Growing Healthy Families

by Hidden Villa
Vetted

As the summer days drift by, some chaotic, and some relaxed, I still feel in awe of the beauty and abundance of the farm and all that it gives to us. Not just in the diversity of sweet and delicious fruits, of which we get to share with you and to eat during our hot days in the sun, or the vegetables springing up all over our fields, but in the way this place and all the people it has drawn to it have taught me so much over the past several months. The simple joys of watching the setting sun while riding in from the fields at the end of a long day, the satisfaction of watching all the little seedlings we lovingly care for burst up and begin to thrive, sometimes overnight, or seemingly just if I turn my back for a minute, have brought me a distinct sense of contentment. I hope that we are able to share some of this with you in the tasteful and nutritious qualities of our weekly bounty!

With mid-summer comes the advent of our more heat-loving crops. With all the work we’ve been putting into the farm, I know that some beautiful weeks donations to our partners at the Community Services Agency of Mountain View are head. It seems like just yesterday we were reaping our first harvests of the springtime, and already we are beginning our planting for the fall. We're so grateful to have such a powerful connection to our food, the land, and the community that we're feeding with organic, fresh fruits and vegetables. 

LaDrea, in the far corner, talks to HV interns
LaDrea, in the far corner, talks to HV interns

The goal of the Hidden Villa Internship Program is to support participants grow as sustainable farmers, thoughtful educators, and non-profit leaders through hands-on job training and support leading to future job placement. Every year we take our 14 interns to visit some of our partner organizations that help us accomplish our organizational mission of inspiring a just and sustainable future.

A few weeks ago we had the privilege of visiting the Community Services Agency of Mountain View's Nutritional Center where Hidden Villa donates 25% of our seasonal harvest. It was an amazing opportunity for interns to see where the food that we harvest is going and what the Nutrition Center looks like. LaDrea, the Center Manager, took us on a tour of the facilities and then we watched as clients poured in to the small aisles of fresh produce, canned goods, and even a small dessert shelf. 

Here is a message we got from LaDrea after our visit: "It was great to have you all here. It is awesome that you took the time out to find out more about our organization and what some of our other needs may be. You are a great partner whom I truly value. Thank you for being a part of CSA and helping us push for healthy eating. Looking forward to our continued partnership. See you soon."

It was lovely to connect with LaDrea and the Clients at the CSA of Mountain View. We look forward to many more years of this partnership and are grateful that you help us continue this long-lasting collaboration to.

Links:

Freshly harvested squash!
Freshly harvested squash!

This year Hidden Villa provided 6,045 pounds of vegetables to our neighbors at the CSA of Mountain View. A serving of vegetables is approximately 4 oz. (depending on the type of vegetable), and we grew 24,190 servings of vegetables exclusively for the clients at CSA of Mountain View.

 The Food and Nutrition Center at the CSA of Mountain View served 2,248 individuals during fiscal year 2015. 100% of the clients served through this program are low-income. 56% of those served are children under the age of 18 and seniors over the age of 65. Some of the clients shared how pleased they were with this partnership:

 “It makes us appreciate more that what we are getting is really organic and that is really rewarding.”

“It’s good to know that there is a Hidden Villa that preserves the natural cycle of food production. Two thumbs up.”

Our biggest challenge this year was facing the California drought and all of the changes in our agricultural production. We installed various water catchment systems and have found ways to slow and sink rainfall into our aquifer. We have already received over 6 inches of rain this winter and are hopeful that we will have a wet season this year in order to prepare us for next year’s growing season.

We are excited to install a new deer fence around our farm operation. Our current deer fence has various holes and has become easier to bypass. This year fruit trees were under particular pressure from deer, decreasing the fruit output we were able to donate to the CSA of Mountain View. This new, more reinforced deer fence will help us to ensure that deer are not able to access the harvest, most likely increasing the fruits we can offer to clients of the CSA of Mountain View.

Our partnership with the Community Services Agency of Mountain View is such a rewarding collaboration and we are so appreciative of your support, helping us make fresh fruits and vegetables more available to folks in our community. Happy 2016!

