by: Elena Karoulina, Executive Director
A couple weeks ago I had a great visit with Denise and Ben Lyons at their Lockewood Acres Farm in Vacaville. As a part of our work on the Solano Local Food System, I am getting to know local small farmers who are doing things right: they take care of the soil on their farms, plant diversified crop, pay special attention to the health of their water, strive for low-input farming (producing most of the fertility on the farm), and as a rule, look to work with nature, not against it, in harmonious, healing relationships with land, all living things and their communities.
Denise and Ben Lyons are this type of sustainable farmers. Their 10-acre beautiful, certified organic farm is located in the agricultural area between Vacaville and Dixon. When I came on a breezy & chilly February morning, both farmers were outside: Ben was fixing things around the barn, and Denise was wrapping up a meeting with Solano farmbudsman, Sarah Hawkins, going over rules and regulations governing various aspects of the farms’ operation. Even a small farm is a serious business, with its hard labor in the fields, barns and orchard, and different, but equally demanding work behind the scene: marketing, accounting, legal compliance, reporting… The work is endless and most of it is unseen by the community that gets to enjoy the fruits of this hard labor.
Most of the fields were resting for winter, covered by a green blanket of cover crop – fava beans, peas and other nitrogen-fixers. Before these plants go to seed, Ben will work this green manure into the fields, enriching and nurturing the soil, increasing its organic matter and improving water retention. This healthy soil will then feed the plants growing there that will eventually find their way to our kitchens and tables: tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, peppers, watermelons, salad greens, squashes, culinary herbs, and all sorts of root vegetables.
Fruit trees in the nearby orchard were also resting, waiting for the time when the sap will begin to flow, followed by beautiful fragrant flowers and then fruits. Apples, pears, all sorts of citrus, persimmons, plums, cherries, pomegranates, and figs – the list goes on and on of the bounty produced in this well-designed orchard. Olives are pressed in small batches in a local olive press – you can buy this olive oil directly from the farm.
Countless chickens were roaming the orchard, scratching the soil and adding natural fertilizers everywhere they went. Careful selection of heritage breeds provides for nutritious eggs in all possible colors: dark brown, light brown, blue, green, white.
In the small barns, there were dairy goats and hard-working sheep that regularly provide grass mowing services in the orchard, surrounded by adorable little ones constantly looking for milk and warmth. Keeping animals on the farm ensures a reliable source of manure, the traditional foundation of soil fertility, that decreases the demand for the outside input and supports this vibrant ecosystem called “Lockewood Acres Farm”.
An apiary completes the picture of the farm. Raw, delicious honey is available for sale year around.
Denise and Ben’ journey to this farm started with a discovery of the benefits of earthworms. Their original vision was to develop a homestead to nourish the immediate family. The vision eventually grew to include feeding the community! After the initial skepticism (mostly from Ben), the couple turned to organic farming, which Ben now describes as a “common-sense approach to farming”.
Would you like to join the community of the Lockewood Acres Farm well-nourished customers? This is what the Community Supported Agriculture stands for! Sign up to become a member of this farm’s CSA program. For more details, click here. If you are at the Vacaville Farmers Market on Saturdays, stop by the Lockewood Acres Farm stand and please say hi from their friends at Sustainable Solano!
There are multiple ways to participate and the farmers are flexible to work with you and your budget to provide nutrient dense, wholesome food for you and your family!
“The Juice House Co. Improving Health Through The Power of Food Energy”
By: Tiana Duvauchelle, Owner
The Juice House Co. believes in the pursuit of positively impacting lives through the power of food energy. Together as a community, we unite as healthy beings through our offerings of Fresh, Raw, Organic Cold-Pressed Juice, Kombucha, Nut Mylks and Cold Brew Coffee.
I have shared my love of yoga at Yoga House Co. and to communities around the East Bay since 2012 and continue to, but in 2016 my sweet sister and I felt like we had more to give, more to share and more to offer to our local community; the dimension of FOOD YOGA. The journey of yoga begins with the physical body. The physical body “our food body” needs to be nourished. This body, consists of a material body built from the food we eat. With that as our forefront, we must feed our bodies with the most purest form of energy; organic fruits, veggies, nuts and grains. We built the Juice House Co. as a medium of offering food in its most purest form through my creative expression of love and devotion to all being everywhere.
Deep down, we all have the desire to eat healthy and be healthy, but we also live lives where we eat compulsively, away from home and so convenience it key. The Juice House Co. is here to offers this new flavor, with this new take on healthy indulgences
We work closely with our local, organic suppliers to create the best product with the best ingredients for our all favorite juice junkies. We strive to minimize waste through recycling/reusing bottles, to sharing our leftover compost with local growers, to upcycling our coffee grounds!
