Explore Local Farms at Open Farm Days in Vacaville

By Lisa Murray, Pleasants Valley Agriculture Association

Last year, Pleasants Valley Agriculture Association hosted their first-ever Open Farm Day, held at four Vacaville farms. For many in the Vacaville area, it was an introduction to local farms and to the history of Pleasants Valley. 

This year, PVAA will host Open Farm Days, now held over two days, Saturday and Sunday, July 27-28, from 9 am- 3 pm at seven Vacaville farm locations. At each location, there will be even more Vacaville farmers present to introduce themselves to the public. The date was moved back from last year to coordinate with Visit Vacaville’s Farm-To-Table Dinner happening on July 27 on Main Street in downtown Vacaville. Many of the PVAA farmers’ goods will be included in the dinner. So visitors can visit the farm, meet the farmer, and then attend the farm dinner and taste the farm-fresh goodness from the farm they just visited! Because the food spends less time in transit, it’s fresher, healthier and just tastes better. Local food encourages diversification of local agriculture, which reduces the reliance on single crops grown on a wide area, which depletes the soil of nutrients — no nutrients in soil means no nutrients in our food. 

“We wanted our first Open Farm Day to be a light introduction with only a few locations as to not overwhelm visitors. This year we are excited to include more of the PVAA farm locations to show just how diverse the farms and agriculture businesses are in Vacaville’s rural areas.” – Rose Loveall, owner of Morningsun Herb Farm and one of the founding members of PVAA 

Open Farm Days is an opportunity for small, Solano County farm owners in Vacaville to open their doors to the public and show what they do. Participating farms offer free talks, tours and demos, games for kids, farm animals to meet, and space to picnic with the family. Visitors get a chance to learn from and support these different farms. 

From 11 am-3 pm, wine tasting from two Vacaville wineries will be a new addition this year. For those 21 and over, they will have two locations to visit. At La Borgata Winery & Distillery, on Pleasants Valley Road, wine and liqueur (grappa, limoncello) tastings will be available. At Soul Food Farm, also on Pleasants Valley Road, visitors will be able to taste Sky Ranch’s wine. Sky Ranch is in Mix Canyon, but it is currently not open to the public. 

Visitors will also be able to shop for local produce and other goods, including everything from organic fruit and vegetables and dried lavender to wine, grappa, olive oil and honey. Buying local boosts the local economy. Less travel from a far away farm to the store to us means we end up using less fuel and generating fewer greenhouse gases. Buying local food preserves open space by helping farmers survive and thrive, keeping land from being developed into urban sprawl. And finally, buying local creates more vibrant communities by connecting people with farmers and local food sources. 

“Open Farm Days is a great time to meet local farmers and experience life on the farm.” – Alexis Koefoed, owner of Soul Food Farm

Pleasants Valley Agriculture Association is a group of farmers and agriculture and ancillary business owners located in the rural areas of Vacaville, with a collective interest in agriculture tourism, preserving agriculture land and cross-promoting with local businesses in Solano County. 

The Open Farm Days locations are Joyful Ranch, Soul Food Farm, Morningsun Herb Farm and Be Love Farm, with the new locations this year at Brazelton Ranch, La Borgata Winery & Distillery, and Menagerie Hill Ranch. 

As the schedule is still being developed, it is recommended to visit VacavilleFarmers.com to view and download an event schedule and map. 

More Details on Open Farm Days

  • Joyful Ranch, the 19th century farm that is the original “Pleasants” family farm. There will only be two tours offered each day of this historic place (10 am and 11 am) and will be given by a “Pleasants” family descendent herself, Ethel Hoskins. Other PVAA farms that will be at the Joyful Ranch location include Girl on the Hill offering their lavender products for sale, as well as a lavender distillation demo, and Sola Bees offering honey tastings and a free talk about honey. Hoskins’ grandfather, William Pleasants’ book, ‘Twice Across the Plains – 1849, 1856’ will also be available to purchase, with a portion of the proceeds going towards the Joyful Ranch nonprofit organization. 
    • A tour of the farm, vendors and lots of room to picnic is what awaits visitors at Soul Food Farm. Karen Ford of Clay’s Bees will be offering tastings and a free talk on the benefits of local honey. Lockewood Acres will be on-site selling organic produce, farm-fresh eggs, jellies and vinegar. Sky Ranch will be offering wine and olive oil tastings as a fundraiser for Sustainable Solano. Soul Food Farm will be selling dried lavender, olive oil and eggs. 
      • Having just celebrated their 24th anniversary this past May, Morningsun Herb Farm is a midsized plant nursery with a diverse selection of plants, herbs and garden gifts. There will be free talks and the schedule will be posted when it becomes available. Children will be able to get their pictures taken with the Morningsun Herb Farm donkeys. 
        • Be Love Farm, a small, family-owned and operated farm focusing on regenerative farming techniques, is on Bucktown Lane. Be Love Farm opened their Farm Store in early July 2018. The Farm Store is a place where visitors can shop for organic fruit and veggies, wine, olive oil, sunflower sprouts, bread and so much more. Back by popular demand, Be Love Farm will be offering their “Regenerative Farm Tours” with times TBD.

