2022 Benicia & Vallejo Demonstration Food Forest Garden Tour Slideshow

By Sustainable Solano

We were so excited to visit with those of you who attended this year’s Benicia & Vallejo Demonstration Food Forest Garden Tour on April 23. It was uplifting seeing so many people able to return to the gardens, have meaningful conversations with the Food Forest Keepers and each other, reconnect with old friends and make new acquaintances. We appreciate all of you who attended and hope that you will join us for upcoming events (including the Fairfield & Vacaville Demonstration Food Forest Garden Tour on June 4), workshops, talks and more if you are inspired to bring some of these waterwise approaches to your gardens.

Learn about this year’s gardens here. And view the slideshow below to see each garden and some highlights from the day. Thank you to everyone who shared their photos!

Benicia & Vallejo Tour Slideshow

2022 Benicia & Vallejo Demonstration Food Forest Tour

This program is made possible by the generous support from the Solano County Water Agency.

2022 Benicia & Vallejo Demonstration Food Forest Tour is April 23!

By Nicole Newell, Sustainable Landscaping Program Manager

We will be opening up our demonstration food forest gardens in Benicia and Vallejo for the annual tour on April 23, and are thrilled to be back with our regular tour! Learn about this year’s gardens here.

Each garden is a unique expression of the homeowner and the land and was designed using permaculture principles. These gardens offer ideas and inspiration on how to use water efficiently while creating a lush thriving garden that supports life and provides food and habitat. During this pandemic, the food forest keepers have been doing really cool things to serve the Solano County community. This year some of the garden sites will have information on what they have been up to for the past two years: bees, honey, Monarch butterflies, Food is Free stands, native plants, local food and so much more. All of the gardens will showcase plants that thrive in Solano County!

When you pick up your full-day itinerary at Avant Garden in Benicia, you’ll have an opportunity to hear a talk on soil biology and soil health at 9 am. Want to join us for just the afternoon touring Vallejo sites? You can pick up your itinerary from noon-1 pm at St. Patrick-St. Vincent Catholic High School in Vallejo and have an opportunity to learn about what’s going on in local food. Find more details below!

For the past two years we were challenged to get creative with garden tours. We created a few video tours the first year of the pandemic that expanded our educational video library but couldn’t convey the full vision of what it’s like to stand inside these gardens. Last year the gardens were open to private tours.

Over the past two years I have missed seeing people smile and the magic that unfolds when people gather. We thrive when we are connected. Our deepest hope for this year’s tour is that people get energized and inspired to take action and become caretakers of the land and each other.

We look forward to seeing you this year as we return to a full tour, but with some changes that should add to your experience. Read below to find out more about the day’s events and what to expect in each garden so you can plan out your day!

Register here

This program is made possible by the generous support from the Solano County Water Agency.

Plan Your Day

Learn about each garden you can visit here

How It Will Work

You can choose to tour for the whole day or for half a day.
Learn about the gardens here
Benicia Demonstration Food Forest Gardens will be open 10 am-1 pm
Vallejo Demonstration Food Forest Gardens will be open 1-4 pm

Register here

Itinerary pickup and special events:

9-11 am: Itineraries will be available at Avant Garden in Benicia (400 First St.). This itinerary will include all of the demonstration food forest gardens in Benicia (open in the morning) and Vallejo (open in the afternoon).

9 am: Sustainable Solano Program Manager Michael Wedgley will give a talk at Avant Garden on how to have garden abundance with healthy soil biology, including the creation of compost extracts and teas to add soil biology where it’s needed. He will then apply compost extract to the community shared plot at the garden, which grows food for donation. ***Bring a mason jar and get some compost extract while supplies last.

12-1 pm: Itineraries for the Vallejo garden sites (open in the afternoon) will be available at St. Patrick-St. Vincent Catholic High School (1500 Benicia Rd., Vallejo)

12 pm: Learn about Sustainable Solano’s local food programs at St. Patrick-St. Vincent Catholic High School. The Local Food team will have details about Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs in Vallejo and Benicia where you buy directly from local farms, favorite family recipes from our Youth Cooking Program students, information about local farms, agritourism, and how to engage in food rescue and recovery. Stick around for student demonstrations and check out beehives and honey there on campus.

2022 Benicia & Vallejo Tour: Featured Gardens

Scroll through the list below to read about the Benicia and Vallejo gardens that are featured on this year’s tour, and to learn about special offerings at some of the gardens!

Register for the April 23 tour here!

Benicia Demonstration Food Forest Gardens

The Curious Garden

Mature front yard food forest has mostly fruit trees and native plants that attract pollinators year-round. It has a laundry-to-landscape greywater system.

The garden is designed for a young family, including space to enjoy the outdoors and hidden forts. It also has a very steep hill, which presents its own unique issues.

Learn more

Giardino su una Collina (Garden on a Hill)

A 2-year-old food forest and pollinator garden installed in 2020 that includes a swale that captures roof water and mediterranean trees and plants mixed with native pollinating and nectar plants to attract bees and butterflies. This site is home to a Monarch Waystation that grows  a variety of plants to support Western Monarch Butterflies. The Monarch Milkweed Project and monarch education will be highlighted, milkweed seeds and maybe milkweed plants available for a donation.

Learn more

Greyhawk Grove

Greyhawk Garden after installationA 7-year-old established food forest with two swales that are dug out and refreshed every 2-3 years, laundry-to-landscape greywater to fruit trees, and chickens. The drip irrigation system was removed 2 years ago and the garden is thriving! Annual beds are hand-watered once a week during the growing season. Greyhawk Grove is a “high-traffic-survival-of-the-fittest-have-three-young-children garden”. There may be lemonade and baked goods for sale by children, as well as products from the garden to give away (dried calendula, lavender, herbs, eggs, fruit, etc.).

Learn more

Living and Learning

Established front yard food forest that replaced a lawn in 2016 with 2 swales, a laundry-to-landscape greywater system and a diverse group of plants and fruit trees that has now expanded throughout the property. Small spaces for relaxing and enjoying are throughout the garden. One of the food forest keepers is a teacher and will be present to share knowledge about growing and preserving tomatoes.

Learn more

Redwood Guild

Food forest garden and greywater system installed as part of Sustainable Solano’s Permaculture Design Certificate course, with students transforming the front lawn with rain-capturing swales and planted berms and converting the sprinkler system to drip irrigation. The side yard is watered by a laundry-to-landscape greywater system and also includes edible plants and native pollinators. This home has its own redwood grove, and certain plants were selected that do well in the unique conditions created by redwoods. The food forest keepers are using that knowledge to add other plants to the garden that will thrive alongside the redwoods.

Wild Cherry Way

Southern slope food forest focused on pollinators, shrubs and native plants. It also includes fruit trees, perennial and edible plants, swales and a laundry-to-landscape greywater system. Food is Free Solano and the Solano Gleaning Initiative will be highlighted.

Learn more

Vallejo Demonstration Food Forest Gardens

Colibri Ochoa (Hummingbird Ochoa)

Front yard food forest garden has a laundry-to-landscape greywater system, a swale, repurposed logs to create planting areas and a variety of plants to provide food for people and pollinators. On the day of the tour there will be a Spanish translator. 

Sustainable Solano partnered with two other organizations to install this garden in 2021 and begin to provide resources in Spanish. Planting Justice partnered with Sustainable Solano on a Spanish-speaking installation. They offer permaculture services and also have an organic nursery in Oakland that sells rare and heirloom varieties. Club Stride translated an educational program about Patio Sostenibles and created a food forest video in Spanish, Entrevista de Patio Sostenible. Both organizations are doing incredible work to reduce inequities. Check out their websites to find out more on how to support their work. 

Learn more

Enchanted Cottage Garden

Front yard lawn replaced in May 2017 with 2 swales, above-ground rainwater collection and a variety of fruit trees, grapes, herbs, and year-round pollinator plants mixed with annual vegetables. There is a path through it with seating for anyone who walks by. The food forest concept extends to the back garden. This yard has inspired several neighbors to transform their landscapes. Produce from the garden is used in the food forest keeper’s small home-based restaurant and they donate excess produce.

