El Centro Santa Barbara was granted access to the dormant “Parque De Los Niños,” a small neighborhood park in Santa Barbara’s lower Westside, after a year of organizing and coordinating efforts with the City of Santa Barbara. Over the next year and before developing the Garden, El Centro engaged with the immediate community to learn more about their critical needs.
- The Garden was launched in response to the community’s concern about the levels of food insecurity experienced by local residents. El Centro started hosting community work days where together, neighborhood residents gathered to create food sovereignty and food access by building a local food source to be shared with all.
- Key partners such as Wilderness Youth Project (WYP) helped integrate educational programs at the Garden that welcome youth directly from the community to experience the new space.
Students enrolled in the Permaculture Program at Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) had the opportunity to engage in a resilient community design process with the Somos Semillas Garden Committee to support the neighborhood in developing the garden. The project and partnership culminated in a 200-page document led by a diverse group of students about visioning, plants, and climate resilience.
Somos Semillos Garden was one of three SBEE (Santa Barbara Ecological and Edible) Garden Project partners that received a 2021 Golden Leaf Award from Santa Barbara Beautiful for achieving community beautification while collaborating to build a more resilient, equitable food system through edible gardens.
In the fall of 2021, 60 Oaxacan green corn plants were harvested from the Garden. From planting the seeds to tending the soil, the neighborhood was a part of the process from seed to harvest. Community leaders shared knowledge and skills and everyone went home with corn husks to make tamales.
The Garden was one of four sites that received a two-year capacity and support grant through the California Alliance of Community Composting (CACC) to develop community oriented composting projects in Santa Barbara County. Goals include:
- Engage with Santa Barbara’s lower Westside neighborhood and El Centro’s network of organizers to develop food scrap drop-off locations where they can teach members how to compost their food waste.
- Track the amount of organic matter diverted from the landfill and highlight the amount of carbon mitigated as a result.
- Coordinate efforts among other three sites to create a system of holistic impact that can develop into a long-term solution for reducing food waste.
- Lay the groundwork for implementation in 2022.
Future plans for activation:
In 2022, the Somos Semillas Garden Collective will launch a comprehensive composting and education program that will coordinate with other composting sites to lay the groundwork for a countywide model for diverting food waste from the landfill and contributing to climate goals.
El Centro hopes the Somos Semillas Garden will bloom into a cooperative and replicable model for community gardens throughout Santa Barbara County.
- “This community-led project sought out leadership from those most excluded from the food system in Santa Barbara and provided food access and food sovereignty through the garden. Our success is built on the fact that people are showing up and want to take on leadership roles, which has led to other kinds of member investment.”
- “We advocate for what the community wants. Being able to stipend people has allowed a lot of leverage for growth to happen and community voices to be advocates for the design process and development of the garden.”
- “There is so much abundance of food in this region, but the diversity of people that have access to the food has not been reflected.”
- “This grassroots project has led to skill building, learning, community, and intergenerational connection.”