Jardin de la Esperanza Shows Power of Community

By Gabriela Estrada, Solano Gardens Program Manager

When people tell you it takes a village to create great things, believe them. They most likely understand that the world is a connected place and that nothing truly great ever gets accomplished in a vacuum. Solano Gardens, for example, was made possible with support from Solano County and the need for a model of community gardens in low-income communities that serve as a source of fresh produce, a hub of information and a place for building relationships.

From this source of funding, Jardin de la Esperanza (Garden of Hope) was developed. This garden at Armijo High School in Fairfield began with the dedication of a couple of teachers, a few wine barrel planters purchased by the principal and a passion for gardening and a desire to take learning beyond the classroom. They shared this with their students and created a garden club.

To announce this club, a banner was created and placed outside the school. This banner caught the eye of Jeff Barton, a longtime Sustainable Solano supporter and host of our Walk The Talk Workshops. Intrigued about this club, he walked into the school and shared information about permaculture, Sustainable Solano and that we were looking for a school to install a permaculture-based garden. Sylvia Herrera, English teacher and garden adviser, jumped at the opportunity, and like the force of nature that she is, began to move the project forward. We were then joined by Michelle Bolden, special education teacher and co-head of the garden club, English teacher Vanessa Willing-Sisi and Principal Sheila Smith.

The next steps involved getting on the same page about the kind of garden we wanted to create. We had a meeting with students who were interested in supporting the garden and the project. To make this garden something that fit the needs of people, we enlisted these students in supporting with the design, the needs and the overall implementation of the project.

Out of this meeting, the Get Fresh Crew was created: Sebastian, Flor, Valeria, Florence and Ana.

 

After a few meetings where we briefly discussed what we wanted and needed out of the garden, we created a design. This design took elements of permaculture, ideas from different students and from the Get Fresh Crew, and from our lead landscape designer, Kathleeen Huffman.

Then the physical work began! Sylvia, Michelle and Vanessa enlisted their students in the digging, sheet mulching and planting of the guilds. Woodshop teachers and their students also supported the project by building raised beds for the garden, and the art teachers and students began planning for a painted mural.

A week later, we had a garden! A garden that was created for students by students and whose produce will help support Armijo’s Pantry, a food pantry for Armijo families in need. It always amazes me what a few passionate people can do when they put their minds to it and the impact that they can create.

You can be part of this process. Interested in helping to create a new garden? Join us in installing a vegetable garden at Emmanuel Temple Apostolic Church in Vallejo on June 22.

Do you know a church, a private residence, a school or an apartment complex that has limited access to fresh produce and would benefit from a community garden? Fill out our Interest Form to tell us about it!

So what impact did the garden create? Check out the student insights here and in the videos below (scroll down to view).

Student Garden Reflections

To me the garden is a way for us as students to get involved in something that matters more than just our regular curriculum. The garden is not only a creative outlet for us as students, but it teaches us to appreciate the natural world around us. The garden represents a new venture into a more involved and natural community. In the future I envision the gardening not only continuing, but growing and thriving.

— Aaron R.

 

The garden has given my classmates and I the opportunity to get involved and give back to the environment. It also allowed us to gain knowledge and appreciate indigenous culture. It is a great way to get students involved and hopefully continue to nurture the garden for future Armijo students to enjoy. It’s also a great opportunity to inspire students and encourage them to become more involved with their community and show compassion for the environment.

— Mariah A.

The garden was a great opportunity for my class and I to create a beautiful way of giving back to the environment. It was great opportunity to learn about gardening and a welcome change from sitting all day long in a classroom. In the future, I envision the garden continuing to grow and being not just a beautiful sight to see while walking to class and an opportunity to learn about nature.

— Alexia C.

 

Rosemary, sage, and strawberry. With each new plant we add to our garden, we grow our appreciation of not only gardening, but indigenous culture. This garden has given me a moment of calm in the center of campus. I am inspired by the sweetness of our lemongrass to the sturdy miner’s lettuce, which withstands its tangled stems. Our trampled grass and cold concrete has metamorphosed into a vibrant display of our hard work and optimism— a lesson that I will never forget.

— Royce G.

