Re-envisioning Fairfield’s Streets: Youth Air Protectors Present Final Projects Aug. 27

By Alex Lunine, Resilient Communities Program Manager

Over the course of the past five months, SuSol’s high school Youth Air Protectors have dedicated themselves to learning about the air quality in Fairfield and using their voices to bring the community together to tackle environmental injustices in the city. From spreading awareness at tabling events throughout Fairfield, to helping to facilitate air quality-focused meetings, to leading residents on a sustainability walking tour of downtown, the Youth Air Protectors have been indispensable in the push for a healthier, more breathable Fairfield.

August marks the last month of this internship cohort, and our students will be presenting their final projects to the community on Aug. 27. Each air protector chose a street in Fairfield with poor walkability and high volumes of traffic, and reimagined them to be more pedestrian friendly, green and promote cleaner air. We believe that if their concepts and ideas were actually implemented, such changes could help to reduce the high asthma rate of Fairfield, mitigate the impacts of the urban heat island effect, and bring our community together on our sidewalks and streets.

Here the YAP interns share about their final projects. See the projects and talk with the students on Aug. 27!  (Ed. Note: Intern statements are lightly edited for clarity.)

“I redesigned the intersection of North Texas and Utah Street to make traveling through the area more sustainable. My design includes protected bike lanes and sidewalks, reduced lane sizes to protect pedestrians further, better views, bus stops, and more! I’m a firm believer that walkability is one of the most essential (and undervalued) parts of a sustainable city, and this project reflects that.”
– Sachi Bansal

“I decided to choose the street redesign project because after taking a sustainability walk around downtown Fairfield, it became clear that there are a lot of improvements to be made for Fairfield’s roads. The main issues I noticed during the walk were a lack of shade on the sidewalks, the lack of safety for bikers on the bike lanes, and lack of greenery. I wanted to make a drawing of a street where I implemented changes to combat these issues.”
– Prabhjot Kaur

“For my project I decided to redesign the street Travis Boulevard. I thought that it had too many street lanes and though it made sense since it leads to a highway, I reimagined it to be in a people-oriented city and worked upon that. Along with changing the street I also changed the buildings and parking lots in a way where it would look more pleasing, and easier to access. I also added wider sidewalks, a bus stop and a bicycle rack so it would encourage public transportation. I hope that Fairfield in the future would incorporate these ideas to create a more sustainable environment while also adding more elements that persuade people to try to live sustainably; like recycling, farming, shopping locally and more!”
– Esther Lopez

“I choose to redesign the Pennsylvania Avenue and West Texas Street intersection because it has a lot of potential in terms of walkability. In this model, I hope to show that Fairfield can become more people-friendly even with our current infrastructure.”
– Hannah Lopez

“Enhancing Fairfield’s existing infrastructure to be more sustainable is imperative in bettering the lives of residents while promoting an eco-friendly lifestyle. For my project, I chose to redesign the Gateway Plaza, a strip mall located adjacent to the Solano Town Center. Featuring a sizable parking lot with hundreds of parking spaces and minimal walkability, the Gateway Plaza is a motorist’s paradise. Through visualizing how the area could be altered with bikers and pedestrians in mind, I intend to show how changes towards sustainability are realizable in even the most seemingly despairing of locations.”
– Harjot Singh

Register for the event here. If you or someone you know would like to sign up for the next cohort of high school Fairfield Youth Air Protectors, starting Sept. 7, apply here. 

We’re excited to share our greener, more just vision of Fairfield with you and hope to see you there. 

Fellowship Focuses on Environmental Justice, Supports Pollinators in Vacaville

By Patrick Murphy, Program Manager

As part of Sustainable Solano’s Environmental Justice Leadership Fellowship, seven students from multiple Solano County cities undertook a research and green infrastructure project in Vacaville. Students focused on the Markham neighborhood, a community grappling with several environmental challenges, and explored possible solutions, including walkability, available green spaces, and usable wildlife habitats.

Students engaged with the local community, spending time within the neighborhood, assessing the severity of each issue and researching possible mitigation approaches.

