The Shalom demonstration food forest installation wrapped up Saturday. This was phase one of a larger goal to create a community garden in Vacaville. The past few weeks have been incredible community events, but the devastation of the fires and shootings weigh heavy on my heart. In spite of the smoke, people showed up and as a team we installed the Shalom garden. In spite of the fear of violence, Pastor Sue and husband Jim opened their home and served lovely meals. The fair share ethic in permaculture was embodied on these Saturdays:
Kathleen brought pineapple guavas.
Ron, Sue and Neely shared their bounty of pomegranates.
Kevin and Jessica brought tools and strength.
Kristina from Lemuria donated two flats of vegetables.
Divina brought her infectious joy.
There are too many generous acts of kindness to list.
With facemasks on, members of our Solano community came together to build a garden and somehow exist between the speechless beauty and bottomless grief.
Even though I felt deep gratitude, for the kindness of the community, I awoke on the Sunday after the final installation feeling weepy and moving around my home directionless. Then I remembered that I came home from the installation with pomegranates! I got lost researching pomegranates and the best way to separate the seeds for juicing. As I separated the arils, I had a few bowls next to me. The worms got the membrane; the chickens received some of the arils that I was too lazy to separate. I pressed a beautiful burgundy apple pomegranate juice for my family and saved the peels of the pomegranate in the freezer to make a tea. While I got lost in the task I listened to the Mr. Rogers documentary, “Won’t you be my Neighbor?” The tears began to flow as he relayed his mother’s advice that when something is happening that is scary to always look for the people that are helping. I just spent three Saturdays surrounded by the people that are helping.
Since the launch of its Sustainable Backyard program in 2014, Sustainable Solano has created 15 food-producing, self-sustaining demonstration “food forest” gardens across Solano County on both public and private land. These gardens are primarily irrigated by secondary water sources (diverted roofwater, laundry-to-landscape greywater systems). The food forests are designed based on a permaculture design system of food production that utilizes the wisdom inherent in natural woodlands and the understanding of beneficial relationships between plants to create and support landscapes that grow food for human use.
The program officially expanded to Vacaville in mid-August. Since the launch, sustainable landscape classes have been offered to Vacaville residents covering sustainable landscape design, wise-water practices and permaculture.
On Saturday, October 13th, residents will have a hands-on opportunity to help create Vacaville’s first private demonstration food forest garden, alongside their community, by attending the first demonstration installation workshop. The selected homeowner is a long-time Vacaville resident with a vision to transform his front yard from barren, dead grass to an oasis of edible and beneficial trees and plants. This demonstration food forest garden will be named “Healthy Futures” with the goal of providing nourishment and serve as a community asset to learn about sustainable landscaping.
All are invited to help transform this lawn into a thriving ecosystem fed by secondary water sources. The garden will take three full days to complete and each public installation workshop will be hands-on.
This first workshop will focus on digging swales, diverting roofwater, planting fruit trees and sheet mulching to increase water-holding capacity and improve soil health. On Saturday, October 20th, with the guidance of Greywater Action, attendees will learn about greywater use and how to install a laundry-to-landscape system that diverts water from your washing machine to your garden reducing the need for potable water irrigation. Day three, Saturday, October 27th,, will wrap up the project with attendees planting a community of plants with multiple functions that support a healthy, diverse ecosystem, installation of water efficient in-line drip system.
The selection process for these sites are based on criteria such as yard access, greywater feasibility and sun orientation. Sites are assessed and selected by Sustainable Solano’s Advisory Board made up of dedicated Solano County residents aiming to raise sustainability awareness in Solano County.
There will be yearly ongoing workshops and tours of these demonstration food forest gardens on private and public land in each city. This project is made possible by funding and support of the Solano County Water Agency.
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Sustainable Solano is a grassroots, county-wide movement uniting people and their initiatives aiming to serve the future of Solano County, to promote ecologically sustainable, economically and socially just communities. The organization had been expanding its mission of sustainable gardening since 2011 to include all forms of sustainable local food production (urban agriculture, permaculture, wise water landscape practices, Community Supported Agriculture partnerships and public education). Benicia Community Gardens changed its named to Sustainable Solano in 2016 to reflect its current scope and growing reach to actively engage all of Solano County. Sustainable Solano provides opportunities to local community members across the county to participate in four main initiatives: sustainable landscaping, local food movement, a community conversations speaker series and a sustainable neighborhoods pilot expanding on the sustainability framework to include renewable energy and shared small local solutions. Since 2016, its programs have extended to Vallejo, Fairfield and Suisun City.
Sustainable Solano will be launching its Sustainable Backyard program in Vacaville this August bringing educational, hands-on learning opportunities for residents interested in sustainable landscaping and wise water landscape practices to feed a landscape. This program focuses on transforming lawns and unproductive landscapes into lush, food-producing gardens fed primarily by secondary water sources (laundry-to-landscape greywater system and rainwater) and also brings inspiring talks on sustainable landscape design and permaculture principles.
The Vacaville Sustainable Backyard program will launch on August 11, 2018, with a talk by the permaculture expert Lydia Neilsen at Morningsun Herb Farm in Vacaville. The application period will be open to Vacaville homeowners and community public spaces to apply to become “food forest keepers” and have their yard transformed into a demonstration food forest garden. Highly visible, front-yard lawns are preferred but other types of landscapes (up to 2,000 square feet) are welcome to apply. Details about this expansion and a downloadable application will be available on the website homepage from August 11-September 21st.
Sites are assessed and chosen by Sustainable Solano’s Advisory Board made up of dedicated residents aiming to raise sustainability awareness in Solano County. Site selections are based on criteria such as: yard access, greywater feasibility, sun orientation and a commitment to community education.
There is no financial cost to Vacaville homeowners interested in being a part of this community-building project. The program will offer a series of free, hands-on public educational workshops where locals can learn about permaculture design and be part of the installation of these edible ecosystems fed by secondary water sources. There will be an annual tour of these demonstration food forest gardens.
The Sustainable Backyard program has successfully completed 15 demonstration food forests on both private and public land since the initial launch in 2015. Names given to these gardens are a reflection of the hopes and aspirations of the homeowner as part of their vision for the world they want to live in. Suisun City homeowner and food forest keeper of “A Growing Future” demonstration garden, Cassandra, had her lawn replaced with what she calls “a secure source of local food for my family with a surplus to share with the community”. For food forest keepers in Solano County, these gardens are a source of inspiration, resiliency and connection with neighbors. For Benicia food forest keeper Nam, the garden provided something else aside from birds, bees, flowers, fruits and vegetables. “This garden provided a place for meditation and a peaceful space during difficult times for our family.”
This project is made possible by the funding and support of the Solano County Water Agency.
The Sustainable Backyard will expand to Dixon and Rio Vista in 2019. Visit www.sustainablesolano.org and www.facebook.com/sustainablesolano for updates and details about this expansion.
In addition to self-sustaining, water-efficient landscapes, Sustainable Solano also envisions an environmentally and economically sustainable local food system. In September of 2017, it was awarded a planning grant by the USDA to begin developing a business plan for Community Food Centers in all seven cities. These food centers will serve as a hub for local food activities: CSA deliveries, cooking classes, and community education increasing access to seasonal, locally-produced food, better health for residents county-wide and a stronger local food economy.
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