Mission Solano Demonstration Food Forest Official Opening!


Sustainable Solano celebrates the official opening of its first public demonstration food forest garden in Fairfield at Mission Solano on Thursday, December 21st. The birth of this food-producing community garden was developed after Mission Solano’s Chief Operating Officer, Shauna Hughes, reached out to the only sustainability-based nonprofit in Solano county for a possible partnership in helping create better access to healthier, more nutritious food options for its resident guests, educational opportunities for job skills training and ways to encourage independent sustainable living practices for residents transitioning back into the community.

Sustainable Solano’s Sustainable Backyard Program’s late summer expansion into Fairfield this year began the conversation for the planning of a “Christmas” demonstration food forest garden that would serve the greater community and provide a source of inspiration to build neighborhood resilience across other Solano county neighborhoods.

Through numerous hands-on workshops, community members and Mission Solano residents worked hard this season planting trees and edible plants, digging swales and installing a laundry-to-landscape greywater system to create a beautiful, thriving edible landscape fed by secondary water (rainwater and greywater). This demonstration garden will be open most Saturdays of the year for self-guided tours and will provide educational opportunities for learning about growing food and using water wisely in the garden.

Anyone interested in attending this celebratory event from 2:00pm-3:00pm on Thursday, December 21st at Mission Solano (310 Beck Avenue, Fairfield) is welcome to come enjoy hot chocolate and sweet treats with neighbors in honor of this inspiring community effort to inspire and educate about how to grow locally and eat healthier. This project was made possible by funding from the Solano County Water Agency.

No registration is required.

 The Sustainable Backyard program will expand to Suisun City next spring and to Vacaville in the fall of 2018.  Sustainable Solano will be looking for both private and public lands to install food forests in these cities. Visit www.sustainablesolano.org and www.facebook.com/sustainablesolano for updates and details about this expansion.

Permaculture and Community: A 13-Year-Old’s Perspective

By Rileigh Barton

Hi, I’m Rileigh, and I’m 13 years old. I volunteer for Sustainable Solano with my dad. I’ve gone to two Sustainable Landscaping classes so far at a food forest in Fairfield called “Mom’s Delight.” But first, I’ll tell you a little about me, and how I got involved in permaculture.

It all started at The Tomato Festival, Fairfield’s annual celebration of the tomato harvest, in August. My dad met Kathleen Huffman, Landscape Designer; and Nicole Newell, Program Manager at Sustainable Solano, and got involved with the program.  Once he bought certified permaculture expert Denise Rushing’s book, “Tending the Soul’s Garden: Permaculture as a Way Forward Through Difficult Times“, Dad became fascinated with the idea of permaculture, which is short for permanent agriculture. Permaculture design is a way to work with nature to grow a resilient and edible eco-system.  In September, Dad went to a Speaker Training class which kicked off my own interest in permaculture.

Two weeks ago on Saturday, Dad and I went to a Sustainable Landscape class, and witnessed the birth of a food forest. Kathleen talked to us about what we were going to be doing that day, and she taught us what swales were. Then the Food Forest Keeper, Brenda, came up front and told us about the forest. She’d nicknamed it “Mom’s Delight” because before she planted the garden in the backyard, her mom stayed inside all the time. Now her mom comes out and walks around and she’s happy. We then got to work. We first dug a swale, a ditch about 2 feet wide and 1 foot deep that is flat on the bottom. Then we filled it with mulch. There were lots of big dirt clods, and Kevin, a fellow volunteer, came in with a mattock to break up some of the clods. Before we planted the calamondin tree and the apple tree, Kathleen gave us a small lesson on how to plant trees and the best conditions for them. Then we planted the trees, mixing the natural soil with organic potting soil, and watered them.

A couple days ago, Dad and I went to another Sustainable Landscaping class. This time we were installing a Laundry-to-Landscape system, which saves time, saves water, and conserves energy. Christina and Nina from Greywater Action talked to us about these benefits and more, and oversaw the event. Up until lunch half of us worked inside while the other half worked outside. Dad and I worked on digging mulch basins, which are similar to swales, but often surround a single plant. Kevin and I took turns with the mattock to help with the digging. After lunch, we assembled and installed the Laundry-to-Landscape pipes.  Then we worked together to irrigate the mulch basins. We didn’t quite finish, but Dad, Kathleen, and I came back the next day to finish.

This experience was one of the best things I’ve ever done. Permaculture is the only way to make Earth a healthier, and nicer, place to live. Definitely more people should participate in this, and I’m glad I got the chance to: “Save the world, one yard at a time!”