Pollinator garden installation at the Vacaville Boys and Girls Club (above) and student presentations (below)

Each student then delivered public presentations at various locations around Vacaville, including the Rocky Hill Trail, the Town Square library, and an Earth Day event in Andrews Park. The culmination of their efforts was the installation of a much-anticipated pollinator garden at the Vacaville Boys and Girls Club, where the students also presented their research findings. Situated right in the heart of the Markham neighborhood, the local community had been seeking a native pollinator garden since 2018.

Permaculture Designer Scott Dodson was able to design a compact and attractive native pollinator garden space at the Boys and Girls Club, which was installed by the EJLF students, Boys and Girls Club members and community volunteers during a public installation day hosted by Sustainable Solano. The garden’s design prioritized water conservation while creating an extensive habitat for the region’s pollinators. Additional pollinator plants are being raised in beds owned by Solano Unity Network across the street at the Vacaville People’s Garden. Educational signage was placed throughout the gardens, providing valuable information about the native California pollinator species for residents.

A volunteer from Rio Vista was able to produce five large-capacity bat boxes with student support for the pollinator garden and surrounding Markham community. “Bat boxes” are nesting boxes for bats to raise their young. Bats are known for their pest control capabilities. Each bat consumes vast numbers of insects each night, reducing the need for harmful pesticides and keeping the local ecological niche competitive. They and many pollinators are keystone species, and have a disproportionately large impact on the ecosystem.

Additional bat boxes are available to community members in the Markham area who would like to help strengthen the local bat population. If you live within 3 miles of Holly Lane and are interested in hosting a bat box on your property, please contact us here.

This ambitious project demonstrated the power of collective action in addressing environmental justice and promoting biodiversity. With the installation of these vibrant green spaces, the local community now has the opportunity to interact with and appreciate the importance of coexisting with nature. As the pollinator garden at the Boys and Girls Club continues to flourish, it promises to act as a sign post, promoting environmental consciousness in the Markham neighborhood.

Bat Boxes

Live in the Markham community and want to host a bat box on your property?
Reach us here

Interested in building a bat box for your own property?
Find instructions here

Sustainable Gardening Intern Reflections

The Sustainable Gardening internship was an opportunity for high school students to learn basic permaculture principles with a focus on waterwise gardening, and engage with community members while supporting community gardens. They were led in their garden activities by SuSol Program Coordinator Jazzmin Ballou and often worked with designer Scott Dodson. These three interns shared their reflections on the program with us, and we are excited to share them with you here with their permission.

Sustainable Gardening interns move woodchips for the First Christian Church garden in Vallejo

Scooping the Wood Chips

By Aldo Michel

This was technically my first official work day with my fellow co-workers. It was on a Friday; I came there running from school ready to get the work done. I get there a little late but I get caught up on what we are doing. We need to scoop up a huge mountain of woodchips, put them in wheelbarrows and then go dump them somewhere in the garden. It was really quiet at first, only the sound of the shovels hitting the ground and the wheelbarrows being rolled out. I knew [fellow intern] Vincent, but he was on the other side of the mountain so I couldn’t talk to him, so I just continued with my work.

As the time passes by I notice that this young fellow with blond-ish hair is working really hard. I mean it’s his first day, I’m sure he wants to make a good impression and he is sure succeeding. After a while I decided to take a little break, drink some water and check out those granola bars. Once there I see that Vincent is also taking a break — perfect now we can talk. We greet each other and start talking about our day. A couple laughs later, the same blond-ish guy comes and takes a sip of water. Once he leaves me and Vincent started talking about him, we want to start a conversation with him, he seems nice and it’s never a bad idea to make new friends. We weren’t sure about his name so we weren’t into our email to check an email that Jazz has sent us. We checked the recipients and our questions were answered, his name is Liam.

We go back to the wood chips and greet him. Our suspicions were correct; he was a nice guy. We mostly talked about school and college and whatnot, not the most interesting topic but I still had fun. I even managed to fit in a couple jokes and for the most part it was accompanied by laughter. I had lots of fun that day just talking with my new friends. I’m very glad we decided to start a conversation and that we got the work done as well, although I was very sore the next day.

Meaningful Work in the Garden

By Liam McGee

I think the most meaningful time in this internship for me was our last work day at the Faith Food Fridays Garden. While it started off a bit sad with Jazzmin and a few of the interns gone, it quickly turned around. I first walked around the garden and accustomed myself with the diverse crops they had growing there.

