Dylan Jones Executive Director Central coast native, Dylan was born and raised in Santa Maria. He left California to study Environmental Science at Willamette University. While at Willamette he found his passion for the environment and local food systems while walking the amazing conifer forests the North West provides. After college he served with the Center for Natural Lands Management as an Americorps restoration tech. Not getting enough Americorps, and missing home, Dylan came back to the Central Coast to serve as an Americorps Volunteer Coordinator with GleanSLO. GleanSLO helped with his understanding of local community needs and he is very excited to make a difference in his home communities.
Greg Ellis-Valencia Growth Officer Greg grew up in Wyoming, but came to San Luis in 2003 to attend Cal Poly. He began volunteering with One Cool Earth in 2005, helping Lionel plant trees and carry environmental education programs and service learning projects to over a dozen schools in the county. After graduating from Cal Poly with an English degree, Greg began grant writing for One Cool Earth. Greg returned to school temporarily to study sustainability in the Materials Engineering department of Cal Poly, but soon dropped out to work with OCE full time. In 2010, Greg was hired through AmeriCorps to work full time with OCE developing volunteer infrastructure and programs. After AmeriCorps, Greg was hired onto OCE as a full-time staff member. In 2013 he became a Director. In his free time he enjoys music, friends, food, and the great outdoors.
Miranda Beal Communications Coordinator Miranda graduated from University of California, Santa Barbara where she majored in Environmental Studies. Born and raised in Santa Maria, the Central Coast has always been her home. Miranda appreciates how nonprofits seek to improve the quality of life for our region. She hopes to strengthen environmental education in the community by working together to create outdoor classrooms. In her spare time, you can find Miranda running outdoors, trying a new recipe from Pinterest, hanging out with her family, or solving a Sudoku.
Mckenna Lenhart Program Coordinator McKenna grew up in Denver, Colorado and moved to California in 2013 to attend California Lutheran University. With a major in Environmental Science and a minor in Fine Arts, McKenna graduated with the intention of learning more about what it means to live in stewardship and partnership with the natural world, and to share that experience with others. Since moving to Morro Bay in 2016, McKenna has managed a CSA-type company, worked as a nursery and hydroponic job coach for a adults with disabilities, received her permaculture design certification and grant writing certification. Each of these experiences made McKenna aware of the human to earth disconnect, and ignited an interest to help others re-create a sense of wonder in the environment. In her free time, McKenna enjoys painting and drawing, surfing, hiking, and working with cob.
Brandon Sanders Garden Maintenance Specialist Brandon attended high school in Templeton, and graduated from Sonoma State University with a degree in Environmental Studies: Conservation and Restoration, and a minor in Biology. Doing so allowed him to reflect on and assess the impacts of the type of large-scale, conventional agriculture that he was raised around. With a desire to have a more positive impact through agriculture, he moved back to the Central Coast after graduating, and began farming vegetables to feed his community, combining prior farming experience from with his new understanding of natural systems and environmental protection. Brandon has found a home at OCE, where he can continue to put technical knowledge of infrastructure, irrigation, and growing systems to good use and further aid his community and the next generation of farmers and eaters. In addition to tending to plants, he enjoys camping, cooking, and playing percussion and drums.
Our Garden Educator Managers
Natalie Perez Pacheco Elementary Natalie grew up watching her Nona and family dancing around the kitchen using fresh ingredients to whip up wholesome meals for the family to enjoy. This served as an inspiration to remain connected to her source of food and her community. She more often than not found herself outside in the dirt and under a tree, with an innate affinity for nature and life of all kinds. She studied Viticulture at Cal Poly where she strongly found her calling to be a node for change in the way of environmental protection. Natalie is humbled by the power children possess on this planet and is so excited to hold space for them to learn sustainable ways of living in harmony with the earth. Natalie believes in making play one of her priorities. Getting outside for a hike or in the water for a swim, she values the healing that comes from nature and all its wonder. She loves to garden and is hungry to learn more of all there is to know about land stewardship.
