This is the season of mushrooms, of mushrooms, newts and other glistening creatures that thrive in the damp. It is the season of mud here too, of wet socks and grey skies. This is all of course because of the rain. We wait excitedly each fall for the start of the rainy season.
In California, after our hot, dry, summers, the rain signals a real shift and welcomes in winter’s cast of characters. Around here this includes a proliferation of fungus, and amphibians, and out in the farm fields, acres of beans, peas, and oat grass, our winter cover crop. Come November and December we watch the sky and the weather reports in order to sow our cover crop seed with the first bountiful rainstorm of the season to water it in. This year we got the timing bang on and are so pleased with how well it is growing.
Tending to and replenishing the soil is a tenet, if not THE tenet, of regenerative farming. Everything begins and ends with the soil, quite literally. So we take care each winter to sow a crop of beans, peas, and field vetch, not to harvest and eat but to build organic matter in the soil and replenish the nutrients and nitrogen, the essential building block of all proteins.
We’ve also been hard at work building compost as another means of enriching our soil. We combine all of the manure, animal bedding, kitchen scraps, and other organic materials from around the farm and turn them into rich compost to replenish our fields. Really the work is mostly done by the microorganisms, fungi, and bacteria that break it all down and turn it back into valuable humic soil, but I like to think of us all as a team – Team Good Dirt!
-Lanette, Assistant Farm Manager
Henry Blair, the second African American inventor to receive a US patent, was born in Glen Ross, Maryland, United States, in 1807. Blair’s first invention, the Seed Planter, revolutionized agricultural practices. This innovative corn planter enabled farmers to maximize corn yields with reduced labor and in a significantly shorter time. Blair’s groundbreaking inventions paved the way for increased efficiency and productivity in farming, leaving an enduring legacy in the history of agriculture.
Wet Felting Workshop:
Connect deeply with fiber arts utilizing wool produced through Hidden Villa’s regenerative agricultural practices. Join interdisciplinary artist and farmer, Taylor Hanigosky for a hands-on, creative endeavour of community wetfelting on February 10th. Follow the button below to learn more.
Sheep and Fiber Arts Festival
Join us for a celebration of fiber, community, and handcrafts at Hidden Villa’s Sheep & Fiber Arts Festival! Marvel at the art of sheep shearing as skilled shearers harvest wool from our flock. Experience the joys of traditional craftsmanship with fiber-processing demonstrations and activities. Discover the profound climate benefits of natural fibers and dyes as we explore how eco-friendly practices contribute to a healthier planet. Meet local makers and find inspiration in the beauty and magic of handmade traditions.
For kids and adults of all ages, there’s something for everyone:
- Follow the thread from sheep to shawl: Visit the sheep. Help prepare wool for spinning. Watch herders, shearers, and craftspeople at work.
- Get your hands wet at the community dye pot: turn the ordinary into something extraordinary with plant-based pigments
- Remake, reuse, recycle: learn how to transform holey sweaters and torn jeans into mended works of art
- Enjoy live music and food trucks featuring food from the farm
- Get inspired by our local makers showcase:
- Interact with makers at work
- Visit our gallery of works from spinners, knitters, crocheters, weavers, quilters, clothing makers, and repurposing wizards
Registration will open soon! Sign up using the button below and be the first to know when registration is open.
Soil is probably the most valuable factor in regenerative farming. Soil heath also has direct links to human health and climate resilience. But…what exactly is soil and how does it happen? Join Hidden Villa Senior Naturalist in “Let it Rot: An exploration of How Soil Happens’. Get a better understanding of our planets most undervalued resource. In this field-based class, we’ll bundle up and venture out with hand lenses to observe this essential process in action, both on the farm (composting) and in the forest (general decomposition). This will be a family-friendly class, suitable for curious adults and for the budding young scientists of the family, too. This class is on Saturday, February 10th from 10 am to 12 pm at Hidden Villa. Click here to learn about other classes offered by Garth.