A Haiku for the Gardening Internship

Shovel the wood chips
Tiring work for my body
Yet I feel fulfilled

-Liam McGee

One thing that especially caught my eye (or more so my nose I suppose) were the chamomile plants planted in multiple beds. They smelled delightful and I’d never seen what the plant looked like before, only the tea in the past. Once a few more people started arriving and a helper from Faith Food Fridays led us through an opening circle, Scott took us into what we’d be doing that day.

For some reason, one of the beds had lots of wood chips in it instead of soil. These chips don’t supply lots of nutrients for the plants unless they are broken down into soil so we had to painstakingly remove all of the chips and replace them with soil. While at first it reminded me of the wood chip shoveling we did at the church in Vallejo, it slowly turned into a more fun experience.

More and more people began showing up, someone started playing music on a bluetooth speaker, and the entire atmosphere changed. One thing that was especially cool to see was the number of kids present. Even if their parents just dragged them there to help, they were eager in planting and watering the entire garden. It was awesome to see how young children were already being inspired to get into growing their own plants, for a more sustainable and healthy lifestyle. It warmed my heart seeing them get to experience the joy of gardening. After a few hours with lots of volunteer help, we finished the once-wood-chip-filled bed and had transformed it into a thriving environment for the new plants. To end the working session, we picked some of the chamomile buds to bring home and dry out for tea. It was a perfect treat to end a fulfilling and effective work day in the garden.

Liam McGee and Aldo Michel rest while working at the Faith Food Fridays garden in Vallejo

My Experience with the Gardening Internship

By Charlie Castillo

Although I had joined this internship a bit late, I was welcomed kindly by the people who run Sustainable Solano. Prior to the internship, we first had to go through certification, which consisted of meetings held with youth from multiple different internships. There, I got to meet a wide variety of people with different dreams of the future and different reasons to do their internships. The most common reason that I’d found with all the kids I’ve met from the certification process was because they had a vision to shape the world into a place that was green and has clean air.

My favorite highlight of this internship was the workday at First Christian Church. I liked this day a lot because I was able to meet all of the other interns and talk about school and hobbies. I found that they were all exceptionally brilliant, some of them holding down several AP classes and athletics, and even attending community college classes too. Although we had only spent a few hours of the day together, I know that the garden at First Christian Church was created with love and compassion from me and friends from Sustainable Solano.

The people of the church were also very friendly in making sure that we did not push ourselves too hard to get things done, and their lighthearted conversations made the mood of the day very calming and peaceful. I also appreciate every time that someone has taken the time out of their day to express their gratitude for us helping with the garden every now and then.

I enjoyed raking and shoveling in this garden a lot and I hope to find an opportunity to do it again someday. Overall, if there is one thing that I learned with this gardening internship, it is that teamwork creates beautiful gardens.


This intership was offered as a collaboration between SuSol’s Solano Sustainable Backyards and Solano Gardens programs. Solano Sustainable Backyards is funded by the Solano County Water Agency, and Solano Gardens is funded by Solano Public Health. We are grateful to both funders for supporting our work with youth.

2023 Fairfield & Suisun City Demonstration Food Forest Garden Tour & Healthy Local Food Showcase is May 6!

Join us for the Fairfield-Suisun City Demonstration Food Forest Tour and Celebrating Healthy Local Food: A Culinary and Garden Showcase on Saturday, May 6!

Sustainable Solano’s self-guided tour of vibrant, waterwise gardens in Fairfield and Suisun City will start with check-in from 9-11 am at Jardin de Esperanza, the garden on Armijo High School’s campus. Park and follow the signs to the garden, where you will be able to sign in and receive an itinerary of gardens to visit. Then tour Jardin de Esperanza and visit the Showcase in the Armijo High School library before heading out to tour the other gardens between 10 am-1 pm!

The tour highlights private and community gardens that use sustainable, waterwise practices to create spaces that provide food, habitat and beauty while capturing rainwater and, in some cases, reusing laundry water in the landscape. Some gardens also show how to make chickens part of a backyard ecosystem. Register here.

In the Showcase, students who participated in the Armijo Healthy Local Food program will share multimedia projects that highlight the importance of growing, cooking and eating healthy food and the importance of local food. Students in the Healthy Local Food program spent weeks learning about the importance of healthy, seasonal, local food by learning culinary skills and how to cook with local produce and meeting in the school garden to connect with growing and understanding our relationship to food. They used their experiences to create multimedia campaigns that include videos, interviews, podcasts, blogs and more!

