Businesses Partner to Provide Plants

By Harmony Organics

There has never has been a time quite like this where much of what we hold dear has changed and over which we have little control, at least for now. It’s definitely a time for nurturing ourselves and those dear to us. For many, home gardens can be a place where we find tranquility, healing and a place revitalize and reenergize — all things that can help us in unsettling times.

With that in mind, Harmony Organics would like to bring a little sunshine into your homes and gardens. As a local supplier of premium organic soil blends and amendments, we can help nurture your gardens and help them thrive, especially now as we are all spending more time in our homes.

And as a commitment to our motto, “Grow Together,” we have teamed with Biota Gardens Nursery to provide the highest quality seed starts for your spring/summer grows. We are fortunate to have been the soil provider for Biota Gardens the past few years and are excited to give everyone the opportunity purchase their plants locally. We will still have our soil and amendments available so that you can pair our soil with wonderful organic heirloom seed starts.

About the Blog

Harmony Organics, located in Benicia, shares how they are partnering with Biota Gardens Nursery as a distribution site for plants.

Many local nurseries have changed their hours and how they are doing business to remain open during this time. See what your local nursery is doing here and check directly with the nursery for the latest information.

We’re always looking for insight from our locally owned small businesses. Want to share what you’re doing? Contact us at allison@sustainablesolano.org

Biota Gardens offers 1 Quart Organic Starts for $4.50/plant with discounts based on the number of plants purchased. As of the first week in April, they will have available a wide variety of tomatoes, peppers, squash and cucumbers with select varieties of eggplants, melons, herbs and flowers. To meet our customers’ needs, we will be practicing the social distancing mandates that are in place to help minimize the spread the COVID-19 so that everyone remains safe and healthy. All plants that are ordered will be available for pickup at our office/warehouse at 4271 Park Road in Benicia (curbside drop off may be available as well based on location).

Please visit biotagardens.com to view the available plants to help jump start your garden this spring. You will be able to place an order directly with Biota Gardens and make sure to mention Harmony Organics in the Questions/Special Instructions section. If you need assistance ordering plants or need other soil/amendments please call us at 707-747-5051 or email info@harmony-organics.com

During these strange and difficult times, we want us all to be able to find joy in playing in the dirt, seeing our work bloom and eating homegrown veggies and fruits. Labor of love or just garden fun. Remember, gardening is for everyone! Hope everyone is safe and enjoying the fruits of their labor!

Stocking Your Pantry for Uncertain Times

By Lisa Núñez-Hancock, Culinary Arts Instructor

Whether it is fire season, an earthquake, a pandemic, the busy pace of life, or unexpected guests, it is always a good idea to have a well-stocked pantry of healthy, nonperishable items on hand. Eating healthy foods, maintaining a good gut microbiome, getting enough sleep, and minimizing stress are all important to optimum health.

Having nutritious staples in your pantry will steer you in the direction of eating better and staying healthy. Beans, legumes, whole grains, dried pastas, brown rice and rolled oats are all foods with a long shelf life and can be a base for soups, stews, salads and grain bowls. Combined with fresh seasonal vegetables and fruits, eggs and sides of meat, if desired, the variation of nutritious meals you can create with basic staple foods is endless.

In no way am I implying that you should be stockpiling or hoarding food. That is ultimately wasteful and not neighborly. I also recommend practicality and economy when furnishing your pantry. Purchasing local products whenever possible supports local farmers and food crafters, and benefits both the local economy and our immediate communities.

There is a culinary pleasure and satisfaction in throwing open a well-socked cupboard and being able to create a meal on the fly. Of course, there is Google and you could get someone else’s recipes, but there is a lot to be said for being creative, inventive and spontaneous, in life in general, and especially in the kitchen.