 

Creating a garden is a very precise and skillful task that teaches indigenous knowledge. It shows the hard work that the student community has put in to better the society by promoting healthy and diverse fruits and vegetables. I can see future generations continue the tradition of cultivating our garden to learn about indigenous knowledge and the work behind how our food is grown.

— Stephen I.

I believe the garden is a great way to teach others about agriculture and indigenous culture. It also teaches other skills that aren’t (but should) be better promoted in schools such as healthy eating and survival skills. I hope it’ll expand and help unite all of Armijo.

— Florence T.

 

In the future I hope that the garden expands. I hope that the following generations appreciate it as much as some of us do. I learned by having a garden that it’s a way to bring people to work together as a community and a way to learn values.

— Juliza V.

The garden is a pretty cool concept to me because it symbolizes growth and balance. I think it is a nice opportunity for students to connect with nature and have a chance to be cultivators of a better future that depends on us, the students. I hope in the future the garden thrives and keeps growing as the peaceful mindset of the garden also grows.

— Juan D.

To me, the garden represents growth in our school. We are beginning to bring new opportunities to learn and expand the school’s knowledge. I hope that the garden continues to expand and even more people become involved. Having a garden teaches those working in it patience, care and commitment.

— Brianna V.

Working in the garden taught me about the different types of plants that grow natively in this area. Before I didn’t know what was imported and what was naturally grown here.

— Madelyn G.

My time in the garden has taught me new things about plants and their various uses that I wasn’t aware of. I envision the garden being full of life, with vegetables and fruits that will improve the nutrition in this school and show students some work ethic.

— Alvin A.

Being a part of the creation of the garden has been a great experience thus far. Shoveling, raking, watering the plants or simply doing WHATEVER IT TAKES has been great. Labor turned into competitions to see who could shovel more bark into the barrels. Since it is a part of our TOK curriculum related to indigenous knowledge, our class has been outside working on it for the past two weeks, making for a great time. In the next coming year, I hope for it to still be thriving and I hope for all the plants to be in good condition and well manicured. By having a garden, great responsibility skills are learned as it takes a lot of care to maintain the beautiful garden. All in all, I have really enjoyed my time in the creation of the garden!

— Alessio I.

To me, the garden seems to be one vision of what we at Armijo want to see in our future — growth — and how it portrays future aspects of beauty for our community. My understanding of the garden is that it is a community experience for the school that shows how the Fairfield and Suisun high school population can work together as a team to produce something not for material gain, but to show the indigenous knowledge our of area. Thus, as a constituent of this complex, yet miraculous process, I have been instructed and taken with me the abilities to sustain the environment by increasing the biodiversity of the garden and other important and sustainable processes in making a garden.  

Hezekiah B.

I love how the garden was nothing at first and became a big project that put all students to work and interacting with each other. The best part of building the garden was how all students put a little of something of theirs in the garden like ideas and thoughts.

— Lydia R.

Having a school garden means a lot to me because I was part of its creation from the very first beginning and it has really helped me develop some skills. It also has a metaphorical meaning for many students because it represents our growth and how we take care of ourselves; and I love that part. The best part of the garden was working with all the students and Sustainable Solano members to make things in the garden happen. I really hope the garden can help (in a physical and emotional way) and feed many people, and that future students make a good use of it. I wish all the best for it.

— Valeria G.

 

Having a school garden to me means good publicity for the school. The best part of the garden journey is being able to go outside.

— Isaiah P.

 

Having a garden at school means that we could educate the students on the how important nutrition is. The best part of the garden journey is seeing it all come together with the trees and plants. I envision the garden being very well developed. I can see the trees getting bigger and actually producing fruits and vegetables.

— Zaria R.

 

Having a garden at school serves as an element that stands out. It has been a rarity, since not a lot of schools have a garden and a peaceful outlet of trees and plants that contrasts with the hectic environment of school. The best part so far of traveling through the garden journey has been constructing and arranging the basic outline of the garden. Seeing the construction process has allowed me to see how the garden has changed, from a barren terrain to home of many greens. Even though the garden’s plants and trees haven’t flourished much yet, I hope to see a vibrant and fresh ambiance in the future. Also, I hope that it’s a learning outlet for people to discover new plants.