Two Demonstration Gardens Coming to Fairfield!

Sustainable Solano will be installing two demonstration food forest gardens in Fairfield at a private residence and one public location as part of its Sustainable Backyard program. The program aims to teach gardening techniques based on permaculture design principles (layered planting system that supports life) and wise water practices such as groundwater storage, roofwater catchment, and laundry-to-landscape greywater re-use. The expansion of these garden installation projects is funded by the Solano County Water Agency with the first project scheduled for 11/04, 11/11, and 12/16 at a private residential backyard.

This three-day installation will serve as a free, hands-on educational workshop open to Solano county residents. Attendees will have the opportunity to be a part of building the foundation for this garden by creating contour swales, building berms, planting fruit tree guilds and the installation of a laundry-to-landscape greywater system.

This holiday season, the program will also move forward with the creation of an edible “Christmas” food forest garden at Mission Solano, a transitional housing shelter that provides food, lodging, faith support and job training to over one hundred individuals and families in Solano County. Mission Solano sits on 3.5 acres with much of its land being underdeveloped making it an ideal location for a public demonstration food forest community garden. The demonstration garden will also include swales to capture rainwater, a laundry-to-landscape system, permaculture planting methods and will be open most Saturdays of the year for self-guided tours.


Mission Solano relies heavily on food donations and struggles with providing resident guests high-quality, nutritious food and access to fresh fruits and vegetables. A portion of food is purchased by the organization itself. Both partnering agencies saw an opportunity to not only reduce program food costs through this project, but to also serve the greater community by providing educational opportunities for Fairfield residents to learn about growing their own food, secondary water use and building resilient communities. On Saturday, 12/2 the public is welcome to attend a free greywater system installation workshop to learn how secondary water from your laundry and roof can feed an entire garden.


Most of the installation work and ongoing maintenance of this demo food forest garden will be completed by Mission Solano volunteers. The project is in in alignment with the agencies “job therapy” program that helps resident guests develop skills for future employment and sustainable living. Chief Operating Officer of Mission Solano, Shauna Hughes states, “By teaching our guests how to grow their own food, we can equip them to continue doing so once they establish permanent housing. This will help them overcome the barrier to good nutrition that most low-income residents face.”



Registration is required for all installation workshops for both public and private projects. Visit www.sustainablesolano.org/events to register.

The Sustainable Backyard program will expand to Suisun City next spring and to Vacaville in the fall of 2018.  Sustainable Solano will be looking for both private and public lands to install food forests in these cities. Visit www.sustainablesolano.org and www.facebook.com/sustainablesolano for updates and details about this expansion.

About Sustainable Solano

Sustainable Solano a non-profit organization is a non-profit organization dedicated to Nurturing Initiatives for the Good of the Whole. For more information, email info@sustainablesolano.org or visit www.sustainablesolano.org.

Suisun Valley Elementary Kids to Develop Their Own Food Forest

Eight graders chiming in on their future food forest design.


Kathleen, Larry and Elena taught a hands-on swale workshop to the Suisun Valley eighth graders in the spring of 2017 on how to use swales in storing rainwater in the ground.  Now that the kids are back in school, designing the Demonstration Food Forest is the next step.

Principal Jas Wright is including the kids in the design of the food forest.  To get them thinking about that design, I held five sessions, speaking with seven classes of, sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students.  We had a conversation about Fruit Tree Guilds and the importance of choosing a diverse group of plants that benefit each other.  Each plant should provide multiple functions.

The kids were engaged asking many questions.  The one question that stood out in my mind: What is the opposite of a food forest?  The answer is monoculture, the planting of only one type of crop in a given area.  Our program encourages planting a polyculture and the importance of including plants that build the soil.

Fava beans have already been part of the Suisun Valley curriculum.  Katie, one of the students was excited to tell me how they added nitrogen to the soil by planting fava beans as a cover crop.  To prepare the demo garden site, Laura, the Garden Coordinator has already begun to sheet mulch.  The site has two mature fig trees and an unidentified, mysterious fruit tree.  These three trees will be included in the design.

Now the kids have a base understanding of what a fruit tree guild is.  Each class will be responsible for the design, the installation and the care for one guild within the food forest.  Over the next 2 weeks they will be naming their guilds and selecting the plants.  On a side note, one of the classes is even working on restoring the California Native Plant Garden.  So many opportunities to learn!

Inspiring David Shaw Talk Launches Sustainable Backyard Program in Fairfield!