Beans and legumes have a good shelf life and are a healthy source of essential vitamins and minerals. They are an important plant-based protein and a good source of fiber. They are easy to prepare and versatile in recipes. Rancho Gordo, a company specializing in heirloom beans and located in Napa, stocks a selection of glamorous beans in a rainbow of colors and flavors. In my pantry right now, I have Marcella white, Midnight black, a beautiful purple bean called Aycote Morado, and a quirky heirloom called Vaquero (I love them — they are spotted black and white and remind me of miniature cows). All beans are wonderful and make delicious one-pot soups and stews.

Grains! If any of you have attended my cooking workshops, you know I am all about the grain bowl, a bit of a fanatic in fact. Ancient grains like quinoa, millet, farro, bulgar and amaranth, to name just a few, are healthy for you, and full of important nutrients, minerals and essential fiber. Although not local, I have been having a long-distance relationship with Bob’s Red Mill for many years and his grains makes me happy and healthy more than I can tell you!

Dried pastas are always good to have on hand, especially if you have children and picky eaters in your home. Combined with a variety of innovative herb and nut pesto sauces or tomato-based sauces that you can make from your garden’s yield or CSA box. Add shelf-stable olives, capers and marinated artichokes to create pasta dishes that are easy and quick to make, and a filling meal for one or a group. Locally produced Baia Pasta in Oakland is a good source.

Which brings me to the subject of canning and preserving. If you are growing your own vegetables, a member of a community garden, get CSA boxes, or frequent your farmers market, you should know how to can and preserve your produce, so as not to waste a bit of nature’s beautiful bounty. Your homemade canned products will be a “lush” addition to your pantry of staples, as well as a source of pleasure when cooking with them. I can’t tell you the satisfaction of cultivating a plant, harvesting it, and “putting it up” (on your pantry shelf or in your “root cellar”). Knowing where your food comes from, how it was prepared and that you created canned tomatoes from your summer crop or your own delicious pickles and jams is truly a heightened experience.

Although not necessarily shelf stable, don’t forget an important realm of crafted foods — probiotics like sauerkraut, pickles and fermented vegetables. They must contain lactobacillus acidophilus, which is essential for good gut health and proper immune functioning.

And especially, don’t forget the spices! Think of your spice drawer as a medicine cabinet. Spices not only make food taste better, they are medicinal, have healing properties that will boost your immune system, add much needed spice to life, and keep you healthy.

A short caveat: I have listed local food sources, but I understand that not everyone can afford these items. The basic staple list can be adapted to fit your budget with an eye to supporting our local food producers when possible.

Suggested Items for Stocking Your Pantry

Below are some items as well as local sources. You can find locally sourced staples at some of these retail shops and restaurants.

Beans

  • Rancho Gordo

Grains

  • Bob’s Red Mill, Community Grains

Pastas

  • Baia Pasta, Community Grains

Rice & Noodles

  • Lotus Foods

Olive Oil

  • Il Fiorello, De Vero, Katz & Company, Soul Food Farm, Sepay Groves

Vinegar

  • Il Fiorello, Sepay Groves, Katz & Company

Local Honey

  • Be Love Farm, E.G. Lewellen’s, (check your CSA box add-ons)

Nuts

  • Nut-N-Other Farms, Sierra Orchard, Cal Yee Farm

Dried Fruit

  • Cal Yee Farm, Frog Hollow Farms

Sauerkraut

  • Salt & Savor

 Pickles

  • The Cultured Pickle Shop

 Tea & Coffee

  • Numi (tea)/ Moschetti, Ritual (coffee)

Jam

  • Erickson Ranch, Bridgeway Farms, Inna, Frog Hollow Farm

Hot Sauces and Salsas

  • The Salsa Chick

Granola

  • Nana Joes, Tom’s ‘Best Ever’, Frog Hollow Farms

Spices

  • Whole Spice, Savory Spice Shop, Lhasa Karnak, Bazaar

Mustard

  • Mendocino Mustard

Canned Fish

  • Katy’s Smokehouse

Basic Baking Ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, yeast

Note: Have a local source for some of these items we should add? Let us know at allison@sustainablesolano.org 

Access Food Resources Here

Discover recipes with seasonal ingredients

Learn more about Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) — boxes of produce from local farms

Learn what’s in season now

Find out more on our Local Food page

Explore our Community Resilience Resources for more food resources

CSA Farm Spotlight: Be Love Farm

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.

