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Posted by on in Food and Farm Advocacy

It was a beautiful and rare sunny day on the coast at Pie Ranch. Sitting on a straw bale and listening to the blue grass band strum away, I took in the scene. In the open valley below the eucalyptus grove, people in the crowd chatted, shook hands, and exchanged information. Others waited in line for the potluck, to slip enchiladas and homemade pie onto their plates. Some casually stopped at tables to try samples and pick up information about the showcased entrepreneurs. Farm Fest, an event organized by Slow Money, brought together food entrepreneurs and local investors. As the program started, people took their seats, eager to hear about the new businesses taking their place in the local food economy.

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Just last week the Senate approved the latest edition of the Farm Bill, and the House will begin reviewing it in July. Some argue the changes are for the better, but others say that changes aren’t fundamental enough to support a healthier food system. Here’s an update on the Farm Bill and some of my ideas, from a young farmer's perspective, about creating the food system we want.

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Legend has it that composting dates back to the early Roman Empire. Roman farmers put left over organic material in piles to sit over winter, and by the next season they had decayed into fertilizer to use in the soil. But no matter who “discovered” composting, we do know that thousands of years of successful agriculture preceded industrial, synthetic fertilizers. So how does decomposing stuff turn into fertilizer and why does it work?

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Posted by on in Food and Farm Advocacy

It’s hard to compete with the Bay Area in terms of its foodie passion and support of locavore eating. Nonetheless, I find that people I meet from San Francisco or the Silicon Valley are still surprised to hear that I’m a farmer. I see a look in their eye that says, “Whoa… that’s crazy.” But the longer I farm, the more I wonder how much is wrong with our food system if people have never met a farmer. How much trouble are we in if people my age (27) haven’t heard of anyone choosing it as a career? Next time I get that look, I want to say, “Don’t you eat? How do you not know a farmer?"

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Posted by on in Food and Farm Advocacy

The Hidden Villa Farm Crew picks what to plant not just from seed catalogues but also through trial and error and collective memory. What varieties of peppers have done well here? Which broccoli gave us the best heads and regrowth? I am learning that there are a lot of considerations when choosing seeds and plant varieties. Each seed we grow is a dedication of time and resources, so we make careful selections based on what has been successful in the past, what works for our climate, and what other local growers recommend.

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By Suzanne Allcroft, Agriculture Intern

Hidden Villa's Interns recently had our weekly enrichment class at Community Services Agency (CSA) Mountain View to learn about the organization and volunteer at its food bank. We donate a quarter of the produce we grow at Hidden Villa to the CSA Mountain View food bank during the farm season, so I was curious to see where our produce goes and how it's distributed.

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By Suzanne Allcroft, Agriculture Intern

Last fall the Agriculture Team at Hidden Villa decided we wanted to improve upon our pasture-raised egg production. What if we built chicken coops that were mobile? While our previous laying hens could wander freely, their coops stayed put. But with mobile coops, each coop could house a flock of laying hens and move locations every few days.  We were excited about this new system because it would enable our hens to continuously graze on fresh grass, fertilize the areas they passed over, and eat insect pests such as flies, mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas.

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By Suzanne Allcroft, Agriculture Intern

This Tuesday I had the privilege of attending a pizza party hosted by a group of students from Kennedy Middle School.  But this wasn’t just any pizza party. The students made everything from scratch (even the cheese!) and it marked the finale of an after school class called Kitchen Literacy: Cooking, Nutrition, and Food Justice. For the final class, the students had invited their parents and teachers to enjoy their cooking.

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By Suzanne Allcroft, Agriculture Intern

Have you ever tried growing your own food? You may be a veteran gardener or you may be intimidated by the thought of keeping something alive. Whichever you are, if you’re tempted by the idea of picking something off the vine that you grew or grabbing something from your garden to cook for dinner, I encourage you to visit our plant sale this weekend.

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Front row from left to right: Jason McKenney, Nathan Hammer

Back row from left to right: Animal Husbandry Manager, Suzanne Allcroft, Jake Mendell, Aspen Kvicala, Taylor Hutchison

Our new Agriculture interns have arrived, marking the start of a new season on the farm. Taylor Hutchison joins the Farm Crew that grows our fruit and vegetable production, and Jake Mendell is the new addition to the Animal Husbandry team. We’re happy to welcome Taylor and Jake to Hidden Villa!

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