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GreenNet: Collaboration builds social capital

The Issue

It is generally agreed that the children of low-income families have fewer opportunities to succeed in today's society.

What Has ANR Done?

The Neighborhood GreenNet Project is a collaborative project engaging low-income families and their children in small horticultural (green) business startups that utilize cutting-edge computer technology. By working with these families, the program strives to direct youth toward a path of responsible, self-directed and productive membership in society. GreenNet is a collaboration of the Santa Barbara County 4-H/Cooperative Extension program and the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara.

The project provides 10 weeks of hands-on training to K-12 at-risk children in the areas of gardening, computer technology and entrepreneurship. Children work alongside their parents to design small enterprise gardening projects that benefit from state-of-the-art information technology for research, planning and development of markets. Teen volunteers mentor younger children, who in turn help teach their parents such things as how to access information technology to enhance their family gardening projects.

The Payoff

GreenNet helps change lives and improve community

Since 1998, GreenNet has involved more than 550 youth and 350 housing resident families from the City of Santa Barbara. The majority of the teen participants in GreenNet have gone on to college, and several have elected to major in business, technology, science or science-related fields. These teens said their GreenNet experiences helped them develop work skills and self-confidence. A Family Opportunity Learning Center with a computer lab and Arroyo Gardens garden learning center were developed on housing authority property. Various micro-enterprise projects, including a native plant nursery and a cut-flower project, were launched. In the past, vandalism, including graffiti and intentional damage to landscaping and property, have been a serious problem for the housing authority. Prior to GreenNet, property damage repairs cost more than $60,000 a year, not including the cost of policing the property. After just one year of the program, housing property damage costs had dropped to near zero. This change was attributed by the police and the housing property management to GreenNet. In 2002, GreenNet was selected as a National Program of Excellence by the USDA.


A. Michael Marzolla,(805) 452-7108, ammarzolla@ucdavis.edu, http://greennet.ucdavis.edu