OAEC supports diverse communities to design their own regenerative systems at the regional and local scale.
Our cookbook is a collection of inventive recipes inspired by seasonal eating from our biodiverse Mother Garden, orchards and Wildlands Preserve.
Experience the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center through a video tour and beautiful photographs of our Guest Houses, Meeting Room, Bathhouse, Kitchen & Dining Room, Mother Garden and more.
New in 2017: Now open every weekend April-October, Saturdays & Sundays from 10am-5pm! Our nursery specializes in open-pollinated perennials including edible landscaping plants, rare and endangered food crops, drought tolerant ornamentals and habitat plants. Join us for our three special Plant Sale Events focused on annual plants for starting your seasonal vegetable gardens.
OAEC offers the longest consistently running two-week Permaculture Design Certification course in the West. Immerse yourself in information, ideas and inspiration on how to design sustainable, regenerative systems in balance with your home ecosystem.
Our School Garden Teacher Training supports schools to integrate the school garden into multiple subject areas using place-based, experiential learning.
As a place-based research center with a seed bank and an established seed saving program, OAEC is trialing a new (to us) plant breeding technique with these questions in mind. Together with the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, Northwest Prep Charter School, and Bayer Farm Neighborhood Park and Gardens, OAEC has planted over 550 varieties of winter wheat in 4 different Sonoma County locations using a process called Evolutionary Plant Breeding with hopes of expanding the future resilience of our locally adapted seed supply.
Farmers around the world are participating in a process called Evolutionary Plant Breeding (EPB) to develop new varieties of food crops that will thrive and adapt to a changing climate. Traditional seed breeding is concerned with varietal integrity and seeks to isolate varieties/prevent cross-pollination in order to retain desirable characteristics or intentionally cross pollinate in a controlled way known as hybridization. In contrast, EPB purposefully mixes a wide diversity of varieties together with curiosity to uncover hidden resiliency genetics as varieties emerge, cross, and thrive under new, rapidly changing conditions. With EPB, farmers gather and mix seeds from hundreds to thousands of different varieties of a food crop (usually a cereal grain) that are culturally, ecologically and nutritionally important to their place. Farmers then plant the seed mixtures in their fields each year, creating a living, evolving gene bank that will adapt over time to the local climate and agricultural practices through the process of natural selection. In addition to harvesting the mixture for sustenance and market, farmers can select out of the mixture individual varieties to grow out as new, locally-unique varieties that have improved genetics and adaptations from the mixture.
This year, OAEC’s Kendall Dunnigan and Cooper Freeman, obtained over 550 varieties of winter bread wheat from the USDA seed bank, mixed them together, and planted the mixture in 4 different plots around Sonoma County – here in our home North Garden in Occidental, at the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria tribal garden in Rohnert Park, the Northwest Prep Charter School garden in north Santa Rosa, and the Bayer Farm Neighborhood Park and Garden in the Roseland district of Santa Rosa. We will be harvesting the wheat this summer and will report back soon with our findings!
produces new varieties which are unique to each location
an inexpensive, dynamic, and fast way of adapting crops to a changing climate through natural selection
fits crops to the Environment rather than modifying the environment and therefore is ideal for organic conditions
diverse seed mixtures better resist weeds, diseases, pests and natural disasters
evolutionary populations are not patentable
gets seeds out of seed banks and into farmers’ fields
puts control back into the hands of farmers and gardeners, and away from multi-national corporations
supports local seed systems and encourages farmer participation