All Juice, Kombucha, Nut Mylks & Cold Brewed Coffee are locally sourced, pressed, bottled, and enjoyed! The Juice House Co. team is excited to share this food energy, this food yoga, one of the greatest wonders of life, pure raw energy given to us by Mother Earth.
Find us on First Street in Benicia for our fresh goods, friendly staff, great jams, good vibes and loving spirits….or order your goods online for pick up!
by Stephanie Oelsligle Jordan, Sustainable Solano, Local Food System Manager
This was my first EcoFarm conference. When initially sifting through the options for lectures and discussions about a month ago, I noticed the obvious: “how-to” workshops on various technicalities of farming, and peer discussions on what works (or doesn’t) in agriculture today, new inventions, pest management, etc. What I wasn’t expecting were some amazing and relevant discussions and speeches addressing how today’s farmers must intersect with larger social/world issues including hunger, social justice in food systems, honoring Native American lands, and climate change, just to name a few.
But there was another underlying, somewhat spiritual theme that seemed to arise from the workshops and discussions that I attended: our relationship to – and responsibility for – a given place, whether we farm it or not. It was this “sense of place” that I found myself thinking about the most, and how that idea might serve my work with Sustainable Solano’s Local Food initiatives.
I am not an expert in Permaculture or Biodynamic farming (I’m a chef!) but I gathered that this “sense of place” is vitally important in both methods of farming. In a talk titled “Nature Connection, Permaculture & Ecological Responsibility,” Will Scott of Sonoma’s Weaving Earth Center for Relational Education took us on a journey both inside our minds and hearts, and then – literally – out into the woods. His initial argument was that “our sense of awareness of our landscape and surroundings has been limited by the industrialized world….The mind has been colonized, and the story of separation has been ingrained….Modern experience has atrophied our ‘whole being sense.’” But all is not lost!
Through “Nature Connection,” we can regain our sense of connection. He made an interesting point (often forgotten, I might add) that our connection to the natural world just IS. We can’t deepen it. However, we can increase our capacity to interact with it and relate to it. “When love for a place happens,” he stated, “empathy is embodied and behavior can change to ensure the place is taken care of….If we want to start designing or thinking ‘whole system’, then we need to use our whole system too: heart and mind, and not just our intelligence.” He had a quote from someone else, which pretty much summed it up: “Lose your mind and come back to your senses!” So we did. He led us out to the woods, and for about 10 minutes we did nothing but let nature interact with our 5 senses, in what he called a “Sit Spot.”
Another workshop that touched upon this “sense of place” was a discussion group titled “Biodynamic Farming and Gardening for the Future”. Seasoned biodynamic farmers and newcomers to the method were sitting in a circle, and I was struck by one farmer who had previously farmed in Wisconsin. He had lately moved to California, and just wasn’t connecting to the land like he had in the Midwest. (This is a problem, by the way, if you want to be a biodynamic farmer!) As I learned about the importance of the farmer’s interaction with not only the land, but also the solar system, weather patterns, creatures big and small, and everything else in his/her “place,” I began to wonder about the rest of us. Is there a way to connect non-farmers to the land/place through the food?
This question also came up for me at a couple of workshops on Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs. As you’d guess, the CSA discussions were largely about how to acquire and retain subscriptions. After addressing the logistical issues (marketing, surveys, packaging, software, etc.), the group concluded that 1) education about CSAs was important and 2) people want a connection to local farmers. Here’s that connection theme again!
The final talk I attended was titled “The Farmer and the Chef: Utilizing Abundance” (Finally! Something I understand!) and featured exactly that: Farmer Jeff Dawson of The Farm in Woodside, CA and Chef Stuart Brioza of State Bird Provisions and The Progress restaurants in San Francisco. Here they were, presenting their collaboration, along with all the spreadsheets and systems that have made it work over the past 5 years. This is admittedly a very specialized relationship, in which the majority of us will not experience. However, Chef Brioza made a good point, which is not unlike the CSA programs, and has this idea of connection at heart: “You’re not just partnering with a farm. You’re partnering with abundance, and the harvest….We are telling a story about the farm, on the plate.”
I’m sure I left EcoFarm with more questions than answers. (How can the larger population become involved in that “sense of place” in order to appreciate the value of the farmer’s work? How can this “sense of place” influence our local farmers to take better care of their soil? How are we ALL responsible for this place, whether we farm it or not?) And I think most of the attendees may have left with more questions as well. However, I sensed an energy among all of us that in the midst of all the questions, we all had an unwritten and unspoken commitment to one another to move forward. Everyone seemed courageous….ready to make connections….and do what it takes to care for their respective places on the planet.
