Avant Garden Scavenger Hunt Offers Fun Outside Activity Amid the Pandemic

By Maggie Kolk, Sustainable Solano board member and Avant Garden coordinator

The premier Kids in the Garden event was a scavenger hunt at Benicia’s Avant Garden, COVID-19 version. It proved to be a super successful, fun, educational and tasty event.

Bright orange ribbons rippled in the morning breeze identifying the ready garden plots as eager young hunters assembled to make their way through maze of Avant Garden. With yellow cards for ticking off their discoveries in one hand and bags to retrieve goodies in the other, 12 masked explorers between the ages of 5 and 11 gathered, in a COVID-19-compliant manner, on a sunny July day to escape the confines of pandemic restrictions and have some plain old outdoor fun. Raised garden beds chockful of tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and yellow squash and the larger Avant share plot scattered with Halloween-sized orange pumpkins and red peppers, were fair game for the young hunters.

As Avant Garden coordinator, I organized the scavenger hunt with the help of Raquelmarie Clark of WAHEO: We Always Help Each Other, who recruited the young hunters through her social media connections.

The group met at the big freshly painted picnic tables to collect their hunting tools: lists of garden veggies, pencils and paper collection sacks. With instructions to collect only from the orange ribbon areas, they set out to identify or collect their treasurers. Eleven-year-old Toni, with cell phone in hand, was assigned the role of chief Googler to help with mystery plant identification. Shouts of “I found a tomato!” and “There’s a zucchini!” or “Can I eat this?” could be heard as the girls and boys filled their bags with freshly picked veggies. Mid-scavenger hunt, a dad arrived with arms full of goodies to celebrate the fifth birthday of one the young collectors. The kids gathered around to enjoy juice, cookies and fruit and shower the birthday boy with good wishes.

When time was called, with overfilled bags in hand, the hunters huddled around to share their stories and bounties, which included large pumpkins, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers and a few peppers. Zucchini muffins made with zucchini from the garden were enjoyed by everyone before the final project of the morning. Each child was given a pot filled with soil along with seeds for planting marigolds. While planting the seeds, a pop quiz on what plants needs to grow was enthusiastically answered with shouts of “water! … dirt! … sunlight! … and love!”

Everyone, parents and kids alike, left Avant Garden with contented smiles and shouts of appreciation, looking forward to the next Kids in the Garden event, which is planned for Oct. 3. Kids in the Garden events are for kids ages 8-12 (kids under 8 may attend but must be accompanied by an adult over 18).  Attendance is limited to 12. Registration is first come-first served. Register here!

Benicia Community Gardens Annual Meeting 2017

Share Plot Harvest, July 2016

Benicia Community Gardens Annual Meeting on February 18, 2017

After a brief welcome by Marilyn Bardet, Board President, our executive director, Elena Karoulina, explained that the Benicia Community Gardens and Orchard are now part of Sustainable Solano.  In the past few years Elena and the Board have added many new initiatives, including 7 food forests in Benicia and consumer supported agriculture programs to supply residents with sustainably sourced vegetables, meat, fish, and other food products.  The food forests have saved an impressive amount of water. These accomplishments caught the attention of Solano County officials, who asked our group to bring some of these programs to other parts of Solano County.  So the name change reflects the new and broader mission of bringing sustainable food (in many forms) to Solano County.

The group then heard from the coordinators of Avant Garden, Swenson Garden and the Community Orchard.  Avant Garden is almost full, but many of the beds at Swenson are empty.  The Share plot at Avant Garden provided over 700 pounds, an impressive amount of food!  All 3 coordinators requested increased participation in work days.  As discussed last year, people who did not provide the minimum hours last year will be charged extra this year.   Annual agreements were signed and the annual fees were collected.  Agreements and fees for 2017 are due by March 21.  Contact your garden coordinator if you missed the Feb 18 meeting!

2017 Preview from Executive Director Elena Karoulina


Dear friends of Sustainable Solano,

As I am looking back at the eventful and transformative year of 2016, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to all people who helped co-create Sustainable Solano: the Board, our volunteer leadership team, our funders and supporters, and all of you who made a personal commitment to make a difference, to participate in something bigger than ourselves, to nurture heart-based initiatives for the good of the whole.

In 2017 we will continue to refine and shape the vision for the organization, to deepen our understanding of our current situation and to develop strategies to help making Solano County more environmentally and economically sustainable, socially just and personally fulfilling place to live and work.

We will continue with meaningful conversations in the community, beginning with a seven-week “Game Changer Intensive” offered by Pachamama Alliance as a follow up to the Awakening the Dreamer Symposium. Everyone can participate in this program! Our goal is to provide opportunities for face-to-face meetings in Solano County allowing us to deepen the connections we felt so profoundly with each other at the Symposium and to engage with each other in new and existing initiatives that facilitate change at the local level and beyond. Learn more and to register.

Our sustainable landscaping efforts will continue with monthly tours of Benicia demonstration permaculture food forests, installation of demonstration gardens in Fairfield and Vallejo, and a series of talks and workshops in Benicia, Fairfield and Vallejo – watch for regular updates on our calendar.

We invited professional landscapers, both established and new, to explore our Land Caretakers Program. Sustainable Landscapers Association of Solano County is forming now – please email info@sustainablesolano.org if you are interested in learning more.

Calling all the players in Solano local food movement to get to know each other and to join our efforts to create a robust, healthy, inclusive local food system in the county. We are planning to have a Solano Local Food Summit in the spring of 2017. If you are interested to learn more, please email info@sustainablesolano.org.

For cooking classes and talks on healthy, local food throughout the county, please check our calendar regularly (and let us know if you would like to promote your efforts of brining wholesome local food to our communities through our website and newsletter).

I am looking forward to see you at these upcoming programs and events. Please let me know if you have suggestions, ideas or questions. I wish you a peaceful and restful holiday season!

In gratitude,
Elena Karoulina
Executive Director
Sustainable Solano


Save the Date: Awakening the Dreamer Symposium

Save the Date: Awakening the Dreamer Symposium Comes to Solano County


Are you ready for a deeply transformative experience? On December 3rd, 2016 from 10am-2pm, the Awakening the Dreamer Symposium comes to Solano County at Solano County Events Center in Fairfield, offering a dynamic multimedia half-day workshop that uses videos, personal reflection, and group activities to engage people everywhere as the co-creators of an environmentally sustainable, socially just, and spiritually fulfilling world.

Register for this free event.


  • Having everything we need to create a sustainable, just, and fulfilling world
  • Understanding the unique contribution you can make in your community
  • Feeling hopeful about the future of our planet and species

You don’t have to just imagine these things–together, we can make them real. Participants will leave the Symposium empowered to take clear steps to embody their vision for a better world, and having established new connections to work with others on common issues for the common good of the whole.

The Symposium is developed and distributed by The Pachamama Alliance, a San Francisco-based nonprofit started at the invitation of indigenous people of Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest. Through the Symposium and other workshops, they work to generate widespread awakening at the grassroots level and a transformation of our worldview, such that humanity becomes committed to restoring and protecting the environment and moves towards social justice and spiritual fulfillment.

For even more details on the Symposium and The Pachamama Alliance, please visit:


Pachamama Alliance Workshops and Events

Awakening the Dreamer: A Transformative Workshop for People and Planet (Video):


This Symposium will be open to anyone who wishes to take practical steps to bring about transformation to the environmental, social and spiritual presence of humanity on the earth. We hope you join us!