By Gabriela Estrada, Solano Gardens Program Manager

People often say that it takes a village to perform really great things. As a program manager with Sustainable Solano, I can tell you that is true. After all, nothing is done in silos and often some of the best programing I’ve accomplished has been with the support of my team and partner organizations. The collaborative South Vallejo Raised Beds Project has been just that: a collaboration between Food is Free Solano, The Vallejo Project and Sustainable Solano. This partnership’s goal is increasing food access for those living in food deserts and who are interested in growing their own annual fruits and veggies.

Due to the collaboration between these three organizations and other community partners, we will be able to fill 12 raised beds ranging from 1 foot by 4 feet to 4 feet by 8 feet. To date, we’ve received 36 requests! We will need to go back to the drawing board to see how we can match all of our community needs with the very limited funding opportunities out there and ensure that we achieve the mission of increasing food access in South Vallejo. All in all, there have been some very exciting opportunities that have arisen from this collaboration, and I hope to see where this collaboration project will take us!

Learn more about the partners below.

The Team

Food is Free Solano

Food is Free Solano’s mission is to connect local neighborhoods in Solano County with easy-to-access free food from many food stands managed by community members. There are a number of Food is Free stands throughout the county, and the organization is currently located at the Vallejo Fairgrounds, providing food boxes through a USDA Farmers to Families Program. Due to their amazing work, they have a wide network of folks all over the county. While they do not specialize in gardening, a project like building raised beds to increase food access made a lot of sense. After all, in their food stands they often have community members donating starter plants. It was with this in mind that Food is Free Solano Executive Director Heather Pierini reached out to Sustainable Solano and The Vallejo Project for support.

The Vallejo Project   

The Vallejo Project’s mission is to empower youth to realize their fullest potential by connecting them to enrichment and development opportunities in the trades, art, wellness and culture. Because of their objectives, they have a wide network of professional carpenters who stepped forward to help when the Vallejo Project’s Executive Director Adjoa McDonald asked for support in building the raised beds for individuals who needed it. While they could have stopped at building the raised beds, they took another step and provided transportation so that we could deliver the raised beds to their new owners in South Vallejo.

Sustainable Solano

Sustainable Solano’s mission is Nurturing Initiatives for the Good of the Whole, so when Heather called to ask if we could team up, we saw a natural fit. While we had never done anything solely with raised beds before, Sustainable Solano does have a number of online videos and virtual gardening resources on our YouTube channel, as well as our website’s plant resources, soil resources and water resources. Given the emphasis of the Solano Gardens program, we have a Garden Care Plan that was adapted for growing produce in raised beds. And with funding from the Solano Community Foundation, which awarded us funds for the Solano Gardens program, we were able to purchase soil and seeds for the raised beds.

Other Collaborators

There were other people and organizations that made this project possible, including our newest addition to the Solano Gardens program in Vacaville. The homeowners donated wood panels from their barn that were repurposed into raised beds. We will be building a garden at their home on March 20 and April 17. If you would like to support the installation, click here.

We also count on nurseries like Mid City Nursery in American Canyon, who gave us a nonprofit discount and are always ready to answer any gardening-related questions.

Please be on the lookout for where this project might go and ways that you can support should you choose to!