Mary Farmar School

Mary Farmar Elementary School Project

Planning for the Mary Farmar Elementary School project began in 2015.  The campus is situated on a hilltop with views of the Carquinez Strait, making it arguably one of the most scenic campuses in the District.  After laying out a conceptual tree planting plan, the next task was to find funds to pay for the trees and supplies.  The California Releaf organization awarded a grant to the Benicia Tree Foundation in October 2018to sponsor a Fall Arbor Day tree planting.  This grant included paying for the trees at Mary Farmar.

A plan to plant 33 trees was finalized with school Principal Melissa Harley and with Alfredo Romero, District Supervisor for Maintenance and Operations. Careful attention was paid to selecting tree species and locations that would not interfere with view from the school and view from neighbors above the school.  A primary objective was to plant trees to shade the student drop-off/pick-up zone which is at the base of a barren slope that borders the north side of the campus.  A combination of Crepe myrtles, Toyon and California redbud trees would be planted about 20 feet on-center at the base of the slope.

drop-off zone

Project proposed trees for the student drop-off/pick-up zone at the base of a barren slope.

A key feature of the project was to include as many students as possible in the project.  Mary Farmar's Students in Action (fourth and fifth graders who take on leadership projects) would help organize teams of students to plant the trees.  In addition, a school assembly would be held to inform all students on the reasons for this Arbor Day project, the tree species that would be planted, and the benefits of planting trees on campus.

Prior to finalizing the date of the event, Benicia Tree Foundation notifed the neighbors of the tree planting project and the care that was taken to select species and locations that would not impact their views.  Several neighbors contacted the Foundation and the District objecting to the project because of the potential impact to their views.  At that time, school officials revealed that the campus was dealing with several incidents of tree vandalism over the past year.  Some of the tallest and oldest trees on campus died after someone had poured poison in holes drilled at the base of their trunks.  Staff were concerned about planting new trees that may suffer the same fate.  Tree species and locations were reviewed again with the objective of minimizing their exposure to vandalism in the future.

Dead Oak Tree at Mary Farmar

Coast live oak tree at Mary Farmar that died from tree vandalism.


Trunk of dead coast live oak

Poison was poured into holes drilled into the trunk of the Coast live oak tree at Mary Farmar

Fall is the best time to plant trees in California, so an early November date was selected for a Fall Arbor Day celebration on campus.  About ten days prior to the event, the Camp Fire started which resulted in several days of school closures in Benicia due to the severe smoke pollution.  The tree planting event was rescheduled to late November, after Thanksgiving.  Significant rainfall occurred after Thanksgiving which pushed the event to December 4.

Nov 8 Flier for Fall Arbor Day at Mary Farmar

Flyer for the Fall Arbor Day Celebration.  The Camp Fire caused the event to be delayed to December.

The Fall Arbor Day Celebration at Mary Farmar took place under cloudy skies on December 4.  Nearly 400 students assembed in the playground after lunch and were greeted by Stephen Hallet, aide to Supervisor Monica Brown who represents Benicia on the Solano County Board of Supervisors.  Mr. Hallet described the reason for Arbor Day and the the benefits of the trees to be planted that day.  After the assembly, the Students in Action organized their student volunteers to plant the 33 trees.  The project was completed by 3:00 PM.  With completion of this project at Mary Farmar, the Benicia Tree Foundation has sponsored a tree planting project at every school campus of the Benicia Unified School District.  The Benicia Tree Foundation is very appreciative of the support demonstrated by the District to improve the tree cover on its campuses.

student assembly

Students assemble on the playground for the Fall Arbor Day Celebration at Mary Farmar School

Stephen Hallot and Superintendent Young

Stephen Hallet and Superintendent Young at the Fall Arbor Day event


Student planting trees

Mary Farmar students planting trees on campus to celebrate Fall Arbor Day.