Humane Smarts is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 2012 by Susan Madden Lankford, a San Diego-area author, photographer, and activist.

Susan Madden Lankford, Founder

Our board of directors includes artists, educators, farmers, curators, and experts in the fields of child development, addiction, homelessness, and criminal justice. We believe community interaction can set lives in new directions. We’re excited about the work we’ve begun and look forward to future projects.

Through Humane Smarts, young people are exposed to:

  • Collaborative community gardening
  • Photography and other visual arts
  • Animals and the natural world
  • Opportunities for leadership and self-sufficiency

Our Mission

The mission of Humane Smarts is to open hearts and enrich minds by providing opportunities for creativity and self-sufficiency in San Diego. Our primary focus is underserved young people aged five to 15; our goal is to promote life skills and self-esteem by offering programs in photography and other arts, gardening, and academic enrichment.

Meet the Team

Susan Madden Lankford


In the early 1990s, Susan Madden Lankford began photographing—and befriending—the homeless on the streets of downtown San Diego. Compelled to learn more, she gained access to a women's detention center and soon was shooting within its walls, speaking with candor with inmates and staff. Next, pursuing the link between crime and childhood neglect, she met with young people in juvenile hall, challenging them to face their hopes and fears through artwork and the written word.

Lankford's award-winning books on homelessness, incarceration, and juvenile justice are testament to many years of commitment to complex social issues. Her venture in the realm of documentary film continues this work.

Susan Lankford grew up in the Midwest and holds a BS degree from the University of Nebraska. She attended Ansel Adams' prestigious workshops, studied under such photographic masters as Richard Misrach and Ruth Bernhard, and spent many years as a successful wildlife photographer and portraitist. The parents of three adult daughters, Susan and Rob Lankford live in San Diego.

Polly Lankford Smith


Jim Black (Farmer Jim)

Farming Guide

Tiffany Svorinic

Lead Teacher

Tiffany has a background in Public Health Nutrition and Dietetics. She worked in school nutrition for 7 years where she fell in love with youth garden programs. Through her work with school gardens, she realized the deep impact that growing food has on students’ mental and physical health. Tiffany is so grateful to share her knowledge and passion regarding gardening, cooking and nutrition with the students at SMARTS.

Chef Sandra


Red Velvet the Chicken

Team Leader

As far as pecking order goes, Red Velvet leads them all! His wake up calls are some of the best in the neighborhood.

Come on down to the farm and say hi!

Salt & Pepper

Team Leader

Working for Red, Salt & Pepper, spends her days keeping the youngsters entertained with all her great stories. She can be such a gab sometimes though.

Btw, she'll eat just about anything!

Inaugural Projects

Our two inaugural projects have launched in San Diego’s East Village


Hands-on gardening provides tremendous opportunities for growth, motivation, and respect for the natural world. Our collaborative garden site is thriving.

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MoOPA’s ArtWall

The Museum of Outdoor Photographic Art has unveiled its first exhibit, a 386-foot wall of images evoking the interconnection of communities.

Learn More