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.