This fascinating book delves into the sensory world of animals giving us a chance to better understand how they see (or smell or hear for that matter) the world. Did you know that an elephant’s sense of smell is so keen they can detect water buried deep below the soil, or that they can be taught, rather quickly, to sniff out TNT and land mines as well as dogs? By better understanding the ways other animals exist in the world, how they sense, and why, we can get out of our own heads and broaden our appreciation for all that’s going on around us.
–Lanette, Assistant Farm Manager
There are book recommendations and then there are fantastic, generous gestures. For the book, Entangled Life, Board Chair Sally Falkenhagen did the latter by presenting me with my own copy of the book and insisting that I would love it. She was spot on. This book is an immediately engaging exploration of our fungal world that is at once mind-bending and grounding. It will forever change your perspective on the interaction of living things.
-Jason, Facilities and Agriculture Director
Summer Camp Open House
Hey Hidden Villa, mark your calendars! Saturday, April 13th Summer Camp is hosting our annual Camp Open House. This year, our camp team will be unveiling brand new programs. This is a family affair for anyone curious about summer camp. Prospective, new, and longtime camp families are all welcome to be among the first to get a preview of new program offerings like, “Watershed Wanderers“. Learn the 5 pillars of summer camp, meet our farm animals, talk to camp staff, and see firsthand how the farm transforms into the place where summer memories have been made since 1945.
Summer Camp Reunion
Calling all camp counselors past and present! On Saturday, April 13th camp is hosting a special program for camp alumni! Come share your favorite camp stories at this multi-generational engagement. Learn what’s new with summer camp. Hang with old friends and meet new friends from the summer camp alumni community.
Summer Camp Jobs
Campers Need Counselors! Summer camp jobs are now open and we are in search of dynamic young adults to fill these positions. Our summer camp staff have the opportunity to live at Hidden Villa with all meals are provided. The summer begins with a week of dynamic leadership training. All staff will complete first aid and have the option of earning lifeguard and high ropes certifications (optional certs equate to higher pay). Camp staff will meet new people and forge friendships that will last a lifetime. They will mentor the next generation of environmental and social justice stewards. Staff will have an opportunity to develop curriculum, hone leadership and management skills, and bolster their resumes.
Seasonal Farm Assistants are integral members of the Farm team and will work collaboratively with the Agriculture Director, Assistant Farm Manager, and Farm Coordinator on the organic field and greenhouse production to provide for our Community Supported Agriculture program, the local food bank, and the farmer’s market. Reporting directly to the Director of Agriculture, the Seasonal Farm Assistant responsibilities will encompass all aspects of operating a successful, small-scale, direct market farm. This is a full-time, intensive, seasonal position that provides a supportive environment within which new farmers can gain the skills needed to operate independently. This is a job in which you learn by working. Follow the button below to learn more.
Calling all Volunteers! We want to celebrate all the ways that you build relationships with the land, our visitors of all ages, and each other. Join us for a day of connecting over some fun projects, nourishing lunch, music, and gifts to take home. Please RSVP so we have a realistic count for the day. Please let me know if you’d like to help plan our celebration! -Sofia, Director of Volunteer Engagement
Upcoming Volunteer Opportunities
- CSA on Wednesdays and Saturdays
- Corporate Group Opportunities
- Property Volunteer Day
- Content Corps: (media, journalism, and content creation opportunities for high school and college students)
- Corporate packages/experiences
- Volunteer leading classes/workshops
Follow the button below to fill out an inquiry form and get matched with volunteer opportunities that best fit your goals and interests.
Redwood Environmental Academy of Leadership (REAL) is a small learning community with an Environmental, Leadership, and Culinary focus at Redwood High School in Redwood City. Students who engage in REAL are prepared for post-secondary options and empowered to contribute to society positively through learning garden entrepreneurship, farm-to-table practices as well as other ecologically sustainable business models. Redwood High School has been recognized as a 2023 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School for its commitment to sustainability and wellness. This commitment is alive on campus as woodshop students build beds and a chicken coop for their on-site organic garden. Food from this garden supports students, the community, and their beautiful culinary arts program. Hidden Villa gets the chance to collaborate with REAL students multiple times a year where we interact directly with Regenerative Agriculture at Hidden Villa and experience a farm-to-fork culinary feast through our education programs. Learn more about what REAL students are thinking about in this video.
