One Cool Earth is excited to welcome Dan Cano as our new Executive Director! Since officially taking over the Executive Director role on August 1st from interim director Greg Ellis, Dan has been visiting school sites, getting to know the staff and meeting with numerous community partners.
Dan adds, "I’m excited about the opportunity to work with such a talented and passionate staff. After only a few days on the job, I’ve watched our Garden Educators work on everything from curriculum development to irrigation and composting. They are truly well-rounded individuals. As a parent, I can only hope that my daughter has the opportunity to spend time with such great role-models and educators."
Prior to joining One Cool Earth, Dan was the Community Food Programs Manager at SLO Food Bank Coalition. He also served 5 years as Executive Director of The Link Family Resource Center, a nonprofit that fosters a safe, healthy, and thriving community by linking children, youth, and families with programs and services to address their unique needs.
While Dan continues to support children and youth, he is also now promoting school garden programs. He claims funding will be the most challenging part of his role. Dan expresses, "That's true for all organizations working to solve big problems. I think the challenge is that we’re breaking into nontraditional education environments and many teachers and administrators may not see the value in it. Instead of walls and clean desks, our classroom is alive and growing. Our school gardens are truly an outdoor laboratory; without the thousands of dollars needed for microscopes and chemical resistant counter tops. Thankfully in our county, we have some of the most open and progressive educators in our state, but there is still much work to be done.
The job of a One Cool Earth Executive Director is complex. The broad goal is to lead the advancement of school gardens within San Luis Obispo County’s public schools, aiming to support thriving school gardens at all 43 elementary schools in SLO County. But each school is unique and has individual needs, and it is through relationships that Dan determines the support, services, experiences, and inspiration our Earth Genius program needs to succeed. With relationships and strategic planning, the executive director influences the growth of children.
When asking Dan about his primary goal at the start of One Cool Earth's director positions, he conveys, "My primary goal is to continue to build relationships within our community. Like any small organization or business, leadership change can be disruptive and uncomfortable if relationships and organizational culture are not honored. One Cool Earth has been developing its presence for over a decade, and honoring its path is my first priority".
So far, building relationships are what has been happening within him, the staff, and community partners. Dan says his favorite part since working with OCE is working with Mr. Greg Ellis, our outgoing Director. He adds, "I met Greg in 2011 in a collaborative grant with One Cool Earth, SLO County Probation, and The LINK to support the garden at Liberty High School in Paso Robles. Since then I’ve watched One Cool Earth grow into a mature organization with an organically developed curriculum, incredibly gifted staff, and great partnerships throughout SLO County. I’m really happy that he is staying on as our Growth Officer to continue to expand our impact in the SLO County".
In Dan's free time, he enjoys hiking around the local mountains with friends (like most of us in SLO); however, recently he's been a part-time chauffeur for my 12-year-old daughter who’s very involved swimming with North County Aquatics.
Last, Dan shared his first memory in the garden. He announces, "My first experience was when my father planted a garden in our backyard in West Los Angeles. He was a true child of the 60’s and 70’s and believed that growing food, no matter how small a crop was a way of keeping you grounded and connected to the earth. My sister and I would help him plant the corn and vegetables and I remember the excitement of watching the first sprout rise from the soil".