Explore the multimedia campaigns at your own pace while talking with the students about their work and the program.

We hope to see you there!

Scroll through the list below to read about the Fairfield and Suisun City gardens that are featured on this year’s Demonstration Food Forest Tour!

Gardens will be open from 10 am-1 pm Saturday, May 6. You can pick up your itinerary for this self-guided tour at the Armijo High School “Jardin de Esperanza” from 9-11 am.

Register for the tour here!

Fairfield Demonstration Food Forest Gardens

Magical Garden

This garden was a front lawn conversion in 2019. It is filled with vegetables, fruits, herbs and more, building healthy soil and harvesting water from the roof.

Home to hummingbirds, bees, ladybugs and other beneficial insects, the garden sparks conversation with the neighbors and offers bountiful produce to share.

Learn more

Mom’s Delight

Installed in 2017, this backyard food forest has 21 fruit trees pruned annually to 5 feet, making it easier to access the fruit. The majority of the trees are watered by rain funneled into a swale, while others are watered from the laundry-to-landscape greywater system. An automatic drip system is used during the dry periods. All the fruits are shared with neighbors, friends and family. Additional plantings of salvia and calendula draw in honey bees and hummingbirds.

Laundry-to-Landscape greywater & backyard chickens

Learn more

West Winds

This garden was just planted in January 2023 as a collaborative project between Sustainable Solano and Solano 4-H. Youth members learned about permaculture and designing within the homeowners’ needs, then applied their new knowledge to a plan that includes fruit trees, pollinators and edible annuals. This site is especially susceptible to the western winds, which have annual summer gusts up to 40 mph. The garden is a work in progress as a learning space for 4-Hers for years to come.

Backyard chickens

Learn more

Suisun City Demonstration Food Forest Gardens

Caisteal Termonn

This garden is a demonstration in community and environmental resilience. Homeowners Heidi and Mitch had dealt with a wildfire taking their home in 2020. The garden was designed around a large maple tree, the only thing that survived the fire, and was named in Gaelic to harken back to Mitch’s native Scottish roots. It was installed December 2022.

Learn more

El Bosquecito

Installed in 2021 to mitigate the effects of flooding, this food forest garden is complete with chickens and a laundry-to-landscape greywater system. This yard has multiple fruit trees and pollinator plants.

Laundry-to-Landscape greywater & backyard chickens


Learn more

We are incredibly grateful for the generous support of our funders. 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.

Armijo High’s garden is supported through our Solano Gardens program and by Innovative Health Solutions. 

The Healthy Local Food Program is run through Sustainable Solano, with funding from Solano Public Health and a CA Department of Food and Agriculture grant. Innovative Health Solutions is also a partner that supports the program and receives funding through the CalFresh Healthy Living Program administered through the Nutrition Services Bureau of Solano Public Health. The program is in partnership with Armijo High School and the school’s Multimedia Academy and Garden Club.

Lentils in War & Peace

By Sajneet Kaur Chauhan, intern

The Healthy Local Food program at Armijo High in Fairfield brings together 30 students each week to learn about healthy, seasonal, local food in both the school garden and culinary sessions. The program is offered through two SuSol programs — Solano Gardens and Local Food Cooking Education — in partnership with Innovative Health Solutions, Armijo High School and the school’s multimedia and garden clubs. Students will share what they have learned through final multimedia projects. Here, student Sajneet reflects on a recent class. Follow the program’s progress on Instagram @healthylocalfoods and check out their in-progress website at

Sajneet during the Armijo Healthy Local Food program / photo credit: David Avery
As a comforting, versatile food quick enough for weeknight cooking, lentils will keep you well fed all winter. But they’re good to eat at any time. People in many countries eat lentils to ensure prosperity in the year to come. Canada is the world’s leading producer and exporter of lentils. In India, 6.3 million tons of lentils are produced in a year.

You might be wondering why I am introducing lentils. Lentils are a traditional food in India where my parents grew up. In our family we shop for lentils at the local Indian grocery store in Fairfield. When you enter the store, the smell of spices will ignite your senses and surely make you hungry. There are varieties of spices like turmeric, chili powder and cardamom. A few days ago, we cooked Mexican Lentil Soup in the Armijo High School Healthy Local Food program, and I was inspired to learn even more about lentils.

