Sustainable Solano Hosts Virtual Demonstration Food Forest Garden Tour, Talk April 25


Sustainable Solano is bringing its annual Demonstration Food Forest Garden tour online this year as an interactive talk and virtual tour. Due to coronavirus (COVID-19), the nonprofit organization has reimagined the tour in a way that allows participants to join the talk and experience a garden from the comfort of their homes.

About the Tour:

  • Virtual Demonstration Food Forest Garden Tour & Talk
  • 10-11:45 am Saturday, April 25
  • The event will feature a talk by permaculture expert John Valenzuela, followed by a short video tour of one of Sustainable Solano’s demonstration food forest gardens and leaving time for a Q&A session with Valenzuela at the end. The event, hosted on Zoom, will be open to the first 100 people who join that morning. Everyone who registers will also receive a link to the recording of the talk and tour after the live event.
  • Participants must register to get the Zoom link. Register here:

The live April 25 talk from John Valenzuela of Cornucopia Food Forest Gardens will cover permaculture and explore how permaculture follows nature as a guide in the garden, our communities and beyond. He will plant ideas on what participants can do today to begin a journey into permaculture and bring these concepts into their own gardens. Valenzuela will discuss how to design a tree guild of plants that work together, the elements of a food forest garden, wise sources of water and expanding that vision to create Resilient Neighborhoods. Together, participants will watch a guided virtual video tour of a demonstration food forest garden that shows what can be done to create edible, waterwise landscapes that support communities and provide natural habitat. The tour will show how capturing rainwater, roof water and greywater from weekly laundry can support a garden that works in harmony with nature. There will be time for a question and answer session at the end.

Valenzuela is a horticulturist, consultant and educator. First introduced to the sustainable design theories and methods of permaculture in 1989, he has studied, practiced and taught permaculture in Hawaii, Washington, Costa Rica and throughout California. His special interests are rare fruit, home gardening, trees, traditional agriculture, plant propagation and ethnobotany. 

This talk and the video tour will launch a series of virtual garden tours from Sustainable Solano. The organization will post virtual tours of demonstration food forest gardens throughout the county. Each garden is a unique experience: some are compact front yards, others are on a slope, some share space with animals and small children, some are allowed to grow without restriction, while others are more manicured. They all are lush, food-producing gardens that are fed by secondary water sources (laundry-to-landscape greywater and rainwater) that offer inspiration for home gardens!

John Valenzuela’s talk is sponsored by Republic Services; the tour and Solano Sustainable Backyards program are made possible by the generous support of the Solano County Water Agency


Useful links:

Solano Sustainable Backyards:

John Valenzuela:

Resilient Neighborhoods:

About Sustainable Solano

Sustainable Solano is a countywide nonprofit organization that is dedicated to “Nurturing Initiatives for the Good of the Whole.” The organization, now in its second decade, brings together programs that support and sustain one another and the Solano County community. Initiatives include sustainable landscaping, local food, resilient neighborhoods, sustaining conversations and community gardens.

Sustainable Solano Offers Online Farm-to-Table Cooking Classes Featuring Specialty Crops


Sustainable Solano is bringing its farm-to-table cooking class series online. The classes highlight how to prepare seasonal, local food in healthy dishes.

While classes were originally planned to start in March, best practices for addressing health and safety with coronavirus (COVID-19) mean that in-person classes have been postponed until a later date. But that has opened an opportunity to reach more class participants by offering some of the planned classes online, starting with live classes on April 9 and April 18. Participants will have the opportunity to see a demonstration cooking class for a seasonal salad made with ingredients directly from local farms in Solano and nearby counties. They will also be able to ask questions over Zoom video conferencing.

Sustainable Solano, a nonprofit organization that has been working to build community interest in local food, plans 88 cooking classes around Solano County in the next two years. These cooking classes include those for the general public taught in the community as well as those taught through employee wellness programs, and are part of Sustainable Solano’s larger vision to create an environmentally sustainable, economically viable and socially just local food system in Solano County.

The classes highlight local specialty crops, which include fruit, vegetables, beans, tree nuts and culinary herbs.

Class participants will learn about CSAs, or Community Supported Agriculture. CSAs create a way for community members to buy a share of the harvest directly from local farmers. Customers pay a set amount and receive a box of seasonal produce or other farm products in return. Such arrangements help farmers receive a greater share of the money paid, bring customers fresh, local produce and promote health, community and the local economy.

Stay tuned for more cooking classes coming soon at and by subscribing to the Sustainable Solano newsletter here.


