CSA Farm Spotlight: Lockewood Acres

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.

Ben Lyons of Lockewood Acres


Ben and Denise Lyons started their family farm in Vacaville after facing the challenges of the 2010 downturn. Looking for work and afraid of going hungry, Ben Lyons started farming.
“It was more out of self-sustainability as opposed to being a farmer, and then it just grew into a whole lot more,” he said.

Ben, who had gone to school to be a veterinarian, had worked a range of jobs from construction and glass work to selling custom stuffed animals at state fairs and rodeos. Denise works in the Solano County District Attorney’s office as a criminalist supervisor. Inspired by a 1954 publication on the benefits of earthworms and farming for self-sustenance, they started the small organic farm and developed a passion for farming.

“We pretty much invested all we had and built the rest on Craigslist and garage sales,” Ben said. “The first piece of brand-new equipment I bought was a wagon, and it cost $150.”

Below is a Q&A with Ben about Lockewood Acres:

  • Lockewood Acres
  • Vacaville
  • 9 acres
  • Certified 2012


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

In the beginning, that was the beauty of this business model: You got your money up-front, they [CSA members] invest in you. I didn’t have to go to the banks, which is what caused all the problems in 2009. That was the purpose and beauty of the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) business model.

Recently, because the corporations have gotten involved and deliver direct to your door, I really can’t compete with that. People don’t understand the difference. They say it’s local, but local is relative.

Are there special perks for CSA members? Why do people tend to subscribe?

The beauty about mine is everything you get in your basket, it’s grown here. We have fruit and vegetables, olive oil — they can add on eggs or flowers. Everything in our CSA is from the farm and it is organic. For people in Vacaville, you can’t get much closer. I am on the edge of the city limits.

What’s something that makes your farm stand out?

It’s truly a family farm. We do everything. I grow it, my wife manufactures the value-added and my daughter designs all the logos. Every once in awhile I get my grandson to help.

We have pomegranate jelly, shrubs and syrup: an award-winning pomegranate–merlot jelly, red and white wine vinegar, spiced elderberry herb syrup for the upcoming cold season made with local honey, and kombucha kits, just to name a few things we offer. We also make salts from the products we grow: We have a roasted garlic salt, a Brandywine tomato salt, garlic scape salt, our own Sriracha pepper salt, which is all combined with local Sonoma sea salt. Plus we are always adding new things!

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

The state has passed a couple of cool bills. One is AB626. You can now cook out of your own kitchen and serve people without being shut down by public health.

Eventually we want to start a teaching kitchen, but we have to work with the county to navigate their roadblocks. They want everything perfect to start, but it takes money to make money.

We’re working on [regulation changes] with the Pleasants Valley Ag Association. There needs to be a stepping stone or graduated requirements in order for a small business to get started. The money hurdle that they put in order to do all these things is what really hinders people from proceeding legally. I understand what regulations are for, some of them … but there just needs to be a graduated permit standard in order to bring things in compliance without breaking the bank.

Anything else you’d like to add?

We have U-pick, we do the classes, we had an open farm event in May. We’re going to have a Harvest Dinner on Oct. 19 — we’re actually going to run that through The Barn & Pantry [in Dixon]. The cool thing about the Harvest Dinner is everything at the dinner is made from the farm — the meat, cheese, wine, everything. [Those interested in the Harvest Dinner can contact the farm for more details.]

Lockewood Acres has Solano County CSA drop sites at the farm, the Vacaville farmers market and Sweet Pea’s in Vacaville and at The Barn & Pantry in Dixon. Learn more about how to sign up here.

Lockewood Acres will host any other site to drop CSA boxes off at with a minimum of 20 paid members. The farm offers different sizes  and options to make it convenient for our customers,  full shares, half shares and skip shares. Call Farmer Ben for more details!

Find out more about local CSAs here.

Sustainable Solano Seeking Dixon, Rio Vista Residents Interested in Sustainable Edible Gardens

Sustainable Solano is gauging interest in Dixon and Rio Vista for its Sustainable Backyards program, which creates waterwise, edible food forest gardens.

During the month of August, the organization will be assessing the interest in installing food forest gardens at public and private sites. The creation of these gardens serves as hands-on educational workshops for local residents. Community members attend workshops that involve digging rainwater-capturing swales, spreading mulch, installing laundry-to-landscape greywater systems, and planting shade and fruit trees and surrounding guilds of plants that work together to create a healthy, vibrant garden. These workshops help participants gain the skills and knowledge needed to bring these ideas back to their own gardens and neighborhoods.

Dixon or Rio Vista residents who have a private or public site in mind for a garden can fill out the Sustainable Landscaping Interest Form.