        The new farm locations this year include: 

          • Brazelton Ranch will be open this year to offer talks and tastings. Details are still being developed. 
            • La Borgata Winery & Distillery will be open this year offering wine tastings, grappa and limoncello tastings for those over 21 years of age, and a plein air (outdoor landscape) painting demonstration. There will be games for kids and families and an area to picnic. Other Vacaville farms/ancillary businesses that will be present include 36 Oaks Spa (a country destination spa), and Jasmine Westbrook will have a Great Pyrenees dog and young lambs for kids to pet and to learn about sheep and livestock guardian dogs. Details are still being developed. 

            Menagerie Hill Ranch is an alpaca farm in English Hills. Get up close and personal with the cute and cuddly alpacas, purchase alpaca fiber and other gifts in their gift shop. Details are still being developed.

            PVAA organizers are asking everyone posting about the event on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to include the hashtag #pvaafarmdays2019 

            To learn more about the Pleasants Valley Agriculture Association, and to view/download Open Farm Days farm schedules and map, visit VacavilleFarmers.com or email pleasantsvalleyaa@gmail.com 

            Find out other ways to support your local farmers here!

            Lisa Murray is a filmmaker and the owner of the SkyGirl SoMe Marketing Agency in Vacaville. She is also the founder and festival director of the Ag & Art Film Festival premiering this year in Vacaville.

            Here Are Some Ways to Support Local Farms

            By Sustainable Solano

            We’re always looking for ways to support our local food system, so we turned to Lisa Murray with the Pleasants Valley Agriculture Association for some of her favorite tips on how to support local farms. Here are her suggestions:

            Follow your favorite farms on social media and/or subscribe to their email lists.

            Thanks to the internet, smartphones and social media, gone are the days when it was hit or miss if we happened to catch a farm stand open on our way home from work. Every farm now has either a website or a social media presence — or both. One of the ways you can support local farmers is to sign up for their email list and to follow them on social media so that you can receive alerts of what they are selling and when (and in some cases, where!), and to be notified of any new classes or events they are offering.

            Attend farm classes, events and tours year-round.

            Many of the farms in Vacaville offer classes, events and tours in both summer and non-summer months. Attending these events is a great way you can support local farms. If there is something that you would like to learn and you don’t see if offered, ask the farmer if they have ever considered offering that particular class. They may consider it and it may become popular, with you to thank!

            Help farmers with their marketing!

            Farmers are busy taking care of their land, their crops, fixing tractors and caring for animals. Marketing is last on their list. But you can help get the word out about your favorite local farmer by posting about their great [peaches/olive oil/wine/ strawberries/whatever!] on social media. Make sure you tag the farm’s page or account or include their address/contact info. If you include a photo or video of their incredible strawberries or lavender oil, you get extra bonus points! And the farmers will really appreciate the extra help getting the word out. The more business they get, the more they can keep planting and growing and making the things that are so good for all of us.

            Buy local farm goods at local stores and cafes in town.

            Keep an eye out for local farm goods at your favorite local cafe, restaurant or deli. It’s a win-win-win. The store wins, the farmer wins, and you win. And if your favorite cafe, store or deli doesn’t carry local farm goods, let the owner/manager know that you’d be interested in purchasing from them if they did. Store owners are happy for the feedback and farmers appreciate the extra business. 

            Leave a positive review on Yelp, Google or Facebook.

            Can’t get enough of the delicious watermelon from the fruit stand on your way home from work? Leave a positive review on Yelp, Google or Facebook. Not only will you make your favorite farmer’s day, you will alert the people who are hesitant to make the trek out to the farm that it’s a great idea! And if you add a photo (or two or three) along with your positive review, you’ll really rake in the good agriculture karma points! 

            Lisa Murray is a filmmaker and the owner of the SkyGirl SoMe Marketing Agency in Vacaville. She is also the founder and festival director of the Ag & Art Film Festival premiering this year in Vacaville.

            Interested in checking out some local farms? Visit Open Farm Days in Vacaville on July 27-28.

            For more ways to connect with local food and find more local food happenings, click here!

            Ways to Connect With Local Food

            By Sustainable Solano

            At Sustainable Solano, some of our deepest commitments to sustainability, health and community are tied to the importance of food. It is critical not only to provide access to healthy food, but also to support the local farmers, chefs and others that help us bring that bounty to our tables.

            One of the challenges we’ve run into is how to draw attention to the different parts of the food system. Toward that end, we’ve created a new page on the site that highlights local food happenings and maps out local farms, farm stands and retail, CSAs, farmers markets, retreats and wineries.

            We believe a functioning local food system is a collaborative network that ensures environmental sustainability, economic viability for farmers and others working in the food chain, responsible waste management practices and equal access to fresh, healthy food by all members of our communities.

            Toward this end, Sustainable Solano has taken steps to strengthen our food system here in Solano County.

            We’ve organized a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Center in Benicia, and we’re starting one in Fairfield as we look for other possible sites around the county. We also hold regular “What’s for Dinner?” cooking workshops to help county residents learn new dishes to cook with seasonal vegetables. Meanwhile, we continue to explore new ways to connect farmers with local customers, whether institutional buyers seeking healthy food or individuals wanting a more sustainable way of putting food on the table that supports the local economy.

            Learn more about our local food efforts here.

            You’ll find the map below on the new local food happenings page. If you click the icon on the top left of the map, you can select different types of properties and learn a bit about them.

            As for the local food happenings, we’ve included upcoming events, such as festivals and workshops on cooking local food, as well as ways to get involved in the local food system, whether arranging a tour with a local farm, subscribing to a CSA membership that secures you a part of the harvest or exploring other agricultural adventures.

            If you would like to see anything highlighted that isn’t on the map or event list at this time, please contact Allison Nagel at allison@sustainablesolano.org for consideration.

            Learn How to Create a Food Forest Garden as Part of Vallejo’s First Resilient Neighborhood

            By Sustainable Solano

            Sustainable Solano and dozens of community members have been hard at work in the past few weeks creating the first Resilient Neighborhood in Vallejo through the new Resilient Neighborhoods pilot project.

            Already, homeowners, neighbors and community members have come together to turn a water-hungry lawn into a water-wise front yard, dig water-grabbing swales to capture roof water and rainwater, and plant trees to offer shade and fruit and other beneficial plants. Projects have also included features such as a hugelkultur, which creates a raised garden bed using wood yard waste, and an herb spiral that creates microclimates for different herbs to grow.

            Anyone interested in learning how to do these things hands-on will have another opportunity starting this weekend as volunteers take on the fourth home in this pilot project.

            Come and see what it takes to transform a barren yard into a food forest garden oasis and bring these ideas back to your own home!

            The free, educational workshops start at 9 a.m. and are scheduled until 4 p.m., though participants who can only give an hour or two are also encouraged to stop in. Lunch will be provided.

            Here are the activities planned for the coming weekends (click the links for more details and to register for the free workshops):

            There will also be a small celebration on June 29 to recognize all of the work that has been done to build this Resilient Neighborhood, ending the workday with a frozen treat for participants.

            The workshops at this home are funded through the Solano County Water Agency. The Resilient Neighborhoods program is funded through the PG&E Corporation Foundation.

            Celebrating Sustainable Landscape Designer Kathleen Huffman

            By Sustainable Solano

            Kathleen (center) watches the video tribute to her work

            It was a bittersweet farewell for our sustainable landscape designer Kathleen Huffman last week as she finished her last food forest project for Sustainable Solano and prepared to move home to Oklahoma. Since first joining forces with Sustainable Solano four years ago, Kathleen has worked to shape and grow our sustainable landscaping efforts, building gardens and friendships along the way.

            Videographer David Avery created this touching tribute video to Kathleen’s work and the mission that drives her.

            Kathleen Huffman- The Repurposed Okie from David Avery on Vimeo.

            Kathleen will be moving to take care of family, but also to bring her skills and knowledge to her 10-acre family farm, where she will showcase sustainability and permaculture. We look forward to seeing how she continues to share her insight with others and spread the seeds of more sustainable living.

            In the coming weeks, we’ll share with you about the designers who are stepping in to help us with our future projects as we continue to grow our work on the strong foundation Kathleen leaves behind.

            Jardin de la Esperanza Shows Power of Community

            By Gabriela Estrada, Solano Gardens Program Manager

            When people tell you it takes a village to create great things, believe them. They most likely understand that the world is a connected place and that nothing truly great ever gets accomplished in a vacuum. Solano Gardens, for example, was made possible with support from Solano County and the need for a model of community gardens in low-income communities that serve as a source of fresh produce, a hub of information and a place for building relationships.

            From this source of funding, Jardin de la Esperanza (Garden of Hope) was developed. This garden at Armijo High School in Fairfield began with the dedication of a couple of teachers, a few wine barrel planters purchased by the principal and a passion for gardening and a desire to take learning beyond the classroom. They shared this with their students and created a garden club.

            To announce this club, a banner was created and placed outside the school. This banner caught the eye of Jeff Barton, a longtime Sustainable Solano supporter and host of our Walk The Talk Workshops. Intrigued about this club, he walked into the school and shared information about permaculture, Sustainable Solano and that we were looking for a school to install a permaculture-based garden. Sylvia Herrera, English teacher and garden adviser, jumped at the opportunity, and like the force of nature that she is, began to move the project forward. We were then joined by Michelle Bolden, special education teacher and co-head of the garden club, English teacher Vanessa Willing-Sisi and Principal Sheila Smith.

            The next steps involved getting on the same page about the kind of garden we wanted to create. We had a meeting with students who were interested in supporting the garden and the project. To make this garden something that fit the needs of people, we enlisted these students in supporting with the design, the needs and the overall implementation of the project.

            Out of this meeting, the Get Fresh Crew was created: Sebastian, Flor, Valeria, Florence and Ana.


            After a few meetings where we briefly discussed what we wanted and needed out of the garden, we created a design. This design took elements of permaculture, ideas from different students and from the Get Fresh Crew, and from our lead landscape designer, Kathleeen Huffman.

            Then the physical work began! Sylvia, Michelle and Vanessa enlisted their students in the digging, sheet mulching and planting of the guilds. Woodshop teachers and their students also supported the project by building raised beds for the garden, and the art teachers and students began planning for a painted mural.

            A week later, we had a garden! A garden that was created for students by students and whose produce will help support Armijo’s Pantry, a food pantry for Armijo families in need. It always amazes me what a few passionate people can do when they put their minds to it and the impact that they can create.

            You can be part of this process. Interested in helping to create a new garden? Join us in installing a vegetable garden at Emmanuel Temple Apostolic Church in Vallejo on June 22.

            Do you know a church, a private residence, a school or an apartment complex that has limited access to fresh produce and would benefit from a community garden? Fill out our Interest Form to tell us about it!

            So what impact did the garden create? Check out the student insights here and in the videos below (scroll down to view).

            Student Garden Reflections

            To me the garden is a way for us as students to get involved in something that matters more than just our regular curriculum. The garden is not only a creative outlet for us as students, but it teaches us to appreciate the natural world around us. The garden represents a new venture into a more involved and natural community. In the future I envision the gardening not only continuing, but growing and thriving.

            — Aaron R.


            The garden has given my classmates and I the opportunity to get involved and give back to the environment. It also allowed us to gain knowledge and appreciate indigenous culture. It is a great way to get students involved and hopefully continue to nurture the garden for future Armijo students to enjoy. It’s also a great opportunity to inspire students and encourage them to become more involved with their community and show compassion for the environment.

            — Mariah A.

            The garden was a great opportunity for my class and I to create a beautiful way of giving back to the environment. It was great opportunity to learn about gardening and a welcome change from sitting all day long in a classroom. In the future, I envision the garden continuing to grow and being not just a beautiful sight to see while walking to class and an opportunity to learn about nature.

            — Alexia C.


            Rosemary, sage, and strawberry. With each new plant we add to our garden, we grow our appreciation of not only gardening, but indigenous culture. This garden has given me a moment of calm in the center of campus. I am inspired by the sweetness of our lemongrass to the sturdy miner’s lettuce, which withstands its tangled stems. Our trampled grass and cold concrete has metamorphosed into a vibrant display of our hard work and optimism— a lesson that I will never forget.

            — Royce G.


            Creating a garden is a very precise and skillful task that teaches indigenous knowledge. It shows the hard work that the student community has put in to better the society by promoting healthy and diverse fruits and vegetables. I can see future generations continue the tradition of cultivating our garden to learn about indigenous knowledge and the work behind how our food is grown.