Learn more

Loma Vista Farm

Food forest garden that provides a beautiful demonstration to the public at Loma Vista Farm on how to plant their own yard in a variety of fruit trees, perennial vegetables, herbs, native plants and pollinator plants.

The food forest tour will be on the same day as Loma Vista Farm’s annual Spring Open House, making it an extra special day to visit. Plants that the students have grown will be available in the greenhouse for sale, animal feeding will be available, as well as entertainment, such as a puppet show. For more information check out: Lomavistafarm.org.

Learn more

Morningside Botanical Bounty Resilient Neighborhood

Four gardens on one block were installed collaboratively through the Resilient Neighborhoods Program to show how a neighborhood can be an example of a resilient urban ecosystem that mimics nature.

Highlights: hugelkultur mound, 2 laundry-to-landscape greywater systems, fruit trees, swales, drip irrigation, bee-friendly plants, herb spiral, native plants, shade trees and a little free library.  Native plant information will be available.

Learn more

Ripple Effect

Compact urban yard with an artistic style and creative use of repurposed items, rainwater barrel, laundry-to-landscape greywater and guild planting worked into an existing landscape. This food forest keeper recognizes the benefits of “weeds in the garden” and is enthusiastic about compost, worm bins and building healthy soil.

Learn more

Terraza Dominicana (St. Patrick-St. Vincent Catholic High School)

SPSV Food Forest comprises six planting guilds, each with a central tree and underplanting on a steep hillside. It is used as a living laboratory for students to explore soil health, water conservation and pollination. The food forest highlights design features to address erosion control as well as techniques using repurposed materials for terracing a hillside. The site will highlight local food that is available in Vallejo, and Scott Dodson, the owner of Bee Tribe Honey Farms, will be educating about bees and hive maintenance and selling his raw honey.

Learn more

Vallejo Unity Garden (Vallejo Project)

This garden was inspired through collaboration with Sustainable Solano. Vallejo Project youth leaders attended Sustainable Solano workshops and became an organizational partner. This is a newly established garden with the beginning of a food forest with fruiting trees, eight chickens, a worm bin and a compost system. Over the last six months the soil has been nourished with fava beans and other nitrogen-fixing plants and the garden has been a training ground for mulching. This garden is a Vallejo Project-supported venture to build youth resiliency and forge a relationship between transitional families and youth to sustain the community for years to come.

Learn more

We are incredibly grateful for the generous support of our funders. The first seven food forest gardens were made possible through funding from the Benicia Sustainability Commission; the Solano County Water Agency continues to support the Sustainable Backyard Program throughout the county. Solano Sustainable Backyard Program short videos: Waterwise and Building Gardens and Community. Occasionally we combine funding from other programs to make larger projects possible.

Climate & Environmental Festival Reconnects Community to Create Change

By Jonathan Erwin, Resilient Neighborhoods Program Manager

Sustainable Solano hosted Suisun City’s first Climate and Environmental Festival in October. From the long slumber of in-person events through the pandemic, it was great to finally see some friendly masked faces and engage with a like-minded community in Suisun City. Over the course of the day, presentations from San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, Pathways Climate Institute and Vital Cycles provided a vision and tools for the future while an engagement fair highlighted many organizational efforts across the area as well as broader Solano County.

Amidst the hubbub of the festivities, this event made me realize the importance of connecting with each other. For the past few months, I have found it hard to stay optimistic about the future. With climate impacts happening every day, it wears on my mental state just how insurmountable the climate crisis can feel. Coupled with the pandemic, isolation and physical disconnection from our support networks can leave us feeling the brunt of unsolvable doom.

But there is light in the end. Our conversations through the event both with old and new faces, reconnected us with the larger community across Solano County working and advocating for issues around the climate crisis. We have power in numbers, and our community is energized as ever for change. From resource management, transportation and sewer districts, we have advocates for this type of work across a spectrum of organizations. And the ideas that the 120-plus attendees from the festival came up with represent broad and different strategies that we can use to advance our work at Sustainable Solano and across the efforts of Solano County.

