Bounty of the County Shifts Focus to Support Solano County Farmers Hurt by Fires

The fires that have torn through Solano County this week have damaged many of the small family farms and wineries in the county. Some farmers lost everything, including their homes, while others were spared. Some have not been able to access their property to determine the extent of the damage.

With the farming community in shock and grieving, Sustainable Solano has decided to shift the focus of the Bounty of the County celebration of Solano agriculture, chefs and wine, which was scheduled to start Aug. 25 with cooking classes, presentations and special dishes.

Instead, the Bounty of the County: Stronger Together event will start with raising funds for those farmers and growers who have lost property, crops and animals to the wildfires. 100% of all donations received through Sustainable Solano through the end of September will go to help our Solano County farmers, ranchers and wine growers. The cooking demonstrations, presentations and dining promotions will be delayed by a week, starting Sept. 1.

Donations may be sent to:

Sustainable Solano

P.O. Box 1215

Benicia, CA 94510

Checks should be made out to “Sustainable Solano”

Or through PayPal at

(while donations by check will go to the fund in their entirety, PayPal does charge fees)

Starting Sept. 1, the Bounty of the County: Stronger Together event will begin to highlight trios of Solano farmers, chefs and winemakers to build public awareness of Solano agriculture and food. Each Tuesday, the trio will be part of a live, online presentation that will offer a cooking demonstration and details on the farms, restaurants and wineries featured. Attendees who register for the free events on Eventbrite will be able to make an optional donation for the Bounty of the County Fire Relief Fund.

Those who want to help can also purchase directly from Solano farmers and the restaurants and retailers that source local farm products. Find more local food resources here.

Find more information here:

Contact: Communications Manager Allison Nagel at or 805-512-0901

Bounty of the County to Spotlight Solano County Food and Wine

This celebration of agriculture, chefs and wine will highlight a team of one Solano County farmer, a chef at a Solano County restaurant and a Solano County winery each week starting the week of Aug. 24 and continuing through September. This is the first year of Solano’s Bounty of the County, which will be held as a virtual event to ensure public health and safety due to COVID-19.

Each week will begin with an informative online live cooking demonstration, where the chef will discuss and make a featured dish, the farmer will talk about the seasonal specialty crops in that dish and the winemaker will highlight pairings. Each restaurant will offer a special meal for purchase that includes the farmer’s featured Bounty of the County products.

To date, participants include:

  • Farms: Be Love Farm, Eatwell Farm, Lockewood Acres, Tenbrink Farm, Terra Firma Farm, Wilkinson Acres
  • Restaurants/Food Producers: Backdoor Bistro (Vacaville), Michael Warring (Vallejo), The Pip Wine Bar & Shop (Dixon), Slanted Tree Kitchen & Taproom (Fairfield), Two60 Kitchen + Bar (Fairfield), Virtue Juice Bar (Vacaville)
  • Wineries: Sky Ranch, Suisun Creek Winery, Suisun Valley Wine Co-op, Tenbrink, Tolenas

More participants may be confirmed in the coming weeks.

This year’s Bounty of the County was developed in partnership by Sustainable Solano, the Solano County Fair Association and the Solano Small Business Development Center.


Dates: Weekly starting the week of Aug. 24 and going through September

Each week will highlight a local trio: a farm, restaurant and winemaker

Find the schedule and latest updates and learn more here:

Bounty of the County was originally envisioned as a large, in-person event at the Solano County Fairgrounds that would highlight local food in an environment that encouraged food and wine tasting and social interaction with farmers, chefs and winemakers. Instead, the celebration has moved online with virtual demonstrations and participating restaurants offering ways to purchase the featured dishes under the current county health guidelines. The organizations behind the event continue to plan for a public event next summer that will be aligned with public health and safety.

For more information or to arrange interviews, contact Sustainable Solano Communications Manager Allison Nagel at 805-512-0901 or or Sustainable Solano Local Food Program Manager Stephanie Oelsligle Jordan at


About Sustainable Solano

Sustainable Solano is a countywide nonprofit organization that is dedicated to “Nurturing Initiatives for the Good of the Whole.” The organization brings together programs that support and sustain one another and the Solano County community. Initiatives include sustainable landscaping, local food, resilient neighborhoods, sustaining conversations and community gardens.

