We’d like to express a warm thank you to all who have made a generous contribution to our year end fundraising campaign. There’s still time to give a year end gift!
Over 25,000 school children attend our experiential programs every year. Your gift helps us subsidize fees, making our farm and wilderness accessible for the entire community regardless of income.
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Joe Edmondson’s Story
I still remember driving along Moody Road and seeing the Five Acre Field for the first time. Hidden Villa was like nothing I’d ever seen before.
I am from Baltimore County, Maryland, and have worked as a summer camp counselor here for the past three years, an environmental education intern last year, and now a community programs intern.
There are so many magical moments at Hidden Villa. One of my favorite memories is from summer camp. We have a tradition called Sneak Out, where one night of camp, we surprise the campers by waking them up and taking them to watch a movie and have snacks in the Duveneck house. The campers are so excited to stay up late.
Everyone comes to Hidden Villa with their own different mission to make a positive impact. I have learned so much from all the different types of people Hidden Villa attracts. It’s one of the reasons I keep coming back.
I have also gathered a lot of professional skills and developed personally here. Leading summer campers in reflections about important topics like food justice and race & class, helped me hone my teaching skills. As Garth, the Director of the Environmental Education Program describes it, nature was like “the green blur” to me when I first arrived at Hidden Villa. I couldn’t decipher all of nature’s intricacies. The environmental education program helped me break down “the green blur” and see all the living parts of the ecosystem.
Joan Solari’s Story
I don’t consider myself a terribly outdoorsy person, but there’s just something so glorious about Hidden Villa, rain or shine. Teaching has gotten much more difficult these past 10 years – we have less money and more pressure for standards. Watching students connect at Hidden Villa makes it all worthwhile.
I first learned about Hidden Villa through my niece’s preschool in Noe Valley. They had a field trip scheduled and since her mom was busy, I volunteered to go. As a San Franciscan, I very rarely had been to the peninsula. I was amazed! I had never seen anything like it – it was so cool.
Years went by. I became a classroom teacher and then stayed home to raise my own kids. Five or six of us parents would just hang out all day with the kids and have picnics, walk, hang out in the garden, and water the plants. It was a bonding experience with all my friends and their children. We loved it.
After the children got a little older, I returned to the classroom and started taking field trips to Hidden Villa. These students had never seen anything like it before. Even though we are only some miles away, they never had been.
Getting exposed to the farm, seeing and talking about it; connecting concepts with science, nature, life, preservation and conservation – all new ideas they never experienced growing up in an urban environment. You can read about it in a book, you can watch videos, but until you’re seeing it and touching it, it doesn’t make an impact. They really are seeing something they have never seen before.
Traditional classroom learning is not fit for many kids. When you get out of the classroom, that’s when you see those multiple intelligences that you know exist shining. If we can get them outside, touching things and asking questions, all the higher level thinking skills that we really should be teaching come out much more simply and visibly.
A favorite memory of a student at Hidden Villa was a boy known for complaining and not having much enthusiasm or motivation. I thought he was going to be dragging behind the whole time. But, when we were on the trail he was just fascinated and keeping up the whole time. I thought ‘There we go! That’s the kid I wanted to see!”
We need these experiences so much more than we ever did before.
Katie Huddleston’s Story
My experience at Hidden Villa has made clear that farming is important. This internship is giving me the knowledge and confidence to be a farmer.
Being on an educational farm is really amazing because we take the time to learn and understand every aspect of farming. In the past, I worked at a flower farm and this level of understanding was not prioritized. I knew I wanted mentorship and based on my summer apprenticeship working with the farm managers at Hidden Villa, I decided to explore the year long internship.
I have engaged in various ways with Hidden Villa my whole life. I participated in a lot of community programs throughout the years – like milking the cows, cheese making, hiking, as an agriculture apprentice, and now as a farm intern.
I was not a very scientific kid. I loved nature because I loved the magic and the beauty of it, but I didn’t have a scientific understanding. I didn’t have a college education in biology or environmental science so I was nervous about this opportunity. I’ve learned that passion is all it really takes to find a way to contribute.
Kim Acker’s Story
I got involved with Hidden Villa because I saw how disconnected we have become from nature. If kids don’t have experiences in nature – if they don’t fall in love with nature – they are not going to care for this planet.
Many of the kids who come to Hidden Villa have never stepped foot on a trail. They’re afraid of nature and the smells on a farm. I may only have them for one day, but in that day, I see the lights come on. They come away transformed.
Today, I was with a group of second graders. I took them on a hike to what we call the “Top of the World.” As we climbed to the top, they complained incessantly, “When are we going to be there?!” When we finally sat down on the trail for lunch, a hush fell over them. Soon they began playing at being silly and laughing at each other’s jokes.
The healing qualities of Hidden Villa wash over the kids. They move differently and express themselves differently. What emerges is confidence, creativity and joy. I don’t need to teach them; nature is the teacher.
At the end of a day, we ask the kids, “Who does Hidden Villa belong to?” I let them struggle with the answer. Frank and Josephine? Eventually, someone says it. “Yes!” Looking at each one of them, I tell them, “Hidden Villa belongs to you and you and you…” I myself take this idea very seriously and feel a sense of ownership with Hidden Villa. It’s my place: a place that embodies a set of values I care about and that we urgently need to survive as a human race.
When I bring adults to Hidden Villa, it changes them. The anxiety and buzz of Silicon Valley begins to drop away, and the place works its magic. People reconnect to who they are and what’s important. They begin to remember and imagine a different set of possibilities.
There is a beautiful legacy at Hidden Villa in the land and in the spirit of Josephine and Frank. We need this legacy to help us remember who we are – connected to everything. What other place exists like it? There is no other place.
Nick Turner’s Story
I didn’t realize how much this space meant to people, until I was out in town wearing my staff shirt and someone stopped me to say, “Hey, I love Hidden Villa!” I’ve worked as a summer camp counselor since 2013 and am now an environmental education intern.
I always do the same thing when I return to Hidden Villa. I have the driver drop me off by the front gate and walk up with all my stuff. I come from Belleville, Illinois and have never seen anything like the view walking up the property. It is just so beautiful. Sometimes when you see it everyday, it loses the effect, but then there are always those days when you are walking up the farm and you are like “Wow, this is so amazing.” There is just an inherent sense of magic all over the place.
Hidden Villa has helped me learn a lot about myself and how I fit into the world. When you’re working at Hidden Villa, you see how you fit. You don’t always know every single connection you’re making when teaching someone about things like sustainable agriculture or how to awaken their senses in nature and see what’s behind the green blur, but you get a chance to meaningfully interact with at least 800 kids every summer. If they remember one thing and take it to their friends and their friends take it to their friends, that’s cool to think about and that makes the impact palpable to me.
I’ve learned that I can have an impact on a community because it’s hard to feel like you can make a difference.There’s active healing that comes from a place that teaches you, “Yes, you can have an impact, and yes, you can teach others to unlock that within themselves as well.”