At 10am last Saturday, a school bus arrived in our CSA parking lot, marking the beginning of our 6th annual Harvest Festival at the farm! The Harvest Festival is a half-day event that we organize to celebrate Hidden Villa's unique relationship with the clients of the Community Services Agency of Mountain View (CSAMV). The Harvest Festival is the Hidden Villa farm crew's annual opportunity to connect directly with 80 CSAMV clients of all ages who share in harvest activities, animal visits, and a community meal in our outdoor kitchen. 

CSAMV is a wraparound social services agency that provides clients living on low incomes with a variety of programs including rent assistance, senior services, a food pantry, cooking and nutrition classes, and prepared meals. With the support of grants and donations, Hidden Villa gives 25% of our annual harvest to CSAMV. The agency in turn is able to distribute the freshest local produce directly to clients, improving their ability to meet their families' nutritional needs on a limited budget.

For many CSAMV families, Saturday was their first visit Hidden Villa and a unique opportunity to meet the farm crew and help harvest food that will come back to the CSAMV pantry. The day began with an introduction to our farm, our organic practices, and our crew. Jason took the group on a tour of our lower fields, stopping to talk about the importance of diversity on the farm and about how we’re managing during this prolonged drought. CSAMV clients come from a wide range of backgrounds, so Jason paused frequently to allow the group’s interpreters to translate his thoughts into Spanish and Chinese. The kids loved visiting the five rowdy teenage pigs that share the lower fields with us, and spirits were high as everyone worked together to harvest close to a ton of winter squash. HV staff from other departments volunteered to take the group on a tour of the goats, chickens, cows, and sheep up-ranch, and the day culminated in a shared farm-to-table lunch of smoky vegetable soup, oven-baked flatbread, coleslaw, and fresh-pressed apple cider. Yum!

The event was a huge success, not just because everyone left smiling and well-fed, but because 80 CSAMV clients now know that Hidden Villa is their farm. Many families expressed an interest in coming back to visit, and we distributed free day passes to help folks feel welcome in this wonderful community space. For the farm crew, the Harvest Festival was a chance to put faces and human stories on our twice-weekly produce donations—and a reminder that, as CSAMV’s website says, “hardship can come at any time and knows no age limit.” We are humbled to be able support our neighbors in a time of need and to celebrate with them the incredible bounty of a successful farm season. THANK YOU for helping us make this partnership, and successful event, possible. 

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Jen shows off a Strawberry, while Ali harvests!
Jen shows off a Strawberry, while Ali harvests!

We enter into this season as a genuine family farm and want to introduce you to our team. Our Agriculture Manager, Jason, and Horiculturalist, Lanette, are joined this year by a passionate crew of future female farmers. Ali is our new journeyman farmer. Ali grew up in the East Bay and has honed an interest and experience in farming practice in Oregon. She worked for several years managing a farming and farm education program for participants at the Oregon Food Bank in Portland. Our first year interns are Jen and Elisa. Jen is originally from Minnetonka, Minnesota and has developed an interest in farming through her work at the student farm at Middlebury and in an Americorps position at the Urban Roots Garden Classroom in Reno, Nevada. Elisa is originally from Southern California and has developed an interest in farming while attending Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. She worked for several years on the organic farm at Cal Poly as well as experiences WWOOFing in Australia and working at Swanton Berry Farm in Davenport.

 The farm crew strives to provide our partners and neighbors at the CSA of Mountain View with diverse, colorful produce from week to week and throughout the season: red strawberries, beets, tomatoes, peppers, rhubarb, and watermelon; orange/yellow carrots, apricots, chard, sweet corn, and pumpkins; green tomatillos, zucchini, kale, and lettuce; purple eggplant, blackberries, and plums; white/brown potatoes, garlic, onions, leeks, and pears. And that’s the short list! This partnership allows us to offer some of our best produce to folks in our community that may be temporarily down on their luck and seeking ways to feed their family good, healthy food. We are proud of this partnership and enjoy watching it grow through the seasons!

Thank you for supporting this work and our new farm crew. Every Wednesday our farm crew hosts a volunteer opportunity from 9:30am-12:30pm with a community potluck to follow. Please come and join us if you have some time and want to meet the crew.

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Organization Information

Hidden Villa

Location: Los Altos Hills, CA - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.hiddenvilla.org
Project Leader:
Suzanne Allcroft
Development Associate
Los Altos Hills, California United States

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