Emma Dotta in the fields at Be Love Farm, where she lives and works

Matthew and Terces Engelhart started Be Love Farm more than a decade ago with a dedication to regenerative farming. The family-owned farm is supported by plants and animals working together to grow healthy food in a way that emulates natural systems. Fields that produce annuals one year are then returned to perennial grasses for cows and chickens for at least two years.

Terces said she and Matthew started the farm to provide food for the restaurants they own and themselves, but also to nurture young upcoming farmers and provide a space where their grandchildren could roam freely and learn about food and animals.

The farm produces fruit, vegetables and nuts and a variety of other goods, including wine. Be Love Farm has a farm stand on-site for everything from nuts and produce to pizza, sauces and other value-add products and is now introducing a CSA for pickup at the farm. Packed in baskets, the CSA could include seasonal produce, eggs, olive oil, wine, nuts and bread.

Below is a Q&A with Terces about Be Love Farm:

 

  • Be Love Farm
  • Vacaville
  • 21 acres
  • Established 2008

 

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

This is our first CSA offering. We want to make food available for our local community.

What’s something that makes your farm stand out?

I suppose the diversification. We do everything from wine to nuts and sourdough.

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

We love sharing our farm and what it produces with others. It has been a 12-year project of love to develop our small family farm. Eating local and fresh food is one of the healthiest choices a person can make.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Contact belovefarm@gmail.com for additional information.

Be Love Farm has the CSA available for pickup at the farm. Learn more about signing up through contacting them at belovefarm@gmail.com

Find out more about local CSAs here.

Alliance Members Reflect, Connect to Deepen Local Food System Conversation

By Kassie Munro, Program Manager

Solano County Farmbudsman Sarah Hawkins and Kaiser Vallejo Nutritional Services Manager John Healy, both Alliance members, connect during the February meeting. Kaiser Vallejo is the first healthcare organization in Solano that has started sourcing consistently from small farms in the county. 

The Solano Local Food System Alliance held its first quarterly meeting of 2020 at the beginning of February to continue its collaborative effort to foster a strong local food system within the county.

At the February meeting, Alliance members began by reflecting on insights gathered during the October listening sessions, including the nuanced importance of building community health and community wealth, and the strong interest around developing robust farm-to-school programs.

The meeting included a discussion on climate change and agriculture lead by Wendy Rash and an in-depth review of fees and regulations that farmers face to sell their food at different venues compiled by Jahniah McGill and Priscilla Yeaney. A deeper conversation developed around policy and the actions needed to bring about meaningful change that would help our farmers thrive.

The Alliance received updates from the Sustainable Solano team on the recently awarded CDFA Specialty Crop Block Grant that is supporting the development of a number of key initiatives. Those include farm-to-institutional customer sales, public education on the importance of eating locally and the abundance of produce grown in Solano County, including cooking classes across the county, and the development of the first Bounty of the County event slated for August 29.

You can find more details in the meeting minutes here.

Curious about the Solano Local Food System Alliance? Learn more about the USDA grant that led to the creation of the Alliance and find out more about its work here.

CSA Spotlight: Real Good Fish

By Sustainable Solano

This is an ongoing series profiling local businesses that have Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) available in Solano County. CSAs create a way for community members to buy directly from local producers. Such arrangements help producers, in this case fishermen, receive a greater share of the money paid, bring customers fresh, local food and promote health, community and the local economy.

Fisherman Khevin Mellegers is one of the local fishermen that works with Real Good Fish

Real Good Fish started as Local Catch Monterey in 2012 with the mission of bringing locally and sustainably sourced seafood to Central California. The company, which started working mostly out of a single van, now delivers to more than 1,600 individuals and families every week, according to Emily Hess of Member Services. The company supports local fishermen who use sustainable catch methods and created the Bay2Tray program to increase awareness and demand for sustainably caught seafood with public school districts, providing local fish for school lunches and fishermen in the classroom visits.

