(Santa Barbara Agriculture & Farm Education Foundation photo)

The holiday season brings a chance to give back to those in your community who could use a helping hand.

Noozhawk is teaming up with local nonprofits to encourage you to take part in Giving Tuesday, which takes place on November 28th, 2023.

Our Good for Santa Barbara Nonprofit Section provides all the resources you need to donate this Giving Tuesday!

In this interview, Noozhawk spoke with Leslie Person Ryan, CEO at Santa Barbara Agriculture & Farm Education Foundation, to learn more about how the nonprofit provides food to Santa Barbara County residents in need.

Santa Barbara Agriculture & Farm Education Foundation

Question: What is the name and mission of your nonprofit?

Answer: SBAFE Foundation, our mission statement: to provide food security, increase awareness and educate how our food is grown, propagated and distributed.

Q: How long has your nonprofit been in service, and who are its founders?

A: The Sweet Wheel Farms non profit is owned by Santa Barbara Agriculture and Farm Education Foundation. The non profit was started by local chemical free farmer and non profit advocate Leslie Person Ryan with a host of local community activists, medical, farm experts and advocates. The non profit started farming in Carpinteria, Orcutt and Summerland.

The farm started donating and delivering healthy farm food to SB County citizens in need, farmed and created 1800 meals for local Veterans the first year; hence the non profit expanded to a full board of local citizens and food and medical experts that believe in regenerative agriculture and food as medicine (farming without pesticides and herbicides). The non profit joined forces with the Santa Barbara and the Summerland Community and raised funds to save the land they were farming on from development.

Q: What was the inspiration behind your nonprofit?

A: Summerland was landlocked during the debris flow. The community could not go north nor south and then the need for food became dire. Summerland’s only grocery store closed years before the debris flow. People started fighting at the liquor store over the last food available in town. A young woman shared her story of fighting over the last stale sandwich because she had three children. The Sweet Wheel Farm Stand was founded.

SBAFE Foundation was applied for after the farm started donating healthy farm food to SB County citizens in need and creating 1800 meals for local Veterans. The non profit believes in regenerative agriculture (farming without pesticides and herbicides). The non profit joined forces with the Santa Barbara and the Summerland community and raised funds to save the land they were farming on from development.

Q: How is your nonprofit primarily funded and what are your greatest needs?

A: Sweet Wheel Farms has a daily farmers market stand in Summerland and we write grants to private funders. Our greatest need is for infrastructure for the farm to plant more crops efficiently and feed more people. We look forward to expanding our infrastructure to host the greater community on the farm and role model for other communities on chemical free farming.

We need better irrigation systems, fencing to keep wild life out, delivery van for the food, infrastructure and equipment like grain storage, tractor and a commercial kitchen to make .

Q: In what ways does your nonprofit utilize its funding?

A: Recently we ran a campaign for water and all of the funds were used to bring the water line to the farm. We were only given six weeks to come up with over $100,000 to bring the line to the farm. Now we need funds for infrastructure like irrigation and fencing and delivery necessities.

Q: How do people get involved/volunteer for your nonprofit?

A: Farms need a lot of hands in the fields. The farm has hosted community wheat and corn harvesting days.

Volunteer opportunties include:

  • Food delivery to our food fragile.
  • Packing for food fragile.
  • Working the farmers market and foodstand.
  • Helping make healthy snacks for our food fragile minors.
  • SBafeFoundation.com has a volunteer button.

Q: What makes your nonprofit different from others?

A: We are totally the only chemical and fertilizer free farm in SB County. We deliver whole foods that make the food fragile patient feel like cooking again.

We offer student education. This year we hosted 14 schools and classes already in the area last year for almost 1000 students in chemical free farming.

Q What is one best kept secret or fun fact about your nonprofit that not everyone knows?

A: We want to be an eco farm creating our own power and delivering food on e-bicycle. Ideas include solar panels as bicycle paths that the commuity can ride on through the fields. Others include fencing that creates wind turbine power. Another idea is to harvest the fog and moisture in the area and create water to irrigate the fields.
If we create our own power, we would be the first closed loop food system in California.

Q: Can you share one or two stories of individuals whose lives have been changed because of your organization?

A: Please visit sbafefoundation.com and listen to some our food fragile talk about their experience with our food. In one case a person with MS has started to regain his eyesight after eating our chemical free food for 9 months.

We also have many mini-miracles daily. One girl wrote: “I no longer am afraid of being hungry because of you. “


Q: Why should donors trust your organization and are there other ways to help outside of donations?

A: All of the proceeds go right back to the farm and food system.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to share about your nonprofit that has not been mentioned above?

A: It takes a village to solve food security in Santa Barbara. However there is no other farm that is certified for non-GMO corn. With this corn we make tortillas and chips. Sansum Diabetes would like to do a study on our chemical free and non gmo corn. They believe it would give diabetes patients less of a glucose spike.

Click here to learn more about Santa Barbara Agriculture & Farm Education Foundation’s mission to provide food security, increase awareness and educate how our food is grown, propagated and distributed.

Check out Noozhawk’s Guide to Giving for a full list of nonprofits to donate to this giving season.

If you would like to include your nonprofit in our Good for Santa Barbara section and Giving Guide click HERE.