For more information, visit

About the Solano County Fair Association

The Solano County Fair Association (SCFA) was established in 1946 to produce the annual Solano County Fair and manage the year-round operations of the Solano County Fairgrounds.  Since then, the SCFA has been providing educational, cultural, artistic, commercial and recreational programs to the residents of Solano County for more than 70 years.

For more information, visit

About Solano Small Business Development Center

The Solano Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is a nonprofit organization that provides expert no-cost advising, low cost workshops and small business trainings to guide small businesses to success and accomplishment. The Solano SBDC serves all of Solano County and is part of the Northern California SBDC network. 

For more information, visit




Fostering Food Security Through Collaboration

By Sustainable Solano

Food insecurity is a big challenge in Solano County, where 13.7% of residents don’t have a stable food supply, compared with 11.6% for the state, according to Solano Public Health. In recent months, Sustainable Solano has been in conversation with organizations that are taking the initiative to move food from farms and gardens onto the plates of county residents. These organizations are seeking ways to collaborate toward supplying more people with the good food they need.

Sustainable Solano strives to build community around immediate personal connection, and an emphasis on healthy local food that provides greater food security and resilience is an important part of that connection. Our current food system doesn’t support this vision, which is why we applaud the efforts of organizations that are supporting ways to give on a personal level to people in need.

In the coming months, we hope to bring you more resources to share in the community and how you can get involved.

Images courtesy of Solano Land Trust

From Fair to Food

Solano Land Trust is known for its work preserving agricultural land and open space around Solano County, but the organization has recently expanded its efforts to include a farm-to-community food connection. It started when the COVID-19 restrictions canceled the Dixon May Fair and moved the Solano County Fair from a large public event to an online virtual event this year. While the livestock auctions for the fairs were able to transition to an online bid process, Solano Land Trust officials wanted to support the kids. The organization was able to purchase a steer and two pigs this year, coordinate the difficult task of processing those animals, and deliver the meat to the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano County.

The food bank reports increased food insecurity as a result of COVID-19. Even before the pandemic, an estimated 43,650 people did not have access to enough nutritious food in the county. The number is expected to grow by 23,690 people this year due to the effects of the pandemic, the Solano Land Trust and food bank report.

Solano Land Trust is finding other ways to distribute food to those in need. The organization has supplied more than 1,000 tomato, squash, melon, pepper and eggplant starts donated by Morningsun Herb Farm to the food bank and other community food distribution organizations. Solano Land Trust also has been collecting restricted donations used to purchase more than 3,600 pounds of produce from local farms. So far, the organization has bought produce from Eatwell Farm, Tenbrink Farms and Fully Belly Farms. The purchased food is then donated through the food bank and distributed through the mobile food pharmacy, which focuses on getting fresh produce to people whose doctors have prescribed that they eat healthy.

Learn more and donate to the Solano Land Trust’s Farm to Community Food Connection program here.

Images courtesy of Food is Free Solano

Food. For Free

Food is Free Solano has grown in leaps from when Heather Pierini started with a small stand in her front yard to distribute extra produce (Heather is one of Sustainable Solano’s Food Forest Keepers and recently expanded her garden so she could offer more to her community members). Since starting with that one stand and seeing the need for food in her community, Heather started coordinating other permanent and pop-up stands as Food is Free Benicia. Next thing we knew, she was arranging the donation and distribution of 4,000 gallons of milk! She has since changed the name to Food is Free Solano to reflect the wider scope of her vision. Working with local nonprofit WAHEO, she has been able to arrange distribution of food boxes through the USDA’s Farmers to Families food box program. So far, Food is Free Solano has distributed over 90,000 pounds of produce and 8,000 gallons of milk. Heather’s also been involved in promoting gleaning of fruit trees through starting the Solano Gleaning Initiative, with distribution through the Food is Free Solano stands.