— Maryflor F.

 

Having a school garden not only makes the school look nice but the purpose behind it and the effort it takes has a positive impact on the environment. The best part of my garden journey is planting but also seeing the process of the garden. I envision using the garden to harvest fruits and veggies.

— Marcus F.

 

To me, having a school garden means we have something that the whole school can take care of. The best part of working on the garden was being able to go outside and do tasks we wouldn’t normally do. I envision the garden as an important future hotspot for our school, like a symbol, an emblem for our school.

— Sebastian B.

Next Economy Series: Designing the Next Economy

By Stephanie Oelsligle Jordan, Local Food Program Manager

Local Food Program Manager Stephanie Oelsligle Jordan presents what she learned at the workshop to community members.

Between January and April, Santa Cruz Permaculture presented a series of four workshops entitled “Systems Change & the Next Economy:  Regenerative Design for People & the Planet.” The series featured instructors with diverse backgrounds who are critically examining aspects of our economic, financial and monetary systems, as well as offering alternative models, inspiring examples and ideas for a new economic system that works for everyone.

My fellow Sustainable Solano co-workers had gone before me to the first three workshops, and on April 6 and 7, it was my turn. Led by Erin Axelrod and Kevin Bayuk of LIFT Economy, over the weekend we would “collectively explore the possibility of how we can redesign the economy to create regenerative outcomes of security, prosperity and a stable climate rather than outcomes of exploitation and inequity. By gaining an understanding of the design constraints of the ‘business as usual’ economy we will chart a pathway of transformation, using permaculture design principles, methods and ethics, to an economy that works for the benefit of all life. We will explore how to design enterprises and organizations that provide needed goods and services in ways that enhance and restore environmental and social prosperity.”

A tall order, but my group of around seven workshop participants jumped in with enthusiasm and curiosity.  

We began by looking at the current problems:  How currency use and certain economic activities have catalyzed a culture where humans don’t need anyone else — we only need money. (Or at least we think we don’t need anyone else.) This has resulted in lack of trust in people, only trust in money, and a laundry list of negative economic patterns (endless economic growth, greed, competition, prioritization of profit, commercialization, etc.) and skewed beliefs (“If I don’t have a leg up with inherited wealth, I’m not going to make it!”; “If you’re wealthy, that’s proof that you deserve more money!”; “If there’s a top category of wealthy people, there must be a bottom category”).

Erin pointed out that capitalism, as a system, has been good at suppressing alternatives and perpetuating itself, and making losers in the game. One point that I found fascinating was how humans are the only species with the concept of “unemployment,” and the idea that they/we have nothing to contribute. (Indeed, the squirrels scurrying around my backyard have endless work to do, within their functioning, natural ecosystem!)

So, now what?  

Erin and Kevin argued that it is time to re-focus and think about how choices around business design and structure matter. What are models of creating businesses/organizations that don’t require passing on expenses to the end user? How can we find ways to meet our needs based on connection/community, and less on transaction/extraction? How can we design enterprises and organizations that provide needed goods and services in ways that enhance and restore environmental and social prosperity? Permaculture principles, which focus on “Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share,” provide the guiding star for this work. Is there a way to create an economy that works for the benefit of all life?

There are more questions than answers, but to try and arrive at some answers, Erin presented an interesting diagram:

Where we are now is at the top of the top curve, where the dotted line connects. “Business as usual” is the dotted line, which represents endless economic growth — but at the expense of others. The Hospice line represents activities that help the current system (with its inequities) to die off. The Midwifery line represents bringing in entirely new economic principles. And if all goes according to plan, we have a more equitable “Next Economy.”  

There are lots of questions/issues around this graphic. Midwifery requires resources, which some organizations don’t have. Sometimes “hospice” is just keeping the bad from getting worse, and not actually working to stop dysfunctionality in the system. We then tried brainstorming examples of organizations that are practicing either “hospice” or “midwifery.” Patagonia would be one such example, as they are interested in repairing your (expensive) clothing, and not replacing it. They are trying to “hospice out” the “throw-away mentality” among consumers in the clothing industry and at the same time, “midwife” the idea of investing in fewer, higher-quality garments created in a fair trade system.