Here is information on the first two classes:

 Farm-to-Table Cooking Class

4 pm, April 9 (Thursday)

Register for a Zoom link


Join Sustainable Solano’s Local Food Program Manager Stephanie Oelsligle Jordan for a lively online demonstration cooking class that celebrates spring ingredients and supports local farmers. Learn tips and tricks for storing ingredients and cooking seasonally from a CSA box. Using Solano-grown specialty crops, Chef Steph will prepare a Spring Salad with Peas, Pistachios & Pecorino with Lemon Vinaigrette.

To register:


Farm-to-Table Cooking Class

11 am, April 18 (Saturday)

Register for Zoom link


Join Sustainable Solano’s Local Food Program Manager Stephanie Oelsligle Jordan for a lively online demonstration cooking class that celebrates spring ingredients and supports local farmers. Learn tips and tricks for storing ingredients and cooking seasonally from a CSA box. Using Solano-grown specialty crops, Chef Steph will prepare an Asparagus Salad with Sesame-Tangerine Vinaigrette.

To register:


Funding for promotion of specialty crops through cooking classes was made possible by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service through grant AM190100XXXXG008. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necesssarily represent the official views of the USDA.


CSA Farm Spotlight: Be Love Farm

By Sustainable Solano

This is an ongoing series profiling local farms that have Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) available in Solano County. CSAs create a way for community members to buy a share of the harvest directly from local farmers. Customers pay a set amount and receive a box of seasonal produce or other farm products in return. Such arrangements help farmers receive a greater share of the money paid, bring customers fresh, local produce and promote health, community and the local economy.

Emma Dotta in the fields at Be Love Farm, where she lives and works

Matthew and Terces Engelhart started Be Love Farm more than a decade ago with a dedication to regenerative farming. The family-owned farm is supported by plants and animals working together to grow healthy food in a way that emulates natural systems. Fields that produce annuals one year are then returned to perennial grasses for cows and chickens for at least two years.

Terces said she and Matthew started the farm to provide food for the restaurants they own and themselves, but also to nurture young upcoming farmers and provide a space where their grandchildren could roam freely and learn about food and animals.

The farm produces fruit, vegetables and nuts and a variety of other goods, including wine. Be Love Farm has a farm stand on-site for everything from nuts and produce to pizza, sauces and other value-add products and is now introducing a CSA for pickup at the farm. Packed in baskets, the CSA could include seasonal produce, eggs, olive oil, wine, nuts and bread.

Below is a Q&A with Terces about Be Love Farm:


  • Be Love Farm
  • Vacaville
  • 21 acres
  • Established 2008


When did you start offering a CSA? Why was it important to offer?

This is our first CSA offering. We want to make food available for our local community.

What’s something that makes your farm stand out?

I suppose the diversification. We do everything from wine to nuts and sourdough.

Anything exciting on the horizon? What do you see happening and what do you want to see happen with interest in local food?

We love sharing our farm and what it produces with others. It has been a 12-year project of love to develop our small family farm. Eating local and fresh food is one of the healthiest choices a person can make.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Contact for additional information.

Be Love Farm has the CSA available for pickup at the farm. Learn more about signing up through contacting them at

Find out more about local CSAs here.

Rogue Radishes!

By Stephanie Oelsligle Jordan, Local Food Program Manager and Chef

I’ve never been a fan of raw radishes. They were always on my Grandma Agnes’ “relish plate” with pickled beets, something that looked like a cornichon and maybe some herring. Fast forward about 25 years, and I’m standing in my kitchen with my friend Bryan from culinary school.

“I’m not fond of radishes,” he says in his South African-British accent.

“Me neither,” I replied. “What should we do with them?”

We stood there looking at the radishes, as though they were mischievous children.

“Wait,” he said. “I’ve got an idea,” and he got out my saute pan.

And that was that! When these little gems hit the heat, they lose that horseradish-y bite and become almost like a potato (but more interesting). Sauteing them with olive oil plus a little butter is still my favorite quick and easy weeknight solution for a bunch of radishes, but they can also be roasted, braised and even grilled! And don’t forget pickling! Here are a couple of easy radish recipes (Braised Radishes
and Spicy Quick-Pickled Radishes
) to elevate them beyond a salad ingredient. Enjoy! -Chef Steph

Braised Radishes


1 T. olive oil and/or butter
1 medium shallot, minced
20 medium radishes, leaves and stems removed (about 1 pound after trimming)
1/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 t. minced fresh chives
Salt and pepper, to taste

Halve radishes if small, or quarter them if large. Place olive oil/butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the shallot and cook until softened, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the radishes and cook 1 minute longer (it’s OK if they sear and brown a bit, which adds flavor).

Add the broth, cover and cook, stirring once or twice, until the radishes are tender, about 10 minutes.