Learn more about Food is Free Solano and Heather’s work and donate here.

Image courtesy of Fairfield-Suisun Rotary Club
Sustainable Solano’s Avant Garden in Benicia

Gleaning Gets Going

Gleaning is gaining legs as people are looking for more sources of food that have been only sporadically utilized in Solano County. The Fairfield-Suisun Rotary Club saw the need for fresh produce among those receiving food assistance and identified gleaning as a way to serve that need. Through the new Rotary Feeds Families program, Rotary Club volunteers turn out to pick the fruit and then deliver it to the food bank or Meals on Wheels.

Learn more about the Rotary Club’s gleaning efforts here, and contact Kimber Smith if you have fruit to harvest. You can reach her at or 707-333-9830.

The next step in gleaning will be creating more coordination between the organizations that are offering gleaning services around the county and community food distribution organizations. This is an area Sustainable Solano hopes to support in the future in cooperation with the Solano Land Trust, the Rotary Club and Food is Free Solano.

Toward Greater Collaboration

Our dedication to sharing food within communities stretches back to the establishment of Sustainable Solano’s very first community garden in Benicia 21 years ago. Our community gardens have “share plots” that grow food for giving, and many of the community gardeners and food forest keepers we work with also give food as their gardens grow in abundance. Already this year, Avant Garden in downtown Benicia has donated around 130 pounds of squash, zucchini and peppers to organizations like Food is Free Solano and CAC. Many of the small to medium-sized local farms we work with offer opportunities to purchase donated boxes of produce through their Community Supported Agriculture programs, creating ways to support local farms and provide food for people who need it. All of these efforts are important, and we are excited about working with other organizations to coordinate all of our efforts toward the common goal of sharing more food with neighbors in various ways.

Learn more about Sustainable Solano’s work and donate here or contact us at

If you or your organization is interested in joining these efforts, please reach out to us at

You can find more local food resources here on our site, and more food access support and resources on our COVID-19/Community Resilience Resources page here.

Sustainable Solano Offers Important Talk on How to Build Connection in Your Own Community

Join us live on Zoom at 4 p.m. July 2 for Reimagining the Neighborhood: A Placemaker’s Journey with Mark Lakeman of The City Repair Project!

Sustainable Solano, a countywide nonprofit, is hosting City Repair’s Mark Lakeman in a virtual conversation over Zoom about powerful but achievable community-level strategies to empower and connect neighbors — strategies that are already taking root across the country. The online talk is free and open to everyone. Part of the conversation will draw upon insight from Sustainable Solano’s Resilient Neighborhoods in Vallejo, which seek to bring neighbors together to create robust and regenerative urban ecosystems.

The need for strong communities where people know and care for their neighbors is more apparent than ever. There is a demand for solutions that allow neighbors to support and rely on each other. Part of that comes from working together on common goals and reclaiming the commons for the people who live there. With the United States possessing the lowest number of community gathering places of all developed nations, it’s time for communities to reimagine what public spaces can look like and work together to transform neighborhoods into vibrant, inclusive and engaging places where life can thrive.

Attendees for the Reimagining the Neighborhood talk will learn about some of Lakeman’s inspiring work with The City Repair Project, which facilitates artistic and ecologically oriented placemaking through projects that honor the interconnection of human communities and the natural world. While City Repair started in Portland, the organization has supported numerous communities in coming together for change. The discussion will include a special focus on community building at the street level and ways that you and your neighbors can organize and begin transforming your block today: from intersection paintings to little free libraries and pantries, the sky’s the limit when it comes to reimagining what a neighborhood can be.

Mark Lakeman’s talk is part of the Solano Sustainable Backyards program and is made possible by the generous support of the Solano County Water Agency.

Register here to receive a Zoom link to the live talk followed by a Q&A session with Mark Lakeman:

 View and print the flyer here.