Made possible by Solano Public Health in partnership with the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation
By Cultivate Community Food Cooperative
The experts say it will take a startup food co-op about 3-5 yrs. to open a food co-op grocery store. Well if that is true, then Cultivate Community Food Co-op is right on course. After 18 months of Stage I development – Organizing, CCFC reached Stage II development – Feasibility and Planning, in July, when we filed our Articles of Incorporation.
In September we had an Incorporation party and sold 25 owner shares, (soon we will be selling owner shares online.) Which brings us to October, which just happens to be ‘Co-op month’. Co-op month has been celebrated annually in October across the United States for more than half a century. It is a time for cooperative businesses to reflect on their shared principles and to educate others about the value of belonging to a cooperative.
In doing our part, Cultivate Community Food Co-op will be joining Sustainable Solano in a panel discussion entitled, ‘How to Make the World Better’, on Wed. Oct. 25 at the Heritage Presbyterian Church in Benicia. CCFC’s founder, Paula Schnese, will share with the community the progress the food co-op has made, talk about our future goals and timelines, and answer questions from the audience. In addition to this educational event, during Co-op month, CCFC will
also be sharing information at some of the local farmers markets and at the Loma Vista Farm Harvest Festival on October 21st .
Become an owner of your local food co-op! We will be selling owner shares at all the events we attend! ��
Our Collective Goals
To create a sustainable grocery business based on member ownership and democratic decision-making
To support local producers and sustainable agriculture
To provide health-enhancing foods
To keep prices as low as possible
To be fair and supportive to our employees and to be sensitive to the working and living
conditions of those who make what we sell
To be a community resource that helps the people of Benicia and Vallejo lead healthier lives
To be a place in the community where people can come to gather and create community
To be good stewards of the environment through conscientious, sustainable use of resources
To reach out to low-income members of the community and enable their participation.
To welcome all.
Cultivate Community Food Co-op will be Solano County’s first community-owned, natural grocery store. We will be a one stop, brick and mortar grocer dedicated to providing high-quality, locally-sourced, culturally-relevant, ethically-produced and affordable products.
Offering health and wellness education, we aim to empower our community and provide a public meeting space to engage with others. We are committed to creating and maintaining a more sustainable economy with a just and equitable future for our farmers, artisans, employees and owners by decreasing the physical and social distance between producers and consumers.
Cultivate Community Food Cooperative, Inc. (CCFC) is a cooperative corporation organized under the Consumer Cooperative Corporation Law of California
Become an Owner of CCFC: Owners in good standing may vote in co-op elections, attend the Annual Meeting, and run for the Board of Directors.
Other benefits include:
Coupons, Sales and Discount Days
Case Discounts on Special Orders
Select a Plan: Online sales will be available on our website soon
Full Fair Share*: Invest $300
Strongly encouraged to facilitate store opening
Partial Share*: Invest $25
Now and every quarter (or more often) until the full Fair Share of $300 is reached
*A $5 processing fee is charged (this helps with the cost of creating membership cards)
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/cultivatecommunityfood.coop/
Mailing address: P.O. Box 94, Benicia, CA 94510
A community supported agriculture box from Eatwell Farm.
As we move forward with our greater vision for our Local Food Movement Initiative, we aim to better connect area farmers to the people of Solano County. Eating locally and supporting our local food growers strengthens our regional food system by building community and keeping dollars in our own local economy.
There is also a significant environmental impact of local food production-distribution networks which provide a shorter distribution distance between the grower and consumer. Generally, farm products are processed directly on the farm itself reducing middle-man packaging and additional refrigerated trucking. With smaller, sustainable family farms, you can count on fresher produce, a greater variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables, and endless learning opportunities! Many farms offering Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box programs offer tours where you can meet your farmers directly and see how your food is grown.
Supporting local food growers through a direct-to-consumer CSA program allows customers to enjoy highly-nutritious produce, meats, dairy and other farm goods. Members can pick up harvest shares at a communal location or have them delivered directly.
Sustainable Solano has made it easy for you to start eating fresher, better foods by compiling a list of local CSAs that currently deliver directly to Solano County cities. Communal pick-up locations are established when the minimum number of memberships required by each farm is met in each city. The more friends and family sign up, the more convenient pick-up locations are created in your city.
Don’t miss out on these current promotional specials!
7781 Locke Road, Vacaville| email@example.com (707) 624-0831
- Organic farm providing vegetables, fruit, eggs, meat and honey to Vacaville and surrounding areas.
Siren Fish Company
firstname.lastname@example.org | (707) 925 FISH
- Providing sustainably harvested California seafood
- Use code: solano for $15 off your sign-up fee!
