OAEC’s Mother Garden Biodiversity Program is committed to preserving biocultural diversity by curating, propagating, and sharing thousands of varieties of heirloom, open-pollinated annuals and edible, medicinal and ornamental perennials. Our plant collection and seed bank emphasize food crops of special genetic, cultural and historic importance that are appropriate to our bioregion. The gardens serve as a living laboratory for our classes and allow us to provide delicious fruit, vegetables, herbs, and flowers for thousands of meals prepared onsite each year.

Every seed and plant
in our collection
tells a story.

North Garden 1979,  photo by Alison Dykestra

To ensure that all future farming operations are free of synthetic chemicals and in keeping with our California Certified Organic Farmers certification, OAEC and the Sonoma Land Trust signed the United States’ first permanent Organic Agricultural Easement over our gardens and orchards in 1994.

The gardens onsite have a history that outlives OAEC.

They have been a source of inspiration and training for thousands of gardeners, farmers and landscapers for over 40 years, first as the Farallones Institute (1974-1990), then as the Center for Seven Generations (1990-1993) and now as OAEC (1994-present). Over time, the garden has become something of a cradle of diversity for plant and animal life. We have collected and evaluated thousands of varieties, chosen our favorites, planted them again and again, and shared them with others. Sometime in the late ’80s we started calling the gardens “The Mother Garden,” referring both to her abundant fertility and to the fact that she was providing a wealth of seeds, plant material and wisdom to other gardens and gardeners and, quite literally, giving birth to daughter gardens.

Plant Sales & Nursery

After years of preserving and propagating thousands of varieties for our gardens, the Mother Garden Biodiversity Program began to more widely spread biodiversity through our 100% California Certified Organic, open-pollinated plant Nursery. All our crops have been trialed and savored in our demonstration gardens and kitchen.

Our nursery is open every weekend through the warm gardening months April through October, with a focus on multifunction perennial plants appropriate for Permaculture Design, including a wide selection of culinary and medicinal herbs.

Over the years, we have fallen in love with countless plants on this site. Come share in their beauty with us! When you buy our annuals and perennials, you are supporting the work of OAEC.

Program Impact

Our gardens and nursery allow us to:

  • Preserve and spread biodiversity – We propagate several thousand varieties of rare heirloom food, fiber and medicinal crops and share them with the public through our Nursery.
  • Donate plants and seeds – We donate thousands of dollars annually in seeds and plant starts to school gardens, community gardens and gardens supporting underserved populations around Northern California. Part of the design of our production plan in the nursery is that nothing is wasted.
  • Create “daughter” gardens – OAEC collaborates with and supports many community organizations, including Food for Thought, a Sonoma County food bank serving people with critical illnesses, to manage their organic gardens and orchards. We also helped form the daughter garden at the Salmon Creek School, which was the first “living learnscape” model for our School Garden Teacher Trainings.
  • Teach and inspire – Our 100% Organic demonstration gardens and orchards serve as a living laboratory for Permaculture Design courses, Garden Volunteer Day, Garden Internships and dozens of public and private tours per year.
  • Grow fresh, homegrown food – We produce organic fruit, vegetables, herbs, and flowers for thousands of meals annually prepared for OAEC courses and the onsite intentional community.
  • Host seed exchanges – We give away over 100 pounds of seed each year at the Ecological Farming Conference, Annual Bioneers Conference and Sonoma County Seed Swap. At one seed exchange, OAEC may offer up to 60 varieties of crops. One 3-pound jar of amaranth seeds alone contains 1.9 million seeds!
Garden Volunteer Day

Get Involved


Garden Volunteer Day is almost every Wednesday of the year from 10:00am to 5:00pm, with a beautiful organic lunch at 12:30pm. Plunge your hands into the rich, loamy soil of the OAEC Mother Gardens for hands-on inspiration!

OAEC rainy spring garden