            — Stephen I.

            I believe the garden is a great way to teach others about agriculture and indigenous culture. It also teaches other skills that aren’t (but should) be better promoted in schools such as healthy eating and survival skills. I hope it’ll expand and help unite all of Armijo.

            — Florence T.


            In the future I hope that the garden expands. I hope that the following generations appreciate it as much as some of us do. I learned by having a garden that it’s a way to bring people to work together as a community and a way to learn values.

            — Juliza V.

            The garden is a pretty cool concept to me because it symbolizes growth and balance. I think it is a nice opportunity for students to connect with nature and have a chance to be cultivators of a better future that depends on us, the students. I hope in the future the garden thrives and keeps growing as the peaceful mindset of the garden also grows.

            — Juan D.

            To me, the garden represents growth in our school. We are beginning to bring new opportunities to learn and expand the school’s knowledge. I hope that the garden continues to expand and even more people become involved. Having a garden teaches those working in it patience, care and commitment.

            — Brianna V.

            Working in the garden taught me about the different types of plants that grow natively in this area. Before I didn’t know what was imported and what was naturally grown here.

            — Madelyn G.

            My time in the garden has taught me new things about plants and their various uses that I wasn’t aware of. I envision the garden being full of life, with vegetables and fruits that will improve the nutrition in this school and show students some work ethic.

            — Alvin A.

            Being a part of the creation of the garden has been a great experience thus far. Shoveling, raking, watering the plants or simply doing WHATEVER IT TAKES has been great. Labor turned into competitions to see who could shovel more bark into the barrels. Since it is a part of our TOK curriculum related to indigenous knowledge, our class has been outside working on it for the past two weeks, making for a great time. In the next coming year, I hope for it to still be thriving and I hope for all the plants to be in good condition and well manicured. By having a garden, great responsibility skills are learned as it takes a lot of care to maintain the beautiful garden. All in all, I have really enjoyed my time in the creation of the garden!

            — Alessio I.

            To me, the garden seems to be one vision of what we at Armijo want to see in our future — growth — and how it portrays future aspects of beauty for our community. My understanding of the garden is that it is a community experience for the school that shows how the Fairfield and Suisun high school population can work together as a team to produce something not for material gain, but to show the indigenous knowledge our of area. Thus, as a constituent of this complex, yet miraculous process, I have been instructed and taken with me the abilities to sustain the environment by increasing the biodiversity of the garden and other important and sustainable processes in making a garden.  

            Hezekiah B.

            I love how the garden was nothing at first and became a big project that put all students to work and interacting with each other. The best part of building the garden was how all students put a little of something of theirs in the garden like ideas and thoughts.

            — Lydia R.

            Having a school garden means a lot to me because I was part of its creation from the very first beginning and it has really helped me develop some skills. It also has a metaphorical meaning for many students because it represents our growth and how we take care of ourselves; and I love that part. The best part of the garden was working with all the students and Sustainable Solano members to make things in the garden happen. I really hope the garden can help (in a physical and emotional way) and feed many people, and that future students make a good use of it. I wish all the best for it.

            — Valeria G.


            Having a school garden to me means good publicity for the school. The best part of the garden journey is being able to go outside.

            — Isaiah P.


            Having a garden at school means that we could educate the students on the how important nutrition is. The best part of the garden journey is seeing it all come together with the trees and plants. I envision the garden being very well developed. I can see the trees getting bigger and actually producing fruits and vegetables.

            — Zaria R.


            Having a garden at school serves as an element that stands out. It has been a rarity, since not a lot of schools have a garden and a peaceful outlet of trees and plants that contrasts with the hectic environment of school. The best part so far of traveling through the garden journey has been constructing and arranging the basic outline of the garden. Seeing the construction process has allowed me to see how the garden has changed, from a barren terrain to home of many greens. Even though the garden’s plants and trees haven’t flourished much yet, I hope to see a vibrant and fresh ambiance in the future. Also, I hope that it’s a learning outlet for people to discover new plants.

            — Maryflor F.


            Having a school garden not only makes the school look nice but the purpose behind it and the effort it takes has a positive impact on the environment. The best part of my garden journey is planting but also seeing the process of the garden. I envision using the garden to harvest fruits and veggies.

            — Marcus F.


            To me, having a school garden means we have something that the whole school can take care of. The best part of working on the garden was being able to go outside and do tasks we wouldn’t normally do. I envision the garden as an important future hotspot for our school, like a symbol, an emblem for our school.

            — Sebastian B.