Kathleen demonstrating the measuring wheel.

Suisun Valley Elementary School is located in the heart of a Suisun City, an agricultural community just south of Fairfield. Fittingly, it’s an Agri-Science school focused on the environmental stewardship and health of the community. Sustainable Solano is helping the school to develop a demonstration permaculture food forest. This project will help children understand the principles of urban agriculture and landscaping based on the availability of secondary water and learn the principles of permaculture: Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share.

Like with all of our educational programs, we believe in learning by doing, and we’ve already begun the long process–which in many ways is more meaningful to us and the children than the actual planting of the garden! The ground work has already started at the school! In May, Sustainable Landscaping Advisory Board members – Kathleen Huffman, Larry Lamoreux and Andy Zinkevich, – lead a workshop “Swales: Slow it, Spread it, Sink it” to two seventh grade classes of the school.

Inside the classroom, there was a conversation about how to measure the volumes of water, how to design simple water collection and diversion swales, and how to measure the levels in the soil. Outside, students were instructed on how to build a simple water collection swale (really an in-ground water tank–simpler and more effective than rain barrels) to collect and store the excess of water around the future food forest. Then it was time to get hands dirty. Kathleen, Larry and Andy were slightly terrified of so many children, all with shovels and with such high energy! But in no time, their youthful energy won over the day, and despite the 100-degree heat, all students were engaged, interested, and efficient. The school garden teacher, Laura Klein, will lead the team to finish the swale and fill it with wood chips before the school end.

In the fall, middle school children will be guided through the design and installation of a food forest.  From there they get to take the project to completion to install a food forest–where, under the guidance of their advisors, they’ll get to instruct and educate the community on the principles of a food forest, and work side-by-side with their own community member “students” to install the demonstration garden. We are also envisioning creating an adobe oven next to the food forest–another learning opportunity–to gift back to future generations. The school has a wonderful nutrition education program, and an oven will help prepare simple dishes from freshly harvested fruits and vegetables.

Great work, Suisun Valley School! We are looking forward to work with you in the fall to design and plant your food forest!

More updates on this ongoing project to come! Educational installation workshops will be open to the community in August 2017!