The Solano Sustainable Backyards program is made possible through the generous support of the Solano County Water Agency.


For more information on the program, contact Sustainable Landscaping Program Manager Nicole Newell at nicole@sustainablesolano.org. For interviews or photos, contact Communications Manager Allison Nagel at allison@sustainablesolano.org.


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. 

For more information, email info@sustainablesolano.org or visit sustainablesolano.org

Partner Insight: ‘The Biggest Little Farm’ and Supporting Local Farmers

 Courtesy of Eatwell Farm

We wanted to share with you some thoughts on ‘The Biggest Little Farm,’ which is currently playing in theaters and Cultivate Community Co-Op recently brought to The Empress Theatre in Vallejo.

Eatwell Farm owner Lorraine Walker saw the film and offers perspective as a local farmer not only on what the film covers about the importance of soil and regenerative farming, but also what it doesn’t cover — and why that knowledge is important.

At Sustainable Solano, we know the value of supporting small farms that use sustainable practices. These family farms are a pivotal part of building a food system that supports the local economy, builds local jobs and gives the buyer the benefit of the freshest produce. You can learn more about supporting local food at our Local Food Happenings page and by downloading our Local Food Guide.

Eatwell Farm, based on 105 acres in Dixon, offers CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) boxes of fresh, seasonal produce delivered to drop sites in the county. Boxes come in different sizes and at different frequencies to meet the needs of CSA members. By being a part of a CSA, members become part of supporting the farm and local food.

Here’s Lorraine’s insight on the film that she originally wrote for Eatwell’s CSA members, printed here with her permission:

 Courtesy of Eatwell Farm

‘The Biggest Little Farm’

By Lorraine Walker, Eatwell Farm

Last week I went to promote our CSA at a viewing of ‘The Biggest Little Farm.’ I thoroughly enjoyed the film and related to many of their experiences. The movie had me reflecting on all the innovative things Nigel had done with our farm. He always considered our soil the life force from which all other life grows. After we began feeding our chickens whey, we realized a lot more was happening with our soil and Nigel made the decision to stop adding compost and other soil amendments. We now rely solely on our birds for fertility. Soil regeneration is probably one of the most important things we can do to save our planet. And listening to John Chester during the Q & A session after the movie, he certainly made that very clear.

As much as I loved ‘The Biggest Little Farm,’ there is one downside to the movie, and it is a big one: the lack of transparency about how much an operation like theirs costs. The movie is gorgeous, the land is gorgeous, the work they do is amazing. According to the LA Times: Apricot Lane is a small-scale farm, defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as earning at least $1,000 in gross income, but not more than $250,000, annually. John speaks openly of their investors, but not who or how much has been invested. I can’t begin to imagine the price for 200 acres an hour from LA in Ventura County. The orchard project in the first year, renting all that heavy equipment to pull out the trees, then move soil, create contours, wow. And the cost of new trees — do a quick little Google on that and you will find trees cost anywhere from $75 to over $100. Granted they were buying in quantity, but I am sure the trees alone were a fortune. And the beautiful building and worm composting operation, how I would love to have something like that here on our farm. But seriously, how much money was all of that?

According to that same LA Times article, they have 60 people working on the farm, including volunteers. On a farm that earns no more than $250,000 year, how many can earn a living wage? The idea that you can give up your city job and live the dream on a farm is so far from reality it isn’t even remotely funny. Sure if you have VC’s investing many, and I do mean many, millions of dollars, then maybe, but don’t you think at some point they would want to earn something back from that investment? The sad truth is, this beautiful movie makes farming look very doable, as long as you have enough grit. The reality is you need so much more than that, and you need a lot of customers.

Not showing the real financial struggles this type of farming is facing hurts us all. Right now Eatwell’s CSA is working on a goal of 150 new members, but the competition is heavy. There are many CSA options, plus all the home delivery from GoodEggs, WholeFoods/Amazon, etc., not to mention the fact that the greater population doesn’t even cook. We traverse a very thin line between charging enough to support the farm and keeping food somewhat affordable for many. Putting the pipe dream aside, the movie left me feeling hopeful and very appreciative for the message is does share, and that is the fact that regenerative farming is extremely important. Ecologically speaking we can literally change the world.

So go see the movie, be proud of your farm, enjoy watching all the wildlife living in and around Apricot Lane, and know that we too are a home for owls, hawks, bees, butterflies and many other happy animals here on your farm in Dixon.

If you’d like to read the full LA Times article here is a link.

And if you would like to support this type of farming here is a link to sign up for an Eatwell CSA share: eatwell.com

Interested in joining a CSA? Find out more on our website and check out our list of local farms that serve the county.

