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Being the journeyman farmer at Hidden Villa, managing the CSA, and running the farmers market stand has been an incredibly valuable experience for me. I have learned far more about small farm management and nonprofit management in the past nine months than I could have imagined. I honestly feel that I now have the skills and knowledge to successfully manage a small farm.
We are very excited that the orchard we invested in planting 4 years ago are now literally bearing fruit in substantial quantities, allowing us to provide fruit to our CSA members in their weekly baskets. From cherries to peaches to persimmons and more, providing fruit to our CSA members allows them to have seasonal, delicious fruit in varietities suited for our local climate and environment. Enjoy this recipe using our Fuyu persimmons, which are squat and firm with a sweet and delicate cinnamon taste.
This morning I participated in our weekly intern class, this being the second installment of Swine (pig) Management. To start the class we opened with a narrative by Wendell Barry. In this passage the author speaks of the joy that he finds in farming, and the satisfaction and fulfillment a farming job can provide. The passage concludes with Wendell and his 5 year-old granddaughter sitting atop a wagon. Though it was at the end of a hard day’s work, she looks to him and says, “Isn’t this fun Wendell?”.
As members of our farm share at Hidden Villa, you are actively choosing to support a small farm and have a direct connection to where your food is coming from. And we thank you for that! That decision, whether it is for the freshness and quality of your produce, the opportunity to foster understanding within your family of where food comes from, or the practice of eating with the changing of the seasons, fosters a personal connection to, and understanding of, sustainable food practices. The framework for the CSA program that we offer here at Hidden Villa has become popular not only in California, but throughout the United States as more people are beginning to value the importance of sustainable agricultural production and find the most transparent ways to support food production they believe in. Yet not all of our food choices can be so easily traced to its source. As consumers, we have become tasked with educating ourselves on where food found at the supermarket is coming from, and how it was grown.
We finished harvesting and boxing up the last of our potatoes on Friday. At Hidden Villa we using a digging bar on the back of a tractor to turn up the potatoes and then we easily dig through the already loosened soil by hand and pick up potatoes. It is still a lot of work to harvest 800 row feet of potatoes, especially since it was a dishearteningly light yield of around 500 pounds.
It is October already! I can hardly believe it, especially because it has been so hot these last couple of days. It was hot enough yesterday that we braved the now algae encrusted swimming pool for a quick dip and cool down. The atypical heat and newly erected pumpkin patch in the education garden are telling signs that summer has passed and fall has truly arrived. The season is winding down which means that we are looking into the winter, making plans for work projects and talking about how to get the fields ready for a much needed break. As a year-long intern, I am also starting to think about final skills I would like to acquire, and I am developing plans for my post-Hidden Villa career.
This Saturday marked the Autumnal equinox and the first day of fall, and also marked the beginning of my fourth week as a CSA intern at Hidden Villa. This first month has been an exhilarating introduction to the farms’ systems, and these weeks have gone by fast. I arrived in early September, when the summer heat was still brilliant, and the sun would not set until after eight o’clock. My large collection of wool hats, blankets, and socks were out of place in the warm evening air. While the seasonal transition from summer to fall can be easily overlooked in California, with Indian summers fluidly stretching into October, the first day of fall is cause for celebration. The fall harvest celebrates a change in pace, and a time to commemorate the bounty of the harvest and prepare for the onset of winter.
On Monday evening we had our fourth annual heirloom tomato tasting with great success. Every year our tomato tasting has been bigger and fancier. This year we had two hundred people RSVP, though maybe only half of those showed up, and we had live music starting around five o’clock. Out of the ten heirloom varieties that we had available for the tasting the top three chosen in order of popularity were: Japanese Black Trifele, Striped German, and Vorlon. For the farm crew these results are a good reinforcement to continue and expand production of these varieties next year because these three varieties continually rank well during the tomato tasting.
This Labor Day weekend marked the end, and the beginning, of a new chapter for us on the Farm Crew. Last Wednesday we planted into the last few rows in the field, meaning that the vast majority of our planting is finished for the year. This, I think, is a cause for celebration. I can vividly recall my first few walks through the fields, looking out at waves of poppies and mustard flowers, not really believing that it would all one day be turned into neat rows of crops. We have steadily worked to till those cover crops under, create beautiful rows, and fill them with a huge variety of beautiful and delicious foods. In addition to this seasonal milestone, last week held further causes for celebration: birthdays, first corn in the share box, the rediscovery of my favorite pair of pants, and a celebratory Farm Crew (and friends) trip to Nevada City.