About Mark Lakeman and The City Repair Project

Mark Lakeman is the cofounder of the nonprofit placemaking organization The City Repair Project, and principal of the community architecture and planning firm Communitecture. Lakeman is also an urban placemaker and permaculture designer, community design facilitator, and an inspiring catalyst in his very active commitment to the emergence of sustainable cultural landscapes everywhere. Every design project he is involved with furthers the development of a beneficial vision for human and ecological communities. Whether this involves urban design and placemaking, ecological building, encourages community interaction, or assists those who typically do not have access to design services, Lakeman’s leadership has benefited communities across the North American continent. These include cities such as Los Angeles, Seattle, and Ottawa where City Repair projects are underway.

Lakeman’s projects have been featured in such publications as Dwell, Architecture Magazine, New Village Journal, Yes magazine, The Utne Reader, Permaculture Activist and many more. With City Repair, in 2003 Mark was awarded the National Lewis Mumford Award by the international organization Architects & Planners for Social Responsibility for his work with Dignity Village, one of the United States’ first self-developed, permanent communities by and for previously homeless people.

To learn more about Lakeman, click here.  


About Sustainable Solano

Sustainable Solano is a countywide nonprofit organization that is dedicated to “Nurturing Initiatives for the Good of the Whole.” The organization brings together programs that support and sustain one another and the Solano County community. Initiatives include sustainable landscaping, local food, resilient neighborhoods, sustaining conversations and community gardens.

For more information, visit

Sustainable Solano Offers Water Wisdom Talk and Video Garden Tour


  • 10-11:45 am Saturday, May 30
  • A live talk with permaculture expert Lydia Neilsen on water management practices and how to design landscapes to absorb water, support vegetation and contribute to the restoration of the global water cycle and climate stability. There will be time during the talk for audience questions.
  • Neilsen also will do a video tour of two Vallejo demonstration food forest gardens. The video will be shared with participants and the general public before her live talk.
  • Participants can join via Zoom by registering in advance here:

Sustainable Solano welcomes back permaculture expert Lydia Neilsen for a live Zoom talk May 30 on the wisdom of conserving and capturing water to heal the planet.

Neilsen will discuss water management practices and how to design landscapes to absorb water, support vegetation and contribute to the restoration of the global water cycle and climate stability. Through her business, Rehydrate the Earth, Neilsen works to address poor water management practices that have negatively affected the environment. She specializes in permaculture education, soil building, greywater, integrated poultry systems, water harvesting earthworks and productive water conserving landscapes, polyculture and efficient uses of limited space.

Neilsen’s talk is free for those who register. There will be time for questions throughout the talk. If more than 100 people register, those who are unable to join live will receive a link to the recorded talk afterward.

Sustainable Solano also is recording a video tour of two Vallejo demonstration food forest gardens with Neilsen that will be released in the days before her live talk. These gardens, created through Sustainable Solano’s Solano Sustainable Backyards program funded by the Solano County Water Agency, are waterwise, edible gardens that build soil, save water, support communities and provide habitat. The video will be shared publicly and sent in a link to those registered for the talk. Register for the talk here:

The event will be similar in format to the successful virtual demonstration food forest garden tour and talk with permaculture expert John Valenzuela in April. Learn more and watch the videos of the talk and tour here:


More on Lydia Neilsen

Lydia Neilsen from Rehydrate the Earth (Permaculture Education, Consultation and Design) and Vital Cycles (a year-long Permaculture Design and Personal Ecology Course co-taught with Anne Freiwald) will be leading this talk. Neilsen seeks to understand and respond to the land, both practically and intuitively, prioritizing the infiltration of water into the landscape in conjunction with the planting of trees and other perennial vegetation to moderate local temperatures and restore water cycles. She educates individuals and communities in the creation of stunning regenerative designs including do-it-yourself-scale earthworks for water infiltration, productive water conserving polyculture landscapes, tree guilds, Biodynamics, soil building, greywater and other Earth healing strategies. In addition to Rehydrate the Earth and Vital Cycles, Neilsen teaches as part of several Bay Area Permaculture Design Courses and is a certified Permaculture Educator through the Permaculture Institute of North America (PINA).

