Mother Garden Biodiversity & Nursery

Every seed and plant in our collection has a story.

OAEC garden

The Center’s bio-intensive, California Certified Organic “Mother Garden” and orchards allow us to build and model horticultural biodiversity. The Mother Garden Biodiversity Program & Nursery are committed to preserving our plant heritage by curating and propagating thousands of varieties of heirloom, open-pollinated annuals and edible, medicinal and ornamental perennials. Our plant collection emphasizes food crops of special genetic, cultural and historic importance, and allows us to provide fruit, vegetables, herbs, and flowers for thousands of meals prepared onsite each year.

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). 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.

Program Goals

  • To steward the Mother Garden as a CCOF-certified organic, bio-intensive, hand-tilled, diverse, healthy, continuously tended and historic garden. Click to learn more about OAEC’s organic practices and advocacy of eco-agriculture in our bio-region.
  • To grow food that is healthy, nutritious, beautiful and tasty for OAEC course participants and community residents on the land, offering people the opportunity to taste and experience living, seasonal organic produce from garden-to-table in a context of community.
  • To build and conserve agricultural biodiversity; propagate it through active Seed Saving and Plant Sales & Nursery programs; and share it with the broader public.
  • To demonstrate and educate about the art and science of small-scale, biodiverse organic agriculture.
  • To create a sustainable Plant Sale & Nursery business that educates the public about biodiversity and the importance of its conservation, and offers a wide array of plants – particularly food crops – still available to us.
  • To support and collaborate with other Bay Area community garden projects.

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 (closed April 15-16), with a focus on multifunction perennial plants appropriate for Permaculture Design, including a wide selection of culinary and medicinal herbs.  We also offer Spring, Summer and Fall Plant Sale Events that focus on annual plants for jump starting your seasonal gardens and include tours of the OAEC grounds.

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.


Plant Sales & Nursery

OAEC Nursery

Program Impact

Our gardens and nursery allow us to:

  • Preserve biodiversity – We propagate several thousand varieties of food, fiber and medicinal crops.
  • Spread biodiversity – Through our Nursery and seasonal Plant Sale Events, we share over 100,000 open-pollinated and heirloom plants with the public.
  • Donate plants and seeds – We donate thousands of dollars annually in seeds and plant starts to deserving school gardens, community gardens and gardens serving 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 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, School Garden Teacher Trainings, Garden Volunteer Day and Garden Internships. Our Garden Manager Michelle Vesser also wrote an educational article called “Wisdom Offerings of a Garden.”
  • Prepare healthful, 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

Courses & Events

Come experience the gardens directly by taking a tour or course such as our School Garden Teacher Training.


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