Growing Change Through Community

By Allison Nagel, Communications Manager

Film maker John de Graaf and author and public speaker Anamaria Aristizabal

A conversation sparked in a Vallejo living room by the lessons learned in the city of Bogota, Colombia, could be a part of driving change in the local community. 

Change starts with a vision of what is possible.

“It is a fire in our hearts,” said Anamaria Aristizabal, who spoke to a small group of local citizens earlier this summer about the transformation that took place in her hometown, creating a city full of parks, libraries and bike paths. Anamaria was there by invitation of filmmaker John de Graaf. (We’ll be showing one of his films, Redefining Prosperity, on Aug. 18 in Benicia, and John will participate in a Q&A after the screening.) John is currently working on a documentary about Vallejo. He said there are lines to be drawn between what happened in Bogota and what he sees happening in our local city — how bringing public services to neglected areas can give residents the sense that someone in government cares and the empowerment to ask for more.

Anamaria, who is a public speaker, author and the co-founder of an ecovillage outside of Bogota, drew out a timeline of how Bogota’s leadership history led to the city’s current state. First, there was leadership that pursued fiscal cleanup of a corrupt and bankrupt system. That paved the way for the next leader to focus on civic culture and the need for citizens to be civil to each other while building up a fiscal surplus. And that surplus allowed the next leader to focus on infrastructure, building out all of those public services and spaces.

By solving for essential needs, such as adding communal kitchens to address hunger, the city freed people up to have the bigger conversations and to advocate for more and better ways of improving the city and the status of its citizens.

“A strong social platform of people feeling met by their government allowed the city to move into a new era,” she said.

In examining the identity of an individual or a city, it comes down to tangible things, stories (those “seeds” that carry the identity and essence of a person or place) and ideals, Anamaria said. In Bogota, attention to ideals meant a focus on inclusion for all citizens or beauty in the natural world.

“All these ideals guide us and bring us together,” she said.

A focus on ideals can be a challenge, with the question of how to sustain the commitment and energy around an ideal.

Anamaria suggests “social technologies” — the building of stronger relationships where everyone feels heard and can unite around common values. Building trust creates more opportunities to pursue possibilities.

She pointed to the small group gathered together and how it creates new connections. There are more opportunities to do that within our communities. Part of the discussion that night among attendees touched on the need to better engage disenfranchised parts of the community.

“Out of relationships you can generate new possibilities and move into action,” she said, noting that the building of relationships, purpose and meaning has to come first before jumping to action.

She hoped that by sharing what has happened elsewhere, she can inspire others intent on changing their cities for the better.

“Sharing the positive stories that are already happening becomes the good fire to inspire others,” she said.

Learning to Listen

Anamaria’s insight and the feedback from this small group on the importance of community involvement and lending an ear to the voices of those most affected by community challenges ties in with Sustainable Solano’s commitment to creating Listening Circles. Learn more about this exciting process here.

Environmental Justice Grant to Help With Most Important Part of Community Involvement: Listening

By Sustainable Solano

So much of what we do as an organization is driven by connection. We seek to connect with community members and help neighbors come together to work toward a better world, whether that is through creating a community garden, forming a resilient neighborhood, supporting local farms or other means of connection. An important part of that task is finding out from community members what challenges they face, so that we can offer services that meet the needs and serve the desires of local residents.

California’s Environmental Protection Agency recently awarded Sustainable Solano an Environmental Justice grant that will help us create Listening Circles to identify challenges and move toward solutions starting in Fairfield, Vacaville and Suisun City. The grants focus on communities most affected by pollution and look at ways to combat pollution and improve health outcomes. 

Sustainable Solano will work with local partners, such as churches, schools and other community groups, to engage community members and develop community-led solutions that will address the effects of climate change on disadvantaged communities. We will do this with help from Solano Public Health and UC Davis. Much of our work in green infrastructure, from creating demonstration food forest backyard gardens to community vegetable gardens to resilient neighborhoods, can serve to address climate change. The Listening Circles will help determine which of those types of resources can be the best fit for local communities, particularly low-income communities and communities of color that often face the greatest environmental justice challenges. These circles will also help plan any future programming that community members identify as needs.

By taking the time to listen to residents, we will be able to learn what environmental issues affect their neighborhoods, involve community leaders and local representatives in the decision-making process at the local and county level, and improve access to environmental information and making that information easy to understand and put to use. All of these things will culminate in an assessment and action plan that can then help the community members through support in developing green infrastructure plans to address the challenges they have identified.

We look forward to sharing more as we get underway in fostering greater connection and access to green infrastructure solutions as these communities address the greatest environmental issues they face.

Have questions, suggestions or want to connect about this program? Please contact Gabriela Estrada at gabriela@sustainablesolano.org