Background on the Sustainable Backyards program:

The goal of our program is to introduce the concept and practice of permaculture to Solano County.

These gardens are designed using the basic permaculture ethics of Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share. The food forest concept is based on groupings of plants that yield food or support the ecosystem of a healthy garden. They rely on secondary water such as rainwater retention and laundry-to-landscape greywater systems to conserve and keep water on-site.

Seven Benicia demonstration food forests were funded by Benicia Community Sustainability Commission in 2014-2016. The expansion of the program to all of Solano County is funded by Solano County Water Agency.

We are always looking for public and private sites around the county that can become new demonstration food forest gardens and would welcome any interested readers to fill out our interest form if they have a site we should consider.

About Sustainable Solano

Sustainable Solano is a countywide nonprofit organization that is dedicated to “Nurturing Initiatives for the Good of the Whole.” The organization brings together programs that support and sustain one another and the Solano County community. Initiatives include sustainable landscaping, local food, resilient neighborhoods, sustaining conversations and community gardens.

For more information, visit

Sustainable Solano Hosts Virtual Demonstration Food Forest Garden Tour, Talk April 25


Sustainable Solano is bringing its annual Demonstration Food Forest Garden tour online this year as an interactive talk and virtual tour. Due to coronavirus (COVID-19), the nonprofit organization has reimagined the tour in a way that allows participants to join the talk and experience a garden from the comfort of their homes.

About the Tour:

  • Virtual Demonstration Food Forest Garden Tour & Talk
  • 10-11:45 am Saturday, April 25
  • The event will feature a talk by permaculture expert John Valenzuela, followed by a short video tour of one of Sustainable Solano’s demonstration food forest gardens and leaving time for a Q&A session with Valenzuela at the end. The event, hosted on Zoom, will be open to the first 100 people who join that morning. Everyone who registers will also receive a link to the recording of the talk and tour after the live event.
  • Participants must register to get the Zoom link. Register here:

The live April 25 talk from John Valenzuela of Cornucopia Food Forest Gardens will cover permaculture and explore how permaculture follows nature as a guide in the garden, our communities and beyond. He will plant ideas on what participants can do today to begin a journey into permaculture and bring these concepts into their own gardens. Valenzuela will discuss how to design a tree guild of plants that work together, the elements of a food forest garden, wise sources of water and expanding that vision to create Resilient Neighborhoods. Together, participants will watch a guided virtual video tour of a demonstration food forest garden that shows what can be done to create edible, waterwise landscapes that support communities and provide natural habitat. The tour will show how capturing rainwater, roof water and greywater from weekly laundry can support a garden that works in harmony with nature. There will be time for a question and answer session at the end.

Valenzuela is a horticulturist, consultant and educator. First introduced to the sustainable design theories and methods of permaculture in 1989, he has studied, practiced and taught permaculture in Hawaii, Washington, Costa Rica and throughout California. His special interests are rare fruit, home gardening, trees, traditional agriculture, plant propagation and ethnobotany. 

This talk and the video tour will launch a series of virtual garden tours from Sustainable Solano. The organization will post virtual tours of demonstration food forest gardens throughout the county. Each garden is a unique experience: some are compact front yards, others are on a slope, some share space with animals and small children, some are allowed to grow without restriction, while others are more manicured. They all are lush, food-producing gardens that are fed by secondary water sources (laundry-to-landscape greywater and rainwater) that offer inspiration for home gardens!

John Valenzuela’s talk is sponsored by Republic Services; the tour and Solano Sustainable Backyards program are made possible by the generous support of the Solano County Water Agency


Useful links:

Solano Sustainable Backyards:

John Valenzuela:

Resilient Neighborhoods:

About Sustainable Solano

Sustainable Solano is a countywide nonprofit organization that is dedicated to “Nurturing Initiatives for the Good of the Whole.” The organization, now in its second decade, brings together programs that support and sustain one another and the Solano County community. Initiatives include sustainable landscaping, local food, resilient neighborhoods, sustaining conversations and community gardens.