1

Pictured (from left) are Sibella Kraus, Steve Ritchie and Mary Selkirk. Image Courtesy of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission/Photographer Robin Scheswohl

On a midsummer Saturday afternoon, a hundred people gathered at the Sunol Water Temple to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Sunol AgPark, a thriving urban-edge farm that is home to a handful of small-scale, organic-farming enterprises.

“What started as an unusual idea has transformed 18-acres of our watershed lands into a flourishing farm that promotes sustainable farming, watershed education, and urban agriculture,” said Harlan Kelly Jr., general manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC).

On August 13, the 10th-anniversary event celebrated the partners, funders, farmers, educators, and local community who have contributed to the AgPark's success. It was hosted by the SFPUC, which owns and manages the Alameda Creek watershed lands where the AgPark is located, and Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAGE), which created and manages the Sunol AgPark.

SAGE Founder and President Sibella Kraus stated, “The Sunol AgPark has become a template for how public-nonprofit partnerships can promote multi-benefit sustainable agriculture on public lands. As a forward-thinking utility, the SFPUC considered an organic farm connected to urban communities to be a good use for its watershed lands. The AgPark thrives because the soil is fertile and deep and has excellent water. And, of course, because the farmers are skilled and dedicated."

During the event, guests toured the AgPark and enjoyed food prepared by Bay Area chefs using the park's fresh produce accompanied by Wente Family Estates wines.

The evening's program included remarks by Kraus, SFPUC Assistant General Manager of the Water Enterprise Steve Ritchie, farmer Kristyn Leach, Sunol Community Advisory Councilmember Rosemary Chang, and SAGE Board Chair Mary Selkirk.

"It was a festive, fun, relaxed evening," said Kraus. "A wonderful highlight was the unveiling of the model for a beautiful plaque commemorating the AgPark which will be installed as part of the construction of the Alameda Watershed Center due to open next to the Water Temple in late 2018."

The Sunol AgPark, located at the intersection of Niles Canyon and Pleasanton Sunol Roads, was among the first of its kind to provide land for multiple farmers to collaborate and practice their trade. Farmers typically remain at the AgPark for several years as they build their skills and businesses while providing produce for diverse communities throughout the Bay Area.

Adopted from European models, AgParks both sustain and contain urban areas. SAGE’s mission is to develop urban-edge agriculture and engage diverse populations through programs that promote multifunctional food provision, economic development and resource conservation. With support from the SFPUC and other grants, SAGE additionally runs an on-site education program that, to date, has hosted more than 7,000 students at the farm, teaching them about the connections between the land, their food and their communities.

“The AgPark is the only education farm in the Tri-Valley, I believe,” Kraus said. “Its field trips for elementary school students, and its service-learning programs for middle- and high-school students are a terrific community resource.”

Beginning in 2017, the Alameda County Resource Conservation District will take over the AgPark's management while SAGE focuses on its other innovative public-private projects, including developing new AgParks to advance sustainable agriculture and food systems in the Bay Area. The farm will continue as it has – providing land for sustainable farming and for education.

At the Sunol AgPark 10th Anniversary Celebration, Kraus happily noted, "Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the delicious food, wine and beer, and people were in deep conversation. It was a very pleasant summer evening."

To learn more, visit www.sagecenter.org.