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Environmental nonprofit acquires 1,000-acre Santa Barbara ranch for regenerative agriculture center

Courtesy of White Buffalo Land Trust

Environmental nonprofit White Buffalo Land Trust acquired a 1,000-acre ranch in Santa Barbara that it will use to create a research and education center focused on regenerative agriculture.

Regenerative agriculture focuses on improving, rather than simply sustaining, agricultural land.

That in turn regenerates topsoil, captures carbon, increases biodiversity, and improves water cycles, according to White Buffalo.

Regenerative agriculture was the idea behind White Buffalo’s $6 million purchase of Jamala Canyon Ranch in Santa Barbara.

The ranch will be the home of a center that the organization calls “a hub for education, training, research and enterprise development.”

Jesse Smith, White Buffalo’s director of land stewardship, said the center will provide things like workshops, technical training and apprenticeship programs for aspiring land stewards.

“So the center specifically will host workshops and courses and field days. We will be modeling different cropping systems and livestock management systems that are appropriate for the climate context and culture of this place, and we will be engaging with ongoing research, collaboration with institutions of higher education and research partners,” Smith said.

Eventually, Smith said, the center will also produce products that people can buy as a way to support regenerative agriculture.

“Ultimately we feel it’s important to bring all this forward into the marketplace, and so enterprise development, product development, so that customers can vote by way of the practice of spending their resources and have an option to choose products that have positive ecological benefits,” Smith said.

Steve Finkel is the founder and president of White Buffalo Land Trust.

“The vision for the acquisition was to preserve the land in perpetuity as a baseline, but also to set up the possibility of something greater,” Finkel said. “And for us, that something greater is demonstrating the power and potential of regenerative agriculture and the principles and practices of regenerative agriculture to actually restore ecosystem through the process of agriculture.”

Finkel said White Buffalo brought multiple sources together including conservation organizations and philanthropists to purchase the land.

“So we think it’s a really innovative model that might inform other projects in the future in the sense that we brought these conservation funders and brought philanthropy and also brought impact investors to the table together,” Finkel said.

Phase one of the Jamala Canyon campaign was raising $6 million to purchase the land. Phase two includes raising $4 million more by May 2022 to support the creation of the research and education center.

To learn more about the land and the center, you can visit the website.

Benjamin Purper was News Director of KCBX from May of 2021 to September of 2023. He came from California’s Inland Empire, where he spent three years as a reporter and Morning Edition host at KVCR in San Bernardino. Dozens of his stories have aired on KQED’s California Report, and his work has broadcast on NPR's news magazines, as well. In addition to radio, Ben has worked as a newspaper reporter and freelance writer.
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