Gloria Wilson San Benito Elementary, Atascadero Continuation High School, ECHO Shelter A certified permaculture designer and life-long gardener, Gloria has a deep love for the natural world. When she is not climbing trees or writing poetry, she can be found working on earthen building projects, practicing primitive skills, and farming at the rural community and education center she helped found: Loving Earth Sanctuary.
Teresa “Tree” Lees Los Ranchos Elementary Teresa has firsthand experience in permaculture, classroom teaching, Garden Based Learning (GBL) in school gardens and nature based education. Teresa, aka “Tree” connected kids to nature in the Laureate School garden where she was the Life Lab teacher for three years. She also served with San Luis Obispo Master Gardeners for ten years, conducting teacher trainings in the Sunshine Demonstration Garden, disseminating curriculum resources and providing consultations to local school gardens. She has been both a classroom teacher and a Naturalist for outdoor schools. Teresa spent a decade as the Children’s Education Coordinator at the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden where she created interpretive garden areas and kids’ programs including a children’s Food Forest, Native Peoples & Plants garden, solar fountain, and straw bale benches. She currently organizes the SLO Permaculture Guild and the Global Family children’s garden at City Farm where she conducts the FARMGIRLS Summer Camp. She also is a Garden Nutrition Educator with the UCCE CalFresh program.
Guadalupe Ramirez Dorothea Lange Elementary and Mary Buren Elementary Guadalupe was born in Santa Maria and raised in Guadalupe. Being raised in Guadalupe made me have a connection to the environment and local crop farms at a very young age. She believes other kids should also have that connection to the environment and learn where their food comes from and how it was grown. Lupe plans on graduating from Cal Poly SLO with a degree in Agriculture Science and work locally once she graduates. In her free time, I enjoy stopping by her Guadalupe beach and admire the ocean, at times she has seen whales and dolphins. She also enjoys hiking locally, meeting new people, traveling and being familiar with their local traditions and foods.
Harlee Clarke Santa Rosa Academic Academy and Virginia Peterson Elementary Harlee was born and raised on the Central Coast and earned her BS in Clinical Nutrition from Cal Poly. She has always loved bringing people together with food while working as a Baker and Pastry Chef in previous years. Her deep-rooted passion has evolved into educating families about nutrition and providing access to gardening, harvesting, and preparing beautiful meals with fresh fruits and vegetables. She strives to close the gap of fresh food accessibility and fight for food literacy. In her spare time, you can find her practicing yoga or in the mountains with her bike and her dog.
Chris Elliott Founder & President With formal training in art and business, Chris is a natural entrepreneur and has founded and managed several successful companies. Chris brings creativity and a strong business mind to the OCE team. Cleveland, Ohio 1969, the Cuyahoga River erupted in flames. 1971, I moved from my parent’s nice house in the suburbs to live above the river, across from the steel mills. The river and air were still an open sewer. At first I was angry, at everyone. Eventually I came to understand. Close to the mills were the poor trying to survive and forget where they lived. In the suburbs, they viewed the river fouling as the price of progress. Each had a position and a set of solid facts to support it. I couldn’t pick a side, didn’t know what to do, so I moved away. Today after many ventures, I’m not so much an environmentalist as a realist. In the end, debating the facts doesn’t matter because you can’t move far enough away…
Sue Elliott Office Manager & Founder Sue co-founded the nonprofit along with her husband Chris and has accounting and management skills that help keep One Cool Earth operating from day to day.
Lionel Dennis Johnson Founder Lionel’s background in project management as a ironworker’s foreman. Since his retirement 20 years ago, Lionel has volunteered countless hours and materials to promote native trees. Lionel co-founded One Cool Earth with Chris and Sue Elliott to increase environmental education and protection in the county.
Cathy Cuthbert Treasurer Cathy is a dedicated community volunteer and leader. She has a long interest in the role of nutrition and health. Combined with a savvy business sense she is well versed in fiscal responsibility. Her years of working for non-profits in our community attest to her dedication and commitment.