Johnson Ohana Foundation Gift Nurtures Explore Ecology’s School Gardens Program

October 06, 2020

The Johnson Ohana Foundation has awarded Santa Barbara nonprofit Explore Ecology a $10,000 donation for general support of its School Gardens Program.

The Johnson Ohana Foundation was founded by musician Jack Johnson and his wife Kim to support environmental, art and music education. Over the last decade, the Johnson Ohana Foundation has directed some $135,000 in grants to support Explore Ecology’s school garden and watershed education programs.

"We are beyond thrilled to receive this generous donation from the Johnson Ohana Foundation," said Lindsay Johnson, Explore Ecology‘s executive director.

Their support of Explore Ecology programs over the past 10 years helps us continue our important work of educating Santa Barbara County youth about food literacy, organic gardening, composting, and healthy food,” she said.

"We thank Johnson Ohana on behalf of Explore Ecology and all of the students and families whose lives are positively impacted by school gardens," she said.

Explore Ecology's School Gardens Program is thriving and producing abundant food, even in the pandemic. Explore Ecology Garden educators have been working to bring the school garden experience to homebound students via virtual lessons and garden tours, at-home DIY projects for kids and families, and Pop Up Harvest Day Markets.

Explore Ecology staff have created online content for teachers and students on topics ranging from red wiggler worms to how to go on a plant walk. They’ve set up projects like Grab and Go Garden Kits with video instructions on how to start seeds. They are also maintaining gardens and harvesting a lot of fresh produce.

Garden educators have made some of the produce available to families for free by holding pop-up markets at several Santa Barbara County schools.

A table at Monroe Elementary, set up on a recent morning, was filled with fresh organic produce including kale, chard, cabbage, fennel, fava beans and herbs. Families practicing safe physical distancing picked up the veggies and took them home to enjoy. The table was bare within 45 minutes.

Explore Ecology is inspiring children to stay connected to their school gardens, eat their vegetables, and spend time in nature. In elementary schools throughout Santa Barbara County, garden educators teach kids how to grow food.

Using the garden as an outdoor classroom, students learn about planting, cultivating, harvesting, composting and nutrition. Students in the School Gardens Program grow organic vegetables, and healthy bodies.

Research shows that children who grow their own food tend to eat more fruits and vegetables, have a greater understanding of ecology, and receive higher test scores in science.

Explore Ecology is an environmental education and arts nonprofit that educates 38,000 children a year. Explore Ecology programs include the Art From Scrap Creative ReUse Store and Gallery, Watershed Resource Center, and School Gardens Program. For more, visit

Most recently, the Johnson Ohana Foundation has supported environmental art projects that integrate the main funding themes of sustainable local food and plastic-free initiatives.

Women Making Waves

October 14, 2019

On October 5th, the Surfrider Foundation hosted our most successful One Ocean event to date to support clean water and healthy beaches. Honoring 'Women Making Waves' and coastal activist, Kim Johnson, founder of the Kōkua Hawai'i Foundation and the Johnson Ohana Foundation, the One Ocean benefit was the second of two annual bicoastal fundraisers to protect the ocean, waves and beaches for the future.

More than 300 guests gathered at the sold-out event at the eco-friendly farm, the Ecology Center, to raise funds to amplify Surfrider’s coastal protection efforts. Attendees were invited to bid on specialty items at a silent auction and enjoy a cocktail hour, gourmet seated dinner curated by celebrity chef Ed Kenney, a lively auction and live performances by Lukas Nelson, Jack Johnson, Zach Gill and Adam Topol. Initiative updates were also shared by Surfrider’s CEO, Dr. Chad Nelsen, on the Surfrider network’s scalable impacts across the country. Notable guests included artists Ethan Estess and Wolfgang Bloch, surfer Alex Grey, brand founder Alex Faherty, film director Emmett Malloy and other leaders from the surf, fashion and music industries. 

A highlight of the evening was the presentation of the prestigious 'Women Making Waves' award, designed by Blakeney Sanford, to Kim Johnson, for her dedication to environmental initiatives and plastic pollution solutions, which have impacted millions of people worldwide. A special guest appearance by Jack Johnson also ended with the auctioning off of a ukulele signed and played by the legendary musician. 

The Surfrider Foundation extends gratitude to the generous sponsors, in-kind and auction donors, and all guests for supporting the protection of our ocean, waves and beaches for the future. Join us next year for Surfrider's One Ocean events!

Reaping What We Sow

October 14, 2019

The Edible Campus Student Farm gets official opening with Kim and Jack Johnson


Photo Credit: MATT PERKO


From the seed of an idea, to seeds in the ground and now, to an actual harvest.

Seven months after the first garden beds were built and planted, the Edible Campus Student Farm at UC Santa Barbara is officially open, growing and providing fresh local produce for students. This milestone for the university’s efforts in sustainability and food security was marked by a ceremony featuring Chancellor Henry T. Yang and prominent alumni Kim and Jack Johnson, supporters of the project from the beginning.

“What’s so great about the student farm and what is growing here is what we’ve been doing in Hawaii: connecting kids to where their food comes from,” Kim Johnson said at the event. “UCSB was the place that we first connected to where our food comes from. That’s why we’re so excited about this student farm. It’s really amazing to see what it is now and what it will be in the future.”

An inaugural workday at the 12,000 square-foot parcel last spring saw construction of six garden beds and the installation of irrigation; nine more were erected over the summer, with more on the way. Plans call for 32 raised beds altogether, plus a greenhouse, which is forthcoming later this fall.

All the planting to date — a mix of seasonable vegetables — has been done using compost and soil amendments direct from the Department of Public Worms (DPW), a composting collective run by Associated Students, which oversees daily operations of the new farm.

“It’s been so much fun to watch this farm develop and slowly come together,” Jack Johnson agreed. “It’s fun for us to come here and work some days and to see it evolving. There are so many big concepts in life we can learn from a garden. For me it’s a place where I can say, a lot of my songs were written after a day of gardening and observing things and watching change.”

The Johnsons have been partners and mentors on Edible Campus, a multifaceted food sustainability initiative, since its inception and, through their Johnson Ohana Foundation, devoted donors to the project.

“The Edible Campus Student Farm will play a vital role in our campus sustainability practices and in our role to address the food security and basic needs of our community,” Chancellor Yang said in thanking the Johnsons. “We are working to ensure that our students have access to healthy, sustainable foods.”

Once all three Edible Campus installations — the orange trees, the tower garden and now, the farm — are in full production mode, UC Santa Barbara hopes to double, from 25,000 pounds to 50,000 pounds, the amount of fresh produce distributed annually by the A.S. Food Bank.

Kim Johnson Supports Schools Growing Food

October 14, 2019

Explore Ecology’s Edible Education Symposium Honors UCSB Alum

Photo: Ryan FoleyGetting kids to better understand where their food comes from is why Kim Johnson supports edible education initiatives.


Soon after graduating from UC Santa Barbara, Kim and Jack Johnson set a new mold for the music industry by using their success and influence to push for sustainability at concert venues and call attention to critical issues, meanwhile dedicating profits to earth-minded and social-justice causes.
One such cause is Explore Ecology, which, among other initiatives, manages campus gardens across Santa Barbara County. And this year, they’ve launched a Farm to Toast program, where children will learn how to grow, harvest, and mill wheat and then make bread at school. 
The nonprofit is hosting the Santa Barbara Edible Education Symposium on October 11 and 12, offering farm tours on Friday and workshops and panel talks all day Saturday at La Cumbre Junior High. The event culminates in a Saturday night harvest dinner that will honor Kim Johnson with its first ever Edible Education Leadership Award. She recently answered a few of my questions about her support. 
How did you choose to go all-in on this project?  I have been a fan of Explore Ecology since I discovered Art From Scrap as an art student at UCSB over 25 years ago. Since then, I’ve watched them grow, adding more programs over the years, and my husband, Jack, and I have supported these programs through the Johnson Ohana Foundation for over a decade. When Explore Ecology jumped in to take over the management of school gardens across Santa Barbara County, it was in perfect alignment with what I had been doing in Hawai‘i through our Kōkua Hawaiʻi Foundation’s ʻĀINA in Schools program. Both programs connect kids to where their food comes from through school gardens, locally grown food in school meals, and nutrition education. 
Tell us about the concept of “edible education” and why it’s important.  On the surface, edible education is about growing food with kids so they can experience the entire process from seed to plate: planting a seed, watering it, watching it grow, harvesting, and then tasting it. My favorite thing is to see kids biting into a fresh green bean or tomato that they’ve helped to grow and loving it! Edible education generates excitement around fresh fruits and vegetables, which can evolve into healthier eating choices. But it’s more than that! The school garden is a living laboratory where every subject area can come to life and provide tangible experiences for students. You can learn so many things in a garden; it’s an amazing outdoor classroom. 
When did you realize that there was a disconnect between today’s youth and where our food comes from?  I think the disconnect began with my generation. I grew up as a child of the ’80s when TV dinners, packaged food, and sugary cereals were the norm for most households. As I got older, I realized that it’s typical for young people to think food comes from the grocery store, where produce is often packaged in plastic and shipped from far away.
My own agricultural literacy began here in Santa Barbara, where as a college student I worked at a local farm stand as well as at a small family-owned restaurant. These experiences opened my eyes to the amazing world of locally grown, seasonal produce, inspiring Jack and me to start our own garden at our Isla Vista rental. There is an incredible connection made when growing your own food, and for kids to have this opportunity starting at a young age is invaluable and will stay with them a lifetime. 
Is this idea being expanded to other regions?  California as a whole has a large number of long-standing farm-to-school and edible education organizations and programs and continues to grow each year. The edible education movement is spreading worldwide as more people become aware of the importance of school gardens and increasing students’ knowledge of food cultivation, cooking, and nutrition. 
Edible education brings nature into the classroom and the classroom into nature! That’s why Jack and I appreciate the Explore Ecology School Garden Program, which reaches 14,000 students at 38 local schools. The Johnson Ohana Foundation supports similar programs around the region, including Food for Thought Ojai, and worldwide because all kids deserve to have access to healthy food. And what better way to do that than through a school garden?
Where do you see this going in the next 5-10 years?  The future of edible education is in creating a localized closed loop, beneficial for students, the local food system, and the environment. Composting food waste on-site and using the final product as a soil amendment keeps waste out of the landfill and teaches students science, soil biology, and waste reduction. By utilizing local growers and producers, we reduce the overall negative impact that our food can have on the environment. 
We hope that state and federal governments across the nation will recognize the benefits of farm-to-school programs and edible education on a broader scale and that every school will have funding to support these programs. Research shows that children who learn how to grow food get higher test scores in science, tend to eat more fruits and vegetables, and have a greater understanding of ecology.

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