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