Remove the cover and simmer until the liquid thickens slightly, about 1 minute.

Add the chives andseason with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen 

Spicy Quick-Pickled Radishes


1 bunch radishes (any variety)
¾ cup white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
¾ cup water
3 T. honey / maple syrup
2 t. salt
½ – 1 t. red pepper flakes (the full 1 t. will be spicy)
½ t. whole mustard seeds
Optional additions: garlic cloves, black peppercorns, fennel seeds, coriander seeds

Remove tops and bottoms of radishes and slice into very thin rounds (a chef’s knife or mandoline works well). Toss the rounds with red pepper flakes, mustard seeds and any other optional additions, then pack them into pint-sized canning jars.

In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, honey/syrup and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, then pour the mixture over the radishes.

Let the mixture cool to room temperature and serve (or cover and refrigerate for later). Serve on tacos, sandwiches, salads, or anywhere you need a little zing!

Makes about 1 ¼ cup.

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

Design Workshop Guides Participants In Sustainable Garden Transformation

By Kassie Munro and Nicole Newell, Program Managers

Permaculture designer Ojan Mobedshahi leads the Sustainable Garden Design Workshop in Vallejo

We are continually striving to find the best way to provide as many people as possible with the tools they need to transform their outdoor space into a more regenerative landscape, but we don’t have the capacity to install gardens for every interested homeowner. We created the Sustainable Garden Design Workshop with the hope that this resource can help get more people started with one of the most challenging parts of a landscape project — the design. The workshop provided an opportunity for attendees to be guided by a professional designer through the whole systems thinking design process with a focus on wise water management, soil health and permaculture elements.

Mary and Ben were selected to be our first hosts. They opened their 120-year-old home in Vallejo for this workshop with the desire to have a front yard garden to showcase sustainability, share the bounty with their neighbors and create a place for their daughter to play. The class instantly received a ton of interest; it was full with a waiting list in a matter of days.

Permaculture designer Ojan Mobedshahi led the day’s workshop with the grace, insight and playfulness that we have come to expect from him. Ojan has partnered with us on designing the Resilient Neighborhood homes in Vallejo, and when this opportunity arose we jumped at the chance to work with him to develop a new offering for the community.

Ojan started the day’s discussion with an acknowledgement of place and asked attendees to honor the indigenous communities whose land we are residing on in Vallejo. He also spoke of the indigenous people whose land he lives on in Oakland, displaying respect and humility that set a mindful tone for the day. Lessons on fundamental permaculture and landscape design elements followed, which felt much more like a group discussion than a tutorial — Ojan has a way of making everyone feel at ease and open with each other. We discussed a range of topics from water cycles and management to the different use sectors around a home.

Participants in the workshop assessed the yards and worked on designs for their own properties

The learning continued outside where the group walked Ben and Mary’s front and back yards with Ojan’s guidance, completing a site assessment and beginning to identify real-world design challenges and opportunities for this space. Ben and Mary were incredibly candid with everyone about their challenges with the space, and there was a wonderful amount of wisdom offered by attendees who shared experiences in their own lives to add to the learning process. While this portion of the workshop focused specifically on one unique home and all its quirks, the teaching was deeply valuable and transferable to any space. The reality that most of us face with our yards is a complex web of existing features and nuanced obstacles (or a blank canvas, which can often be the most challenging of all!). Ojan taught us not what to think, but HOW to think and approach the design process the way he does in his role as a designer. After the site assessment, it was time to get all of the wonderful ideas down on paper. The remainder of the workshop focused on creating a design for Ben and Mary’s home and a working session for attendees to begin applying some of what they had learned to their own space. This time was a chance to brainstorm together, ask questions and collaborate.

This workshop, as with all of our events, served not only as a place to learn about sustainable landscaping practices but also as a time for people to connect with each other, sparking wonderful conversations. Mary’s dad, Larry, told us about spekbom, a succulent shrub that is being used to sequester carbon in South Africa. Ojan also talked about the other hat he wears: Not only is he a Regenerative Permaculture designer, but he also is the finance director for East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative. This organization works with the community to create a permanent affordable housing solution in the East Bay.

At the end of the day, Ojan was able to gift our host homeowners with a design for their property that they can use as a jumping-off point to begin their yard transformation, and we are so excited to see what they create! Our next design workshop will follow the redesign of an expanding demonstration food forest in Benicia. We hope to be able to offer more sustainable garden design workshops in the future. Keep an eye on our calendar for the latest workshops, and subscribe to our monthly newsletter for updates. Let us know if you want to bring a design workshop to your city or have ideas on other workshops that would help support your yard transformation by sending an email to