By Elena Karoulina, Executive Director
We continue working on our big vision for the environmentally and economically sustainable and socially just local food system in our county. As a part of our Community Food Center project, funded by USDA, we are finalizing the feasibility study of the agriculture production available for the needs of the county. In June-July, our mighty working team of Sustainable Solano staff, UC Davis interns and a representative of the Solano Public Health, our key partner in this vision, embarked on reaching out to our farmers and meeting face to face with them to better understand the reality of farming and feeding the community in Solano County.
We reached out to 60 farms. Most of them are small to mid-size operations, producing a variety of food (mostly produce, but also honey, olive oil, eggs, meat and dairy). Not everyone was available or interested to talk with us about the emerging local food system, and we totally understand and respect this reservation. However, many opened their hearts and minds to this vision, and we are immensely grateful to the farmers who took time off their busiest season of the year to sit down with us and to tell us the true story of local food production and distribution.
We are still finalizing the results of our interviews and integrating them with relevant statistics from USDA and Solano Department of Agriculture to form an accurate picture of the state of agriculture production suitable for the local markets. What we see so far is a rather weak supply, a lack of infrastructure and most importantly, a week demand for Solano-grown food. If we are to change this picture, if we are to create a resilient local food economy, we’ll have to revisit our relationship with local food, our commitment to buying locally and our priorities as consumers.
Sustainable Solano is committed to continue working with various stakeholders and community partners to strengthen our local food economy. However, we cannot do it without a broad support of this vision from our communities! Please give your personal and family food supply a thought! To find out more, attend one of our many public educational events and consider buying truly local. For the list of Community Supported Agriculture, farm stands, restaurants and retailers, please click here.
From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU to the owners and operators of the following farms who communicated with us during this process and contributed to our understanding of the current state of our local food economy:
Acquistapace Farms, Fairfield
Be Love Farm, Vacaville
Brazelton Ranch, Vacaville
Cherry Glen Beefmasters, Vacaville
Eatwell Farm and CSA, Dixon
Everything Under The Sun, Dixon
Il Fiorello Olive Oil Company, Fairfield
Lockewood Acres Organic Farm, Vacaville
Menagerie Hill Ranch, Vacaville
Pleasants Valley Honey Company, Vacaville
Robledo Produce, Fairfield
Rock Hill Ranch Chickens, Fairfield
Saechao Family Farm, Fairfield
Sepay Groves Olive Oil, Fairfield
Sierra Orchards, Dixon
Solano Mushroom Farm, Vacaville
Soul Food Farm, Vacaville
Tenbrink Farm, Fairfield
The Cloverleaf at Bridgeway Farms, Dixon
The Collins Farm, Dixon
What a beautiful reminder of the heart, generosity and support that we have in our community! Because of your generous donations through this year’s #GivingTuesday campaign, we are re-energized in knowing that our vision for a more sustainable Solano county is backed by the very communities we work so hard to enrich through our programs.
We truly appreciate everyone taking part in this global day of giving back and are so grateful to those that celebrated with us this on this powerful day of giving back. Your generous gift will help us continue to bring to you educational workshops about sustainable landscaping practices and wise water use, inspirational speakers and seasonal cooking classes, maintain our two Benicia community gardens and help connect local food producers to residents like YOU through Community Supported Agriculture. On behalf of everyone here at Sustainable Solano, THANK YOU for your gifts, energy and engagement. We hope you continue to GROW WITH US on this journey.
WE GROW FOOD, LEADERSHIP, AWARENESS, HOPE AND FUTURE!
Photo: Inspired young helpers of our next generation of growers break ground at this month’s demonstration food forest installation at Loma Vista Farm in Vallejo.
Were Not Able to Give a Monetary Donation?
There are still lots of ways to help and get involved! You can give the gift of time and energy by sharing a special skill or talent. Click here to learn how. You can also help support us all year long by choosing Sustainable Solano as your beneficiary nonprofit while shopping Amazon.com through their AmazonSmile program. Click here to bookmark our unique link and Sustainable Solano will receive 0.5% of each purchase made!
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!”
In the midst of this holiday season, despite fears and worries surrounding the unprecedented national election, I more than ever want to honor and celebrate what all of you have actually achieved this past year. Together, we’ve demonstrated how vital hopes for a better, more sustainable world can be made manifest right where we live. Together, we’ve shown that real change comes from the ground up when we share an ethical vision and actually roll up our sleeves and work to make “the possible” come alive through committed, collective actions.
Our mission in 2017 will continue, nourishing initiatives for the good of the whole. One of our major changes and accomplishments in 2016: Benicia Community Gardens as a non-profit organization has grown, becoming “Sustainable Solano” for wider reach to Solano communities, thus to embrace initiatives and partnerships inspired by many others sharing our vision. BCG’s accomplishments in 2016 will carry us into 2017. Here’s what we’ve done together:
- installed the last 3 of a total of 7 food forest gardens under the Benicia Sustainable Backyard program, with 3 public garden tours, and 5 more tours planned for 2017;
- inaugurated the first Land Caretakers program for training novices and professional landscapers in sustainable practices for creating edible, wise-water gardens using greywater and rain water harvesting systems;
- partnered with local chefs in Vallejo and Benicia to create community-supported kitchens, with a pilot kitchen program in Benicia to launch in 2017;
- established partnership with the Solano County Water Agency — contract awarded to establish a total of 5 food forest gardens, three in Fairfield and two in Vallejo;
- Hosted, in consort with Pachamama Alliance, a very moving and successful “Awakening the Dreamer Symposium” in Fairfield, the event serving to inspire individuals toward embracing a new dream and to take actions that can heal the world where we live, and to introduce Sustainable Solano as an organization embracing that new dream.
Thank you all for a milestone year in 2016! May we keep hope, working together to strengthen our communities, upholding basic values for a more just, healthy world.
With appreciation and gratitude,
A cool, drizzly morning couldn’t stop the over two dozen people who gathered in a cozy group at the site of Sustainable Solano’s oldest demonstration food forests, “Birds, Bees and Beyond.” A Walk in a Food Forest’s third stop was hosted by Heather and Frank and their children, who volunteered their home and garden not only for demonstrating roof water catchment, laundry to landscape graywater reuse, permaculture landscape planning–but also for Benicia’s first permitted shower-to-landscape graywater installation.
Professional landscapers, gardening enthusiasts, permaculture students, and everyone in between, from Suisun, Benicia, Fairfield, Vallejo, and beyond Solano County came to hear John Valenzuela of Cornucopia Food Forest Gardens. John started his presentation with a brief overview of permaculture concepts and quickly honed into his passion of trees: pruning, grafting, guilds of trees and plants that exist in nature, and especially the edible ones native to, or thrive in, northern California. He provided fascinating historical and political context for the plants in the region, showing a deep love of place an understanding of how things came to be, and thus how things can be in the future.
Immediately following the presentation the guests were led out into the garden to see and hear about the site specific ideas applied to “Birds, Bees and Beyond”. Heather and Frank explained the process of working with a permaculture landscape designer and their hopes for the garden. John chimed in to point out elements that worked well such as herbal plantings that deter pests, things that he particularly enjoyed such as a front yard designed to invite the neighborhood in, and some things that might be done differently (such as an avocado tree very near the house).
“What you need to know for the future,” said a guest, a professional landscaper who had attended the previous talk, “Is that the next time John gives a talk, you should give him a pair of shears and he’ll prune your trees.”
“It’s true,” he agreed, demonstrating a 45 degree angle he’d like to see a branch at.
At the end of the tour, which ran overtime despite the rain, shears were indeed passed out for guests to take cuttings from the garden home.
“Thank you for this tour,” another guest, who had recently moved to Vallejo, said to the hosts. “I have enjoyed eating my way through your garden. And now I just want to go home and get started on my own!”
There will be no tours in December, due to Sustainable Solano’s “Awakening the Dreamer” Symposium and official launch. We hope you join us for the symposium–a natural extension of many permaculture concepts. And we look forward to seeing everyone on January 28th for the fourth stop of our “Walk in a Food Forest” Tour.
Stay tuned for an update of resources John mentioned during this tour’s talk.