation, has been involved in the Edible Campus pilot project from the beginning, designing and mentoring members of the Associated Students Department of Public Worms, AS Food Bank and UCSB Sustainability Program.

“They have been very supportive of our students and have given advice that empowered our students to achieve their vision,” said Katie Maynard, sustainability coordinator and staff to the AS Sustainability Work Group. “We are so thankful for their encouragement and advice!”

Edible Campus aims to address food insecurity, a cause UCSB students have focused in on the past three years to find a way to grow food on campus.

Part of the motivation: in 2014, 14.6 percent of UCSB students reported often skipping meals due to a lack of money to purchase a meal.

Because the AS Food Bank has also grown its membership exponentially, Maynard said, students were even more inspired to increase the amount of fresh produce available to students.

“We are in the process of fundraising to support the expansion of this program to add several more trees and develop other edible campus efforts,” she said. “Five students are employed as paid staff through the Associated Students Department of Public Worms and will be the primary caretakers of the trees. We also hope to recruit volunteers to help during harvest and with educational workshops that will be developed over the coming year.”

The groups don’t have a timetable for when a student-run farm might be established, since Maynard said the details are still being sorted out.

“We believe a student farm provides a space for students not just to produce local, fresh, healthy food for their community," she said, "but also will create a space dedicated to greatly enhancing students’ knowledge about growing food so that they gain the skills to grow food for themselves and their community.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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