Terra Firma Farm
P.O. Box 836, Winters | email@example.com | (530) 795-2473
- Certified organic year-round vegetables, fruits and nuts grown locally in Solano and Yolo County
Real Food Bay Area
firstname.lastname@example.org | (408) 835-9353
- Providing healthy, nutrient dense, sustainable, fresh and prepared foods.
Tara Firma Farm
3769 I Street Ext., Petaluma | (707-)765-1202
- Pasture raised beef, pork, chicken, lamb, and turkey. Organic fruit, eggs, cheese, and vegetables.
- Mention Sustainable Solano and receive one pound of FREE bacon! If ordering online, call following your order to apply.
5835 Sievers Road, Dixon | email@example.com | (707) 999-1150
- High-quality, fresh produce, dairy and other specialty goods
- Natural and organic food distributer delivering more than 14,000 non-GMO and organic local and non-local products direct to families.
Our goal is to include all Solano County food producers on this list so please share with us any we missed so we can add it to our website and start providing our residents more options for healthy, local food!
Big News for Benicia’s CSAs!
Benicia’s CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) programs are now all under one roof! Heritage Presbyterian Church at 1400 East 2nd Street has graciously opened their doors to host products from four local sources: Terra Firma Farm (vegetables & fruit), Tara Firma Farm (beef, pork, chicken, lamb, eggs, cheese & produce), Siren Fish Company (fish & seafood) and Real Food Bay Area (raw milk, prepared foods and more)! By consolidating these CSAs, “buying local” is now more convenient; it’s one-stop shopping for delicious, locally-grown food. For more information on the farms/fisheries, and to subscribe, please visit these links:
Food, environment and human health, local economy and resilient communities
By Elena Karoulina
Executive Director of Sustainable Solano
Image from Pixabay
When was the last time you had Solano-grown produce on your dinner table? The most possible answer is ‘never’, unless you grow your own food in your garden or your backyard food forest. It’s a very unusual situation for a Bay Area county that is still largely agrarian, at least in the land use patterns.
Sustainable Solano is embarking on a new project to bring more local food to our communities and to connect our local farmers, chefs, and residents with the gifts of our land and with each other.
At the very end of September we received great news from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA): our proposal to further our vision by developing a business plan for Solano Community Food Centers was selected for funding! Annually, USDA funds about 14% of grant applications for local food projects, and we are honored to earn support on a federal level.
What is a Community Food Center? It is a hub for local food activities: CSAs deliveries, cooking classes, community education, and large kitchens where chefs and community members can cook wholesome nutritious meals. Larger Community Food Centers can include a food co-op.
Although Solano County produces close to $354 million worth of agricultural products and exports these products to more than 40 countries, only a fraction of that amount remains in the county due to weak distribution system, lack of sales outlets and somewhat low interest in local food. You can hardly find any Solano-grown products in our farmer markets, stores and restaurants. Small farmers struggle to hold on to their land and to connect with local customers.
Where do we buy local food? People who can afford it obtain their local ag products in the markets outside our county: Napa, Sonoma, Berkeley (thus spending local money outside our local communities). Some cities in Solano are blessed with Community Supported Agriculture, but not many people know about this option and take advantage of it. People with low means have to go without local fresh food at all. Solano is a county of commuters, and unfortunately, the only option available for families on a go is fast-food restaurants and convenience stores (you cannot find local food there!).
We pay dearly for this lack of access to local food with our health: Solano County is among the sickest counties in the nation. Obesity, diabetes, heart disease rates are above national average in our home county.
Food, human health, the environment and local economies are all interconnected; by creating a network of city-based Community Food Centers, there is potential to re-envision and re-construct Solano County’s food system so that it works for everyone in the local food supply chain.
Sustainable Solano has partnered with researchers at UC Davis, Solano County Department of Agriculture and Department of Public Health to conduct a feasibility study, develop an effective business plan, and outline implementation for local food businesses that aggregate, process and distribute locally-produced, healthy food products. Our big vision is the environmentally and economically sustainable, equitable local food systems in Solano County.
We are looking for urban and rural farmers, chefs and local food activists interested to implement this vision. We’d love to hear from you with your comments, suggestions, reflections, and offers to help. Please email directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Let’s make it happen! I am looking forward to meet all of you at the official launch of the program on Wednesday, October 25, at 7 pm, at Benicia’s Heritage Presbyterian Church (doors open at 6 pm). Please join our Advisory Board members Dr. Feenstra and Dr. Campbell in the conversation about the future of food and why local resilient food system is so important. Come meet the project team and all of us interested to bring this vision to reality.