Lentils are low in sodium and saturated fat, and high in potassium, fiber, folate, and plant chemicals called polyphenols that have antioxidant activity. In my culture, pregnant women are recommended to eat lentils, especially sprouted ones, because they are rich in nutrients. These nutritional properties have led researchers to study their effects on chronic diseases. There are four main categories of lentils: brown, green, red/yellow, and specialty. One specialty lentil, the black lentil (beluga lentils) is the most nutritious variety of lentil, boasting the highest amount of protein in addition to high levels of calcium, potassium and iron.
Growing up, I was obsessed with eating lentils! We cooked lentils every day and I figured out it was healthy for our daily life. In the Healthy Local Food program when I heard that we were going to cook lentils I was so excited about spreading my culture. Lentils are a great part of a healthy plant-based diet. According to, lentils were introduced in the U.S. a few years before World War II and “gained their enduring popularity thanks to their ready availability, low price, and high nutritional benefits” during and after that conflict. I’m glad this program gave me a chance to learn even more about something that has been a part of my life since I can remember.


The Healthy Local Food Program is run through Sustainable Solano, with funding from Solano Public Health and a California Department of Food and Agriculture grant. Innovative Health Solutions is also a partner that supports the program and receives funding through the CalFresh Healthy Living Program administered through the Nutrition Services Bureau of Solano Public Health.
Funding for culinary instruction was made possible by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service through grant AM22SCBPCA1133. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA.

Armijo High Students Reflect on Healthy Local Food

The Healthy Local Food program at Armijo High in Fairfield brings together 30 students each week to learn about healthy, seasonal, local food in both the school garden and culinary sessions. The program is offered through two SuSol programs — Solano Gardens and Local Food Cooking Education — in partnership with Innovative Health Solutions, Armijo High School and the school’s multimedia and garden clubs. Students will share what they have learned through final multimedia projects. Here, two students in the program reflect on their early experiences. Follow their progress on Instagram @healthylocalfoods

Matthew Madrigal (second from left) and Kenya Jackson (right) participate in the recent stir-fry cooking class. They offer their reflections on the program below.

Connecting in the Armijo Garden

By Kenya Jackson

When we first walked into the garden we were met with SuSol instructor Lauren Gucik holding a huge bag of stuff. She had asked us to gather in a circle wherever we liked. We immediately moved to a more circle-ish form but not too far from each other as we were all very nervous. We, as a group of kids, were very quiet because we were nervous. Thankfully, Lauren was very considerate of this and while encouraging us to talk, she didn’t mind talking to keep conversation going by herself.

Lauren went into quite a bit of detail about her past and told us all about her journey into becoming so in touch with nature. She asked for our input and acknowledged all of our nonverbal answers. We soon became very comfortable around each other as well as her. Once Lauren took notice she asked us to introduce ourselves and establish this as a safe space where we could take a break if we are ever in need of one.

While in the circle we were given seeds to break open and toy with, they were ours. Most of us peeled off the seeds and discovered they were beans! Luca’s beans had started to grow while inside the pod which we then passed around as we found it quite interesting and cool. Lauren had taken notice of Mariah raking her hands through the beans and took the time to teach us about sensory stimulation. She pulled dried cobbed corn out of her bag and gave one to each group that was established the week prior.

As we pulled the kernels off of the cob, we fell into steady conversation of our ancestry and where we are from. We talked about all we had in common culturally. Lauren’s ancestors are from Northern Europe, meaning she can’t burn sage since it’s Native American, so she burned rosemary, another protective plant.

Cooking in the Kitchen

By Matthew Madrigal

For our sixth week we made a stir-fry! But before we did that we discussed smells of foods that remind us of dishes that are important to us. We then went over the ingredients. Then we got to the actual cooking. Every time I cook in the program I just get reminded how fun it is. My team and I did pretty well. I and some others were even interviewed for a bit! When we finished, everyone’s dish was fantastic. It was a great day. I’m glad I get to be here.

Solano Gardens is funded by Solano Public Health. Funding for culinary instruction was made possible by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service through grant AM22SCBPCA1133. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA.