Our Vision:

A world where children have access to nature, people can grow their own food locally, and there is a balance between human activity and natural ecology.

Our Mission:

To roll out a new land-use model in order to leverage urban spaces for education, workforce development and climate resiliency, through a variety of partnerships. In this way, we can build food security and food sovereignty for our communities, while restoring local ecology, and giving youth the ethic and the skills for a more sustainable future.

Our Strategy:

Our partners fund programs, contribute land sites for regenerative organic farms and native teaching gardens that form the centers of communities where we learn to grow and share food while protecting the natural world in cities.

Alrie Middlebrook at Front Gate of ELSEE

Who We Are

Silicon Valley Ecovillage to the World
Silicon Valley Ecovillage to the World

California Native Garden Foundation (CNGF) is a nonprofit public benefit corporation. We are undergoing a transformation to the Lab for Nature-Based Urban Living, with at least 25 regenerative organic farms and native hedgerows in Santa Clara County – to inspire a new model of land use, one that restructures our cities to work in harmony with nature.

The CNGF garden, located at 76 Race Street in San Jose, has been building community for 21 years around regenerative land use practices, food access, and native ecology. The garden itself contains the local California native plant communities of the Bay Area region and hosts many types of wildlife, including birds, pollinators, and insects.

We are skilled at taking an asphalt parking lot, an empty vacant lot or a flat piece of compacted land covered with weeds, and transforming each of them into highly productive California native gardens or thriving urban regenerative farms. Each of our projects is used as teaching laboratories where professional mentors train students the skills necessary to transform a city.

The mission of CNGF is to forge an ecological land use model and restore nature in cities. We are changing how urban land is used to protect our air, water, soils and food. We are empowering youth to build resilient cities. We teach and train youth the skills to manage city lands sustainably. We bring community stakeholders together to create cities that address the major needs of our planet and all who are dependent upon it for living healthy lives.

We stand on a precipice. Our species has not been here before. At no time in our evolution had the average level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere across the globe passed 400 parts per million (ppm) as happened several years ago – a symbolic and worrying milestone in growth of man-made climate change.

In our research at CNGF, we have learned that increased carbon dioxide emissions are heavily linked to how we use land and build on it, how we dispose of our waste, how and where we grow our food, as well as energy and transportation. In fact, if taken together, these essential requirements for life are responsible for a whopping 86% of carbon emissions.

It is our responsibility—the designers and artists, the builders, scientists and engineers—to create new sustainable models. With the support of community activism and timely government policies and code adoptions, we can force drastic reductions in the very near future.

It is imperative that we work as a team to accomplish these goals quickly.  We work and live in a hotbed for innovation. We are also living at a time with increased scarcity of water and loss of genetic biodiversity. The stage in the Santa Clara Valley is set for change! It’s time to create a new sustainable urban land use model for others to emulate — one that addresses the essentials for life while utilizing new, successful technologies and science discoveries. At the same time, we must continue to engage an intelligent informed community that is supported by government action, cooperation and expediency.

Alrie Middlebrook

teacher designer artist writer ecological thinker

Alrie is CNGF’s Executive Director and Co-Founder, along with botanist Dr. Glenn Keator, physician Dr. Barry Slater, civil rights attorney David Long, and nonprofit accountant Tom Bradner. She is a committed advocate and practitioner of the sustainable lifestyle, landscape professional and California native plant specialist. Under her guidance, CNGF and, previously, Middlebrook Gardens, have installed over 800 native, sustainable gardens throughout Northern California. She remains on the leading edge of the rising sustainability movement.

Alrie is committed to educating the public and promoting sustainability through native gardening.

Alrie has given lectures and workshops throughout California. She has garnered awards and recognition; her company became the second business in Santa Clara Valley to achieve the status of a certified green business. With renowned field botanist Dr. Glenn Keator, she co-authored the groundbreaking book, Designing California Native Gardens: The Plant Community Approach to Artful Ecological Gardens. She also published the California native cookbook, Eating California.

In 1976, she started working professionally with plants. Middlebrook Gardens, a landscape design/build management company that specialized in native gardens, was created in the 1996. In 1999, Alrie began transforming a half-acre concrete parking lot at 76 Race Street in downtown San Jose into a vibrant garden full of native California plant communities. In 2004, she, along with a group of native garden enthusiasts formed CNGF. Today, the site is operated as CNGF and the Lab for Nature-Based Urban Living.

Board of Directors


Melissa Blum

Board Chair

Allegra Watson


David Shapiro


Ashley Carter


Harvey Darnell


Sanhita Datta


Sherry Kaufman