February 2024: Contributing writers: Lanette, Jason, Zain, Garth, Nicky, and Sofia. Photos by: Lucy, Zain, Garth, Lanette, & HV Archives
As we start the new year, I want to extend a huge amount of gratitude and thanks to our community who invested in Hidden Villa during the year-end giving season. I am excited to report that we received hundreds of contributions to power Hidden Villa’s farm and wilderness and provide life-shaping experiences to students, campers, families, and visitors. Thanks to our generous contributors, we met our matching gift challenge yet still have a little ways to go to meet our overall goal of $350,000. If you haven’t yet made a year-end gift, you still can! Thank you!
2024 has brought with it the arrival of the rainy season and has provided the perfect conditions for a diverse community of fungi to flourish! I hope you can come and enjoy our winter ‘blooms’. For those who have visited Hidden Villa recently, you also may have noticed we have some new signs posted around the ranch. These interpretive signs are designed to provide an opportunity for visitors to learn more about regenerative farming practices, the ecosystem at Hidden Villa, and our longtime commitment to social justice. The content is written in English, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, and Vietnamese to provide a more welcoming and inclusive experience reflective of community members living in the San Francisco Bay Area. If you haven’t seen them yet, come by and let us know what you think!
Last but not least – 2024 is our centennial and we’ll be celebrating throughout the year! We look forward to sharing ways you can join in on the celebration.
In gratitude and with many thanks again,
Elliott Wright, Executive Director
Registration Opens Sunday, January 21 at 9 AM
Hidden Villa Summer Camp is where young minds expand through our core themes: Environmental Stewardship, Racial and Class Equity, Farm & Food, LGBTQ+ Inclusion, and the rich Duveneck Family Legacy. At Hidden Villa, campers have fun singing songs and caring for farm animals while also forming deep bonds with new friends, the land, the animals, and themselves. Campers live in a diverse community, develop multicultural understanding and appreciation, resolve conflicts peacefully, cultivate independence, and face personal challenges head-on. Here, lifelong friendships are forged, and campers leave with a deepened sense of awe for both natural and human beauty.
Whether you’re returning or are new to our community, summer 2024 will be unlike any other with brand new program offerings! We have some exciting new offerings this year including our 1 week ‘Watershed Wanderers’ introduction to backpacking adventure. Registration opens to all families on Sunday, January 21, 2024, at 9 AM. Mark your calendars and secure your preferred program and session. Summer is the season for unforgettable memories. We can’t wait to welcome you to our family! Follow the button below to learn how to register.
Hidden Villa Environmental Education Programs, better known around the farm as HVEEP, offer extraordinary learning opportunities for hearts of all ages.
Our 1,600 acre outdoor classroom invites the curious to follow their wonder and connect to the natural world. Our team of environmental educators takes great care and intention in our program’s approach to learning. At Hidden Villa, the learner is at the forefront of their educational adventure. Have a curiosity or wonder? Let’s follow it and see where it takes us!
HVEEP kicked off the new year with a one-day interactive guide training workshop. New volunteers, veteran guides, and many staff members came together to unpack the pedagogy behind our programs and take a closer look at WHY we do things the way we do. The group was called to reflect on their formative education experiences, how their perspectives and positional lens may differ from the diverse groups of learners that visit the farm, and ways to facilitate creating space for all types of learners to make connections. In the second half of the training, the group was guided through playing the Hidden Villa way. At the end of the day, new volunteers, experienced guides, and staff expressed feeling energized and excited about engaging our visitors, sharing the farm, and guiding visitors through HVEEP. Visit our school programs webpage to learn more about our environmental education offerings.
Programs for Children
Tailored for young, curious minds, this program invites students to experience the wonders of nature and farming firsthand. Our farm tours provide a unique, interactive opportunity for children to connect with the agricultural world, learn about sustainable farming practices, and meet our friendly farm animals. The wilderness explorations extend this learning to the natural world, where students can immerse themselves in the beauty and diversity of the environment. These field trips are not only fun but are crafted to inspire a deeper understanding and appreciation of the natural world, fostering a sense of responsibility and stewardship in the next generation.
After the school bell rings, the adventure begins with Hidden Villa’s After School Adventures program! This dynamic program offers children a chance to unwind and engage with the natural world in a fun, relaxed setting. Each session is filled with exciting activities ranging from exploring Hidden Villa’s diverse ecosystems to hands-on environmental science experiments. These after-school hours are not just about play – they’re an extension of learning, encouraging kids to develop a love for nature, enhance their scientific understanding, and build crucial life skills such as teamwork and problem-solving. This program is for children from K – 6 grades.
On February 10th, a special hands-on class at Hidden Villa will provide participants with an opportunity to get the real dirt on soil – which is not, in fact, “dirt”! In the final analysis, healthy soil is the truest wealth of a people, and we ignore it at our peril. But who among us has taken a long, close look at it and considered its importance in our own lives? If you would like to be among those soil Illuminati, this class is for you.
In this mostly outdoor class, we will get down and dirty, inspecting the large-scale production of compost in our organic farm fields, the household-scale production method we use in our children’s garden, and of course, the inspiration for both methods: the natural decomposition of organic material in the wild. We’ll use microscopes and hand lenses to watch fungal mycelia and tiny soil-dwelling creatures in action and follow a leaf on its journey through the carbon cycle. Please join us!
Coming soon, we will be expanding our Youth Development program to bring back some popular options, including a farm-to-table experience and a water and energy sustainability focus. Our current program which offers an emphasis on team-building and leadership skills at the challenge course will also still be available. We look forward to sharing these exciting new programs with you this spring!
Adults, this program is for you! Come spend a Saturday morning following your curiosities about the natural world with Senior Naturalist Garth Harwood. This winter Garth will be guiding learning adventures like “Fun with Fungus”, “make a Wild Salad, Foraging Basics”, and “No Kids Allowed!” to name a few. As adults, we tend to play less and less. Get outdoors and play the Hidden Villa way this winter!
As winter wraps us in its chilly embrace, we’ve got some warming news to share from Hidden Villa. Your favorite lamb cuts are back in stock, and we’re here to help make your winter feasts extraordinary! Indulge in the unparalleled flavors of our pasture-raised, 100% grass-fed lamb, hormone-free, antibiotic-free – just the pure goodness of locally-raised meat. Whether you’re dreaming of succulent lamb rib chops, planning a cozy shepherd’s pie with our ground lamb, indulging old favorites, or trying something new, we’ve got everything you need.
The winter is a time of restoration and repair on the farm. The cover crop of beans and peas that we plant each winter is growing beautifully in the farm fields, doing the important work of imparting nitrogen and building soil. After taking some time off around the holidays to restore ourselves, we’re back to work on the tractors making compost, and applying winter wood chip mulch to our orchard. We’re also starting to ramp up our work in the greenhouse, giving the crops for the year ahead a solid start.
We already have thousands of strawberry plants growing happily in the sheltered warmth of the greenhouse and soon we’ll be adding snapdragons, Blackeyed Susans, sweet peas, and many other spring flowers to the tables.
If your New Year’s resolutions included volunteering or spending more time outside, come join us on the farm for volunteer Wednesdays from 9 am – 12 pm. All you need is warm clothes and willing hands. We hope you’ll join us!
Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. with Service
We’re excited to announce the return of our annual Sheep Shearing Event on Saturday, April 27th. This year, we’re adding a special twist by focusing on the theme of “up-cycling,” highlighting the importance of conscious fashion and its impact on our planet. This event is more than just shearing – it’s a celebration of how we can all contribute to a more sustainable world. We’ll do some hands-on “upcycling” and demonstrate innovative ways to give new life to clothing and other items, thereby reducing waste and our ecological footprint. It’s a fun, crafty, and eye-opening opportunity to see firsthand how small changes in our lifestyle choices can lead to significant environmental benefits. Whether you’re a long-time supporter or new to the Hidden Villa community, this event promises to be fun, educational, and inspiring. So, mark your calendars Bring the whole family down to see our beloved sheep shorn, sheep herding demonstrations, food, farm animal visits, makers crafts, and so much more! Let’s come together and make a positive impact on our planet!
Photo