Another example that came up was TerraCycle. TerraCycle offers free recycling programs funded by brands, manufacturers and retailers around the world to help collect and recycle hard-to-recycle waste. But what I realized was that for TerraCycle to be completely effective, they need to be willing to go out of business. Some businesses that claim/work for good need to be so effective that they wouldn’t need to exist anymore.  

We do have some organizations and people trying to do the right thing. But, when organizations/businesses are interfacing with the economy and trying to do the right thing, they hit a snag. Erin and Kevin call it the “Price Parity Paradox.” This means that when you are implementing a good/service and doing it “right” (equitable, environmentally sustainable, etc.), you end up with higher prices, making the thing inaccessible to those who might need it most. For example, let’s say I’m a community kitchen sourcing from small to mid-sized local farms (who practice sustainable agriculture) and paying fair prices for the ingredients. I’m also paying my staff – everyone from the dishwashers to the sous chefs – fair wages to produce nutrient-dense food. However, to maintain this business and be sustainable, my pricing needs to be at a certain level, which can only be afforded by wealthier people in the community. My products are too expensive and not accessible to certain populations who might need my nutrient-dense food the most  (i.e. low income customers with health challenges).

All hope is not lost, however. Erin and Kevin presented some possible solutions to the Price Parity Paradox:

On the Demand Side:

  • Make Customers Your Owners (Cooperatives)
  • Differentiate Pricing (sliding scales, free vs. premium, even “pay what you can … or what you think it’s worth”)  
  • Transparency (being really honest with your customers about what it costs to grow the food, make the soup, etc.)

This brought up more questions around perception of value:  How do we get that shift where people are investing in things that benefit all life? Where are the people who are voluntarily ethical, and how did they get that perspective? How did they form value around certain things? Who are these self-selecting individuals opting in to pay more?

On the Supply Side:

  • Partially or Totally Vertically Integrate (not so much to remove the middle man, but to remove the middle margin)
  • Vertically Integrate Through Local Joint Ventures (Who in my community could be as invested as me in growing the business? An example was a roof builder who partners with a gutter repair person.)
  • Reducing Salary Expense Through Creative Total Compensation (flexible hours, a CSA box, 401(k) that feeds back to the community)
  • Worker-Ownership (good for weathering recessions)
  • Innovation (renting out goods during off-season; selling viable by-products; communicating the durability of goods, detracting from the “throw-away” mentality)

Very few organizations are doing ALL supply and demand solutions to solve the Price Parity Paradox, but many are trying. It’s difficult because we are still operating within the constraints of the “business as usual” system. But let’s say you have an idea for an organization or business.

Here’s the theory:  to get to that Next Economy place on the chart,

you’ll need to follow 10 Principles:

  1. Need-Oriented, Basic Goods and Services. Stick with the basics. How many businesses do we really need? Some are there simply to fulfill the “shiny object syndrome!” Our culture shapes our definition of need. How is our culture a product of something greater that needs shifting?
  2. Diverse & Inclusive Ownership. The more diverse the team, the better it comes up with solutions and there’s more creativity. When you prepare to work with others, you put more work into it. More diverse groups bond around VALUES, not race/gender/age, etc. When you design for the most vulnerable population, it benefits everyone. But there must be ownership, otherwise it’s tokenism.
  3. Equitable/Democratic Culture. An example of this would be multi-stakeholder cooperatives. (An example you can look up is “Our Table,” a cooperative of farmers/producers, worker-owners and consumers.) Democratic culture could be an organizational method/structure called “holocracy,” which is practiced by Three Stone Hearth in Berkeley.
  4. Support of the Local Economy Ecosystem. How is the organization banking? At a large bank that engages in the extractive economy, or with a credit union or smaller progressive bank? An example that came up was Beneficial State Bank, which has its assets owned by a nonprofit. Another example to consider are B Corps: corporate entities that are beholden not only to profit, but also to stakeholders and the environment, and are assessed by third parties on ownership, culture, environment, etc.
  5. Embed Education Into the Good or Service. This looks at “known needs” vs. “unknown needs.” Look within existing markets to educate, instead of creating something new. Education often benefits businesses and hopefully will catalyze a cultural shift, because the value of the product is understood. And we can probably all agree that culture change happens before policy change!
  6. Open Source. No monetary exchange for information (the idea of ownership and property emerge out of a “scarcity” mindset). What’s the benefit of a software company doing open source? Maybe someone will improve the code after putting it out there. However, the tension is that something will be taken, used (and perhaps commodified) by the extractive economy.
  7. Transparency. Everyone who participates in the business will make better decisions if they know more about finances, governance, etc. On the consumer side, it’s also education: You can give a breakdown of where the money goes to make the jacket, the food, etc. Another example is Participatory Budgeting (as done in Vallejo).
  8. Zero Waste & Climate Beneficial. Look at the system, and strive to create symbiotic relationships. For example, when farmers enrich their soil, they get not only more nutrient-dense food, but land that helps pull more carbon out of the atmosphere. Farms that have a commercial kitchen on-site so that food scraps can be composted back into the land are another example.
  9. Scale by Regional Replication. Don’t scale up — scale across. If you scale up (which “business as usual” does), then the problem of endless economic growth in a world with finite resources continues. Sometimes this is place-specific, to be adapted to different environments, soil, watersheds, etc.
  10. Supportive of Personal Growth & Development. This is a workplace that can produce/provide needed goods/services AND provide personal growth and development of the people who work there. What needs to get done on a personal level to support transition? How can we get rid of the scarcity mindset? How can we put our population/community/workers at the core of the designing of a resilient system?

In our quest to design the Next Economy, we have circled back to the personal level. Here is another graphic that ties in personal purpose with an economic system:

As we wound down the weekend, I was reminded of the quote that Erin shared with us at the beginning of the weekend.  It is from Adrienne Maree Brown, author of “Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds”:

Do you already know that your existence – who and how you are – is in and of itself a contribution to the people and place around you? Not after or because you do some particular thing, but simply the miracle of your life. And that the people around you, and the place(s), have contributions as well? Do you understand that your quality of life and your survival are tied to how authentic and generous the connections are between you and the people and place you live with and in?
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Are you actively practicing generosity and vulnerability in order to make the connections between you and others clear, open, available, durable? Generosity here means giving of what you have without strings or expectations attached. Vulnerability means showing your needs.

Changing a system is big work that requires years of travel down a long, long road. But by attempting to integrate some of these concepts into our lives, businesses and organizations, perhaps we can start to shift our culture. Perhaps we can have positive effects on other systems which are inextricably linked to our economic system, and perhaps someday we will be living within the “Next Economy.” Good luck!

The funding for Sustainable Solano’s team training at the “Next Economy” course at Santa Cruz Permaculture was provided by Solano Community Foundation through their NPP Capacity Building grants program. Community conversations are made possible through a grant from the Peaceful World Foundation. Thank you to both organizations!

Wrapped Food and the Big Burrito Debate

By Lisa Núñez-Hancock, Culinary Arts Instructor

One of my favorite things about teaching cooking and the culinary arts is the research and history of food that I get to delve into when creating recipes. For our upcoming Wrap It Up! workshop June 1, I’ve been researching wrapped foods as a tradition that is found around the world. One of the interesting versions is found right here in our home state of California with the burrito.

While burritos are not classically considered a Mexican dish, they most probably have their origins as portable field and farmworker fare carried from home to rural work sites. Although the origins of the burrito have been traced to Cuidad Juarez on the U.S.-Mexico border, the real evolution of the post-modern burrito has occurred in California during the 20th century.

The three major regional sites of burrito evolution have been San Francisco’s Mission District, Los Angeles and the Chicano Scene in East Los Angeles, and inner city San Diego. Each place has its own distinct interpretation of the burrito, and there are ongoing debates about which town and locale makes the best burrito.

The origins of the Mission Style Burrito can be traced to the Mission District neighborhood in San Francisco during the 1960s and 1970s. This burrito is characterized by a large flour tortilla, steam table carne asada, beans, rice, sour cream and onions. El Farro on Folsom stands out as a beacon of Northern California burrito culture. As the culture evolved, and became a regional culinary movement in the 1970s and 1980s, guacamole, shredded cheese and spicy salsas were added to the mix.