“[We] have grown our mission to not only support local fishermen, but teach the public about the importance of seafood transparency and healthy fishing stocks,” she said.

Below is a Q&A with Emily about Real Good Fish:

  • Real Good Fish
  • Moss Landing
  • Fish from the California Coast
  • Established 2012

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

We started delivering fish in 2012. Making fresh seafood from local fishermen easily accessible is not only good for the community, but for the planet as a whole as we drive seafood demand away from international imports and combat the challenges of mislabeled seafood and mismanaged fisheries.

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

Getting local seafood delivered to your neighborhood is a great perk! With each share that our members receive, they are also getting the fishermen info for exactly where their fish is coming from, as well as recipes and cooking suggestions for that day’s delivery. As a member, they also get to participate in our special sales where we offer not only a greater variety of seafood, but our house-made value-added products such as smoked salmon burgers, dungeness crab ravioli, and much more. People tend to subscribe for the convenience and the quality of fish they receive. Real Good Fish cuts out several middle men that are usually involved in the sea-to-table process with fish from a grocery store. We buy the fish directly off the boat, process it ourselves, and deliver it at peak freshness, giving our members access to the freshest fish around.

What’s something that makes your business stand out?

Along with sourcing from and supporting local fishermen, we also work with our local school districts to get sustainable local seafood onto school lunch menus. We utilize some of the species that are commonly discarded as bycatch, and teach cafeteria staff how to properly store and prepare it to make healthy lunch alternatives, like fish tacos, that are within the school’s budget. This Bay2Tray program also arranges classroom visits with the fishermen we work with to teach kids about the local fishing industry and why it is important to be in touch with your resources and know where your food comes from. We try to extend our local sustainability model to as many aspects of the community as we can!

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

We are always looking for new ways to expand and incorporate other local food programs into our subscriptions! We have recently been working with local farms like Marin Sun Farm, Fogline Farm and Wayne’s Fine Swine to bring our members other sources of local protein, like beef, pork and chicken. All of these other farms are using pasture-raised and organic practices to raise healthy, happy animals to provide the finest meats to their local customer base. We are hoping to expand our range to bring more customers the amazingly high-quality fish and message we provide, and would love to incorporate some of these other proteins into our subscriptions on a more regular basis.

Real Good Fish has Solano County CSA drop sites in Benicia and Fairfield. Learn more about how to sign up here.

Find out more about local CSAs here.

This Giving Tuesday, Support Sustainable Solano Through Give Local Solano

By Sustainable Solano

Sometimes the gifts we get at Sustainable Solano are the small moments that come out of the work we do. While our work is focused on effecting change within our communities to build resiliency and sustainable living, what happens on the human scale is much more personal:

  • A woman getting to know neighbors and new friends while planning a resilient neighborhood.
  • A man planting in a community garden recalling how his mother prepared certain vegetables during his childhood.
  • Students researching and connecting with the food they grow on campus to send home for families.
  • Farmers connecting in conversation to share practices and ideas.

During #GivingTuesday, Dec. 3, we invite you to become part of fostering that human connection in creating a world that works for everyone. Sustainable Solano is participating in this year’s Give Local Solano. The program gives you a chance to give to area nonprofits that are doing important work in the county. All donations go to the organizations selected, and 100% of the donation qualifies as a charitable gift. Here are more details on Give Local Solano.

While we have a Donate button at the top of our website for any time of year, Give Local Solano gives us a chance to highlight our programs with people who may not have heard of Sustainable Solano and the work we do. We hope those of you who know us, volunteer with us and have joined us for workshops will help spread the word — while every dollar will help bring more programs to the county, every new connection is someone who can help us grow and spread the important work we’re doing to create sustainable landscapes, shape resilient communities, provide education and support local food.

See Sustainable Solano’s profile and donate here on Dec. 3!