We hope to see you out and about over the next few months to learn more about what your vision is for a more sustainable future. Have an idea now? Feel free to reach out to us at info@sustainablesolano.org

Check out some of the presentations from the day in the videos below.

2021 Suisun City Climate & Environmental Festival Educational Talks

Adapting to Rising Tides in Suisun City & Solano County
Protecting the Marsh: A New Suisun Marsh Protection Plan
Nature-Based Solutions to Address Climate Change

Solano Cities Face Risks from a ‘Return to Normal’

By Nick Reynoso, California Climate Action Corps Fellow

Nick Reynoso joined us this summer as a California Climate Action Corps Fellow with a focus on our Resilient Neighborhoods program in Suisun City and building connections with community members and local environmental leaders. In this blog, he offers his reflections on climate change and the risks it holds for coastal cities — and ways to prepare.

Transportation requires extensive use of fossil fuels. The accumulation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from fossil fuels is having irreversible effects on our planet and will lead to greater natural disasters to our local communities: storms, floods, wildfires, etc.

Nick Reynoso

From the start of the pandemic, life changed to a new normal. This included less travel, as places were closed and the fear of catching the virus called for security and safety at home. There was nowhere for people to go. The decline in the transportation sector equated to a drop in 273 million metric tons of GHG emissions below 2019 levels. It should be noted that all modes of transportation in the U.S. (i.e. cars, trucks, planes, trains, etc.) account for 29 percent of the U.S.’s total GHG. The decline in transportation resulted in a high impact in lowering GHG emissions, as the U.S.’s total GHG emissions dropped 10.3 percent in 2020.

During the height of stay-at-home orders back in April 2020, daily carbon dioxide emissions decreased by 17 percent from 2019’s global mean levels. It looked as if society had found a way to reduce carbon emissions and rethink the idea of what is considered essential travel. This all sounded like good news and a win for the environment; however, it wasn’t here to last.

In December 2020, the world had reverted back to its old habits, and GHG emissions bounced-back to 2 percent higher than what they were in December 2019

With businesses reopening and life returning back to “normal” following the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, the desire to travel is greater than ever. Most are looking for ways to get out of the house and by doing so, the International Energy Agency predicts for 2021, there will be a global energy demand of 4.6 percent, which is 0.5 percent higher than 2019’s demand. It is estimated that carbon dioxide emissions will increase by nearly 5 percent. This trajectory is unsustainable, as the demand does not divest fossil fuels, and the shift towards renewable energy is needed. 

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report unequivocally states that the warming of the planet is caused by human activity. These activities have also affected the water cycle (changes to precipitation), and are the cause of warmer ocean temperatures and rising sea levels. We are on course to reach 1.5℃ above pre-industrial levels by 2040

What is the Greenhouse Effect?

Solar radiation from the sun hits the planet, it reflects into space and in the atmosphere. Infrared radiation is emitted from the earth’s surface, allowing some of the heat to escape into space, but with the influx of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the heat is absorbed by GHG molecules and reemitted throughout the atmosphere, having to trap the heat and thus warming the planet. This is known as the greenhouse effect, and this is the contributing cause of climate change.

With climate change, rising temperatures cause glaciers and ice sheets to melt, and cause the water from the ocean to expand due to thermal expansion. All these events contribute to rising sea levels. With an unprecedented rate of rising temperatures, coastal flooding will be inevitable. This will affect coastal communities, and affect large portions of the U.S. Nearly 40 percent of Americans live in coastal counties

The San Francisco Bay Area Conservation and Development Commission projects that sea level will rise between 6 and 10 inches by 2030, and 13-23 inches by 2050. Vulnerable low-lying Bay Area cities, such as Suisun City will be impacted from severe flooding events. The objective to mitigate and plan for natural disasters is urgent for Suisun City and other Solano County cities that face flooding threats, such as Benicia and Fairfield. As a California Climate Action Corps Fellow for Sustainable Solano this summer, I attended a number of Flood Walks that shared the flood risks for the city with attendees. The information presented during these walks makes it more apparent that Suisun City will be breached from flooding of Total Water Level (TWL) events: tidal waves, storm surge, and rising sea levels. 