The epicenter for burrito mania in Los Angeles is Al & Bea’s on East First Street, in the heart of East Los Angeles. The Los Angeles version is a bean-centric burrito with additions of shredded cheese and salsa. It’s possible that East Los Angeles is the birthplace of the breakfast burrito made with scrambled eggs, chorizo, beans and cheese, and the on-the-go meal for car-centric blue- and white-collar workers.

Last, but not least, San Diego has its own burrito style, characterized by a no-frills meat, cheese and salsa concoction. La Lomita was serving San Diego bean burritos as far back as the 1960s. Later decades saw a flourishing of burrito shops in the city, and by 1999 San Diego had over 60 locations serving burritos at places with names like Roberto’s, Filberto’s and Hilberto’s. Many of them are still operating and serving up hot and hearty burritos today.

Perhaps on your summer travels you’ll check out some of these Cali hot spots, and we hope that you will join us Saturday, June 1, at the JFK Library in Vallejo for Wrap It Up! and learn how to make more delicious wrapped meals. Learn more about the class here.

Lisa Núñez-Hancock is founder of UR What U Eat. The upcoming wrap cooking workshop is part of the What’s for Dinner? program presented through the Solano County Library and the Friends of the Vallejo Public Library in partnership with Sustainable Solano and UR What U Eat. Check out other upcoming workshop dates and topics here.

From Bleary-Eyed to Eye-Opening: Experiencing Cob Construction and Curriculum

By Maxfield Shain, Volunteer

Maxfield Shain incorporates a math lesson into the cob-bench construction at St. Patrick-St. Vincent school.

I woke up, bleary-eyed, to a mother (Sustainable Solano’s Nicole Newell) that seemed clear, coherent and insistent that I wear flip-flops to the cob site. This was at 5 in the morning, mind you. She claimed that she was just as exhausted as me, but I was dubious, and not particularly looking forward to the rest of the day. Little did I know it was going to be a heartwarming gathering of teachers and students who collaborated to make a cob conglomerate of a bench (I mean that in a good way, I promise.). But this was before I had become cob enlightened, or “coblightened.”

So all of you Sustainable Solano readers may be asking: What is cob? Well, cob is a combination of sand, soil, clay and straw that, when mixed correctly, forms a substance that is initially like mud. But after a couple of days of drying, it hardens to the point where you can touch it without dirtying your hands. Think of it like sustainable concrete, a concrete that responds to the ebbs and flows of the environment.

Brennan Bird talks with students about the properties and tensile strength of the cob material.

So we get to St. Patrick-St. Vincent Catholic High School, 7:30 in the morning at this point, and I meet Brennan Bird, or Mr. B, as he insists his students call him. We walk up to the cob site, and he has already got a foundation with bamboo set up for the cob bench. When we started filling up foundation bags for the project, I take note of the mud and rocks everywhere, and reflect on how dear mother wanted me to wear flip-flops. Whilst shoveling clay and molding the bench, I was glad I didn’t take her advice, but instead wore boots.  At this point the students came for their environmental science class, and I had to pretend I knew what I was doing for the first several hours or so while working with the kids. After several more classes, with the help of Mr. B’s presentations, I felt like a master of the trade.

Some of the steps in making the cob and building the cob bench

While we were making the bottle bricks (plastic bottles filled with plastic film garbage to stabilize the bench), many of the students were hesitant to get their hands dirty. Prom had just ended, and all the girls still had their nails done. But with gentle encouragement, most of the students joined in on the cob-making. The next day, I even got to teach a class of freshman and sophomores a little bit of algebra from my engineering academy days. All in all, it was a great experience for everyone involved, and I’m looking forward to the day I can make my next cob masterpiece.

The cob bench project Maxfield writes about is a part of the exciting new partnership between Sustainable Solano and St. Patrick-St. Vincent Catholic High School that combines projects such as the cob bench and a demonstration food forest garden with the development of a sustainability curriculum. The curriculum pilot is made possible through funding from the Solano Community Foundation’s ED Plus grant and the demonstration food forest installation is funded by the Solano County Water Agency. Learn more about the program in the press release here and in this Vallejo Times-Herald article.

