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.
With an increasingly unstable climate and a continued collapse of agricultural biodiversity, OAEC is mixing and planting together over 2,000 varieties of bread wheat from all over the world, in collaboration with local Sonoma County tribal, community, and school gardens and local farms. This process is called “Evolutionary Plant Breeding,” with a goal of creating unique, place-adapted, resilient mixtures of our most important food crops, to increase and expand agricultural biodiversity, put seed breeding back into the hands of farmers and gardeners, and create a seed supply that can thrive in a changing climate.
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. With EPB, farmers gather and mix seeds from hundreds to thousands of different varieties of a food crop that is 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 (trials in the Middle East and Italy have shown that bread made from diverse mixtures of bread wheat can reduce or even eliminate gluten-intolerance), 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.
For over 20 years, OAEC has curated, evolved, and shared a collection of over 2,000 open-pollinated seeds of regionally-appropriate food, medicinal, fiber, and herbal crops towards preserving and cultivating biodiversity. In contrast, industrial seed breeding, especially of our most nutritionally and culturally important food crops (i.e. wheat, maize, and rice), has focused on uniformity and stability across broad and diverse bioregions – creating a crisis of resilience in our seed systems in a time of profound climatic instability. OAEC’s Wheat EPB project is a response to this industrial seed breeding paradigm.
In 2016, 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. In years to come, we hope to expand both the number of varieties and the number and size of the plots being planted by our seed-saving partners around the county and beyond.
Above: On Tuesday, August 15th, 2017 we were honored to host ICARDA scientist Dr. Salvatore Ceccarelli, a leading international innovator in this field. He gave a talk on participatory and evolutionary plant breeding for a group of our friends and collaborators in the seed-sovereignty/seed-saving movement here in Sonoma County. Stories from his work in arid regions in the Middle East & North Africa pointed to a hopeful vision for the future of democratic, farmer-led seed improvement programs in the face of rapid climate change in drought-affected communities such as ours. Click here and here to learn more about his inspiring research.
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