Farm to School Brings New Garden to Vallejo’s Griffin Academy

By Patrick Murphy, Program Manager

Sustainable Solano’s Farm to School project would like to express a very warm thank you to everyone who assisted us in completing a food forest garden at Griffin Academy in Vallejo this year. With the assistance and support of so many people, we were able to bring this collective vision into reality. Beginning in the new school year, students at Griffin Academy will be able to access fresh fruits and vegetables from the garden thanks to a grant by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service.

Once a desolate and unappealing section of campus, the new Griffin Garden will feature over six unique fruit trees, five repurposed garden beds, two berry guilds, and at least a dozen different additional plants, providing shade, wind cover, and nutrients. The previous garden site at Griffin was slated for removal by a campus renovation. Sustainable Solano worked together with the school leadership to secure a larger, more visible location for the garden at the school. This new site also was much closer to garden champion Tianna DeSliva’s biology classroom. This new location will not only be more productive and visible, but also will use less water than the previous garden. An automatic drip irrigation system will allow the site to survive the long dry summers with minimal maintenance. Additional features include an in-ground swale running parallel to the school building. This swale will capture rainwater and store it in the soil for the plants to draw from. Sustainable Solano’s Solano Gardens program will support the garden and work with Griffin Academy to assist in the long-term stability of the garden. We hope to use the space in the future to encourage other schools to create a garden on their own campus!

Reflecting on the lessons learned from this project, Sustainable Solano has developed a toolkit for other Solano County schools and even community groups to create their own food forest gardens full of perennial and annual plants. This toolkit also contains step-by-step instructions on how to get food from a garden into a school cafeteria. You can view and download the toolkit here.

One important lesson learned from this school garden project was that it is essential to work with a supportive team of individuals who can see a garden through from idea to completion. We would like to thank the following people specifically for the roles they played in supporting the Farm to School program.

  • Holman Pettibone – for his commitment to getting answers when we needed them,
  • Tianna DeSilva – for her commitment to getting this garden established,
  • Shene Wells – for showing up each and every chance she could,
  • Nick Driver – for his support,
  • Roxann Lynch-Burns – for her direction and willingness to help,
  • Jennifer Leonard – for her support,
  • And to all the volunteers who participated in the October installation.

Farm to School Toolkit

Everything you need to plan and start a school or community garden in Solano County
Click here or on the cover below

Farm-to-School Program Brings Permaculture Campus to Markham Elementary

By Sustainable Solano

The Farm-to-School program will create a permaculture campus at Markham Elementary in Vacaville, turning areas of the school grounds such as this one into educational garden opportunities

Recognizing the importance of connecting children with food and the natural world, Sustainable Solano’s new Farm-to-School program will bring a permaculture campus to Markham Elementary School in Vacaville this spring.

This distributed permaculture garden of raised beds and fruit tree guilds will be installed by the school community with input from students, teachers and parents.

The Markham project is funded through a USDA Food and Nutrition Service Farm to School Turnkey Grant awarded in July 2021. For this school year, there were 176 grants awarded.

Patrick Murphy

While Sustainable Solano has established and supported school gardens through its Solano Gardens and Solano Sustainable Backyards programs, the new Farm-to-School program reflects the need to bring these approaches to more schools in a way that fits with educational curriculum and growing youth connection with urban agriculture. Farm-to-School Program Manager Patrick Murphy was hired to bring this project to fruition. Murphy is a lifelong Solano County resident and holds a degree in environmental science from Cal State East Bay.

“This project will not only provide seasonal fruits and vegetables to students, but will act as a living laboratory on the campus, allowing students to learn about the natural world and the science that drives our daily lives,” Murphy said. “I’m hopeful the project will grab the attention of students and spark a fascination with ecology and husbandry.”

The program will work closely with the Markham community to advance the permaculture campus project. The food produced on campus will be used by the school. The project also will create a toolkit for the process of establishing an educational school garden, that will include food safety, best practices from growing to harvesting, plant and soil resources, and relevant legal information. The hope is that similar programs can use this toolkit as a guide and resource.

The program is a partnership between Sustainable Solano, the Vacaville Unified School District, and the Vacaville Public Education Foundation, and will support a Wellness-Science-Agriculture Collaborative Program started by the district and the foundation that needs edible gardens to support science- and ag-based curriculum. The Markham permaculture campus fits into a larger farm-to-school plan in Solano County and will serve as a pilot site for growing the program within the Vacaville school district through the Wellness-Science-Agriculture Collaborative Program. The Solano County Office of Education is interested in developing curriculum that aligns with science standards to support the expansion of edible gardens at schools throughout the county.

We look forward to sharing more information about the project once it gets underway this spring. If you have questions about the Farm-to-School program, contact Patrick Murphy at