Join Us in Creating Our First Resilient Neighborhood in Vallejo!

By Kassie Munro, Resilient Neighborhoods Program Manager

Do you want to be a part of a pioneering new effort in Vallejo, and learn how we can make our neighborhoods more resilient?  

Join us Saturdays May 25 through June 22!

Our first pilot Resilient Neighborhoods team has been selected, the design process is underway, and we are excited to begin scheduling our educational installation days in the coming weeks.  For the first time, we will be working with a team of four homeowners to begin transforming their street into an environmentally and socially resilient community hub. Using landscaping elements of our Sustainable Backyard program as a foundation, this new program will build in additional resiliency elements focused on temperature regulation, restoring ecosystem functions to the urban environment and strengthening community networks. The design will treat the homes as part of the same ecosystem, linking them together through shared services and planned diversity, like providing shade in communal areas and producing a varied supply of food. Over time, we plan to work with this established team to bring additional neighbors and community organizations into the hub as part of a larger movement to transform our cities into more regenerative, equitable and resilient places to live.  

Working with four unique homes simultaneously provides a new opportunity for us to showcase how permaculture techniques can be applied to a variety of landscapes to enhance climate and social resilience.  Permaculture is an adaptive approach and methodology, and the diversity of our homes in this pilot will allow us to demonstrate how the same core principles can be applied to a variety of homes to achieve outcomes that are tailored to the individual members of the Resilient Hub, and the team as a whole. This pilot is an opportunity for us to expand our demonstration gardens not only in scale, but in scope.

Join us as we explore:

Heat Mitigation and Biomimicry

The urban heat island effect is a challenging consequence of our changing climate, felt most dramatically in urban areas with extensive paved surfaces and little vegetation.  We will be exploring how to use shade trees and structures to help keep our homes and outdoor spaces cooler in times of extreme heat, as well as the impact that evapotranspiration from greenery has in helping to cool the air.  Our partner Richard Fisher will also be working with us to pilot innovative biomimicry techniques throughout these installations that explore additional ways to help mitigate temperature extremes, as well as restoring other valuable ecosystem services back to our built environment. Biomimicry is guided by and aims to mimic Mother Earth’s methods for providing important ecosystem functions. For example, an old tree log can be used to capture, store and cycle water in a yard, similar to the role it would play in a forest setting.  You can read more about biomimicry and Richard’s approach here.

 

Integrating Permaculture into Existing Landscape Features

Creating a dramatic transformation from water-hogging lawn to lush, water-wise edible foodscape is a powerful and compelling demonstration.  But for many of us, our yard isn’t a blank canvas and the thought of needing to strip things down to a clean slate to transition to a permaculture landscape can be daunting.  Through these installations, we will be highlighting how to work within your existing landscape features, both hardscape and established plants, to integrate permaculture techniques and begin the transition to a more sustainable, regenerative and productive landscape.

 

California Native, Ultra-Low-Water Showcase

One of our Resilient Neighborhood homeowners is a passionate California native plant enthusiast.  We will be working with her to design a unique backyard landscape that will serve as a pollinator oasis and embrace California native and drought-tolerant plants.  Within this garden, we will also be building a bridge between native and permaculture-based designs by including soil building and water capture techniques like bioswales, and incorporating small amounts of food forestry through fruit tree guilds, berry bushes and edible perennial plants.

Along with these new features, we will be holding workshops on all of our foundational sustainable landscaping elements, including:

  • Roofwater capture
  • Bioswales
  • Edible landscaping
  • Laundry-to-Landscape greywater systems
  • Sheet mulching

Check our calendar for individual installation dates to register for upcoming workshops. By signing up for our newsletter, you can be sure you’re the first to hear when events are scheduled.

Register for the upcoming workshops at the links below:

June 1Greywater and Lawn Conversion
June 8: Understory, Drip and Water-Capture Feature
June 15Swales, Mulch, Trees, Hugelkultur
June 22Laundry-to-Landscape Greywater Installation
June 29Understory and Drip Irrigation

We hope to see you there!

The Resilient Neighborhoods program is funded through a grant from PG&E.

Work at one of the homes in the neighborhood is funded through a grant from the Solano County Water Agency.