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Sonoma County is home to many unique, innovative companies. I'm proud to boast that our little county operates several companies sought out by families across the globe. Sono-Ma's will agree that we find ample local opportunities to feed, nourish, and entertain our children. In one shining example, I'd like to share how two such local companies recently touched our lives. On Sunday local bread cooperative, Alvarado Street Bakery, treated its employees and their families to a day at Safari West.

Alvarado Street Bakery (ASB), now based in Petaluma, is a "global supplier of certified organic, whole grain breads and bagels made with sprouted wheat." This local company started out in the late 70's as an offshoot of a nonprofit that also housed Santa Rosa's Community Market. The company continues to thrive today through employing more than 100 employees in Sonoma County. (To read more history click here.) Our family can attest to this amazing company's commitment to its employees. ASB provides us with a terrific, low-cost health care plan (a PPO that includes acupuncture and birthing centers), quarterly gain sharing bonuses, a living wage, input into company operations through its cooperative structure, and the opportunity to own a share of the company through its membership program. My husband has worked for this company for more than 15 years - and he is considered a "short timer." Employees stick with this company as it truly IS a company that creates a quality product with consideration for our world and its employees.

Not only is this company unique in its outstanding consciousness, it also produces great bread! While ASB families lounged on the picnic blankets during our Safari West event, we traded recipes about the best way to use ASB products. One family swears that sprouted breads make the best grilled cheese. Our family loves to make french toast casserole out of the Cinnamon Raisin breads (click here for recipe). Many of our kids gorge on the bagels and eat daily sandwiches on the " Kids Bread." ASB families bring home fresh bread at the end of their shifts,
but other Sonoma County families can always find this bread at Andy's Market, Community Market, Fiesta Markets, Whole Foods, Oliver's, Trader Joe's (Essential Flax Seed), and other conventional markets. The product is shipped as far as Japan, so people can actually grab a slice of the smiling cat bread just about anywhere!

On Sunday, Alvarado Street employees got together for an annual celebration of the company's success at Safari West. This local theme park is something of a hidden treasure buried in the hills behind Santa Rosa. With 400 acres and hundreds of African Animals, the park offers a pristine and picturesque glimpse into wildlife not usually seen in this part of the world - a true African oasis.

We were treated to a moving tour through the lower half of the property's grasslands. Families loaded into buses for a leisurely drive by dozens of giraffes, antelope, guinea fowl and other exotic creatures.

The children and adults alike were thrilled to get to see the animals up close. We also learned about other park adventures that include a longer ride in double-decker jeeps and even more diverse animal sightings. We stuck to the shorter ride, and then took a walking tour through the parks many atriums and walkways. Giant tortoises, flamingos, cheetahs, and lemurs are a few of the delightful creatures the children were able to experience.

After guided adventures, we sat down for a catered lunch and let the children romp freely in the expansive, lush open areas of the park. Family members of all ages found enjoyment through escaping into the protected and wild experience Safari West offers. The company seeks to remind families of nature's beauty and fragility. "By teaching conservation through education, we create awareness. If you leave here with only one realization ­­– that what we have on earth is perishable and we are what is making it perishable – that’s good enough for me." - Peter Lang, Safari West founder. The company began in 1989 and now hosts as many as 60,000 people annually to help further its educational mission.

Safari West is an international tourist destination, but it is also a great local getaway! Families can bunk in lavish Safari style tent cabins and catch late night bonfires as part of other offered experiences. Check out the "specials" page for offers that are sure to entice your family to visit!

Let's support our local economy and these two wonderful, family-focused companies! For more pictures, click here.


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