Sustainable Solano recently expanded its Sustainable Backyard Program to the City of Fairfield by launching a series of public education classes and workshops on the topics of sustainability, community resilience and sustainable landscaping. On August 26th, Fairfield residents attended the first of these events at an inspiring and thought-provoking talk with educator, ecological designer, farmer and musician, David Shaw at Fairfield Civic Center Library. Attendees listened as he beautifully defined and illustrated natural landscape, social and economic permaculture principles that contribute to a more harmonious, sustainable world.

Permaculture design principles are most commonly applied to agricultural ecosystems and are intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient. David covered the various supporting layers of a standard food forest garden and explained how they work together, effortlessly to produce edible, life-supporting ecosystems using simple regenerative design methods used for thousands of years by generations who lived in harmony with our Earth. However, he explained that permaculture principles can be applied to not only landscapes, but also to local social structures, communities and within our own economic markets.

Beautiful photos of various Oregon neighborhoods that have transformed local intersections and streets through community block repair projects showed how urban revival can help close social boundaries and strengthen communities bring residents together through healthy social exchange. Colorful intersection street art, corner “take a book, leave a book” libraries and community garden share plots were a real source of inspiration for attendees to see!

David also stirred up some curious fascination in the room when introducing the concept of financial permaculture. A local new economy manifesto called Bay Bucks whose mission is to create a functioning regional currency that helps local businesses thrive while promoting collaboration and building community wealth has already made its mark in our very own Bay Area. This new economy approach distributes power democratically to its community of users, keeping wealth circulating locally, and reversing the features that create wealth disparity. You can find out more about Bay Bucks by clicking here. (Link: http://www.baybucks.com/)

David works to help build connections with ourselves, each other, and with nature focusing on global sustainability, resiliency, permaculture and sustainable backyards. Attendees left with great tools and ideas and how they can begin applying permaculture principles in their own gardens and neighborhoods.


David Shaw, is a Permaculture and whole systems designer, facilitator, and educator. He founded Santa Cruz Permaculture and the UC Santa Cruz Common Ground Center, two inter-generational partnerships focused on collective action for justice and sustainability. Additionally, he is the coordinator of the Right Livelihood College, and serves on the World Cafe Community Stewardship Council. In order to meet the challenges of today, he is creating an urban farm and inter-generational learning center that fosters hands-on farm and wilderness skills, social entrepreneurship, conversational leadership, and collective action. He lives happily and humbly on a 2-acre homestead in Santa Cruz.


For more information on David Shaw, please visit:


Sustainability Through Permaculture in Solano County

By Tina Saravia, U.C. Master Gardener, Solano County

It all started for me in September 2014, when I attended a talk on Permaculture in Benicia with another Master Gardener friend. I have heard of Permaculture for years, but it always seemed like a foreign concept to me. I did not know anyone, in my broad circle of urban horticulturally-inclined individuals, who practiced Permaculture. The fact that it was in Benicia, a 20- minute drive from my house, made it more real.

Permaculture Talk with Toby Hememway

What is Permaculture? Permaculture is a word originally coined by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the mid 1970’s to describe an “integrated, evolving system of perennial or self-perpetuating plant and animal species useful to man” (Holgrem Design. https:// www.holmgren.com.au/about-permaculture/). Permaculture is a design system based on ecological principles. The word originally referred to “permanent agriculture.” It has more recently expanded to stand for “permanent culture.”

Permaculture can be defined and explained in many ways. It encompasses many aspects. In its simplest form, it is a design system that can be adapted anywhere in the world, in any setting — urban, suburban or rural, no matter the size of the property. One of those design aspects that is easily adaptable is Food Forest Gardening, which is what the local grassroots organization, Sustainable Solano, started in Benicia.

They help homeowners create their own sustainable food forest. The gardens feature edible plants in varying heights and sizes, mimicking a forest. The gardens use a combination of drip irrigation and greywater — laundry water. Swales or depressions, topped with wood chips, were dug to direct water from downspouts to also help water the gardens, which also helps refill the groundwater.

A few words about Sustainable Solano. It started out as Benicia Community Gardens. As the programs expanded beyond Benicia, the board decided to rename it Sustainable Solano in May 2016. They maintain a couple of community gardens, a community orchard, seven permaculture demonstration food forests, Community Supported Agriculture partnerships, a “Land Caretakers” sustainable landscaping education program, a food donation Share Plot, and a beloved monthly “What’s for Dinner?” educational cooking potluck series.

The most recent demonstration food forest installations were done in Vallejo, next is Fairfield. According to their website, sustainablesolano.org, they will be accepting applications starting in August through September for prospective demonstration food forest keepers in Fairfield.