The Flood Resilience Action Plan (FRAP) now in development for Suisun City will plan and mitigate for future TWL flooding events. FRAP and the Flood Walks are supported through a grant from the PG&E Corporation Foundation, which supports Sustainable Solano’s Resilient Neighborhoods program. Increasing awareness for Suisun City residents about flooding and development of the FRAP will help prepare for severe flooding events.

We are still rebounding from the COVID-19 pandemic’s “lost year,” and there are lessons we can learn from it. To redefine what is considered “essential travel” will lessen the accumulation of GHG emissions from transportation. Such decisions could decide the fate of local Bay Area cities.

Conversation Circles Program Creates New Opportunities and Environmental Resources

By Gabriela Estrada and Jonathan Erwin, Program Managers

While the Conversation Circles program in Central Solano (formerly the Listening Circles program) has come to the end of its grant term, our commitment to increase the understanding of environmental issues that affect Solano communities is ongoing. Using what we learned through the Conversation Circles program, we will continue to help residents access important environmental, health and other data that you can use to inform decision-making within your community.

Toward that end, we have created our Environmental Resources section of the website, where you can learn more about some of the environmental and health factors that affect our communities and see resources at the county and city level when it comes to addressing environmental concerns and preparing for disaster. The pages also list organizations that are working in our communities.

We have robust data for Fairfield, Suisun City and Vacaville out of the Conversation Circles program, and hope to build similar data for our other Solano County cities going forward.

As part of closing the Conversation Circles program, we created a Neighborhood Impact and Assessment Report where we documented the project, challenges and opportunities. Here are some of the newly created opportunities and lessons learned through this project: 

Connecting with Other Community Groups

Connecting with other organizations in each of the cities we worked with is key. These partnerships have opened the door for future collaboration efforts and further community engagement at a neighborhood level. Equally important, it also created an opportunity for us to combine efforts towards a common goal.

Building Trust and Showing Up

While we have a lot of partnerships with other organizations, this project brought us to a few neighborhoods that we’ve never worked in before. By collaborating with other organizations serving these areas, we were able to begin building trust and a sense of community. Sustainable Solano will continue to show up and create opportunities for engagement and will continue to work with community members in creating a happy, healthy and thriving community.

Connecting with Government Officials

Connecting with government officials gave the project manager a clear idea of the “lay of the land” to learn about the neighborhoods, the opportunities, the history and some of the potential challenges (both environmental and social) that a project might face. Connecting with government officials also created room for future collaboration efforts, including urban forestry efforts, community gardens and resiliency efforts through our other programs.

Increasing Reach with Support from Other Programs

We will continue to seek creative ways we can connect with community members through our other programs about the environmental data that affects their neighborhoods. 

For more details, read the complete Neighborhood Impact and Assessment Report

We plan on building on these lessons to inform the Environmental Resources pages and the rest of our programs, including the Resilient Neighborhoods program, now expanding to Suisun City, and the Youth Leadership program.

As we have continued to scale our Resilient Neighborhoods program and our research across Solano County, we realize that there is a disconnect in the information on environmental progress and the general public access to that information. City and county plans are often spread across many websites and buried with departments and commissions. Within this cacophony of public information, it can be difficult to find what is relevant and what is most up to date within the county and selected cities. As we found with last fire season, and potentially any upcoming disaster, knowledge is power and can mean the difference between safety and struggle. We will continue to find ways to make that information more easily accessible within Resilient Neighborhoods and beyond.

The Youth Environmental Leadership Fellowship now in development will encourage high school youth to examine CalEnviroScreen and other data, examine environmental justice issues within the county and their communities, participate in hands-on mitigation training, and present to city leaders and community members about the environmental information and possible solutions at the individual, community and policy level. This will continue to engage the wider community through the youth presentations and projects, and the data they collect will make our Environmental Resources pages more robust throughout the county. 

Through these pages, we seek to emphasize relevant local work and organizations that share our mission of nurturing initiatives for the good of the whole. See anything we missed? Let us know at info@sustainablesolano.org


The Conversation Circles program and Environmental Resources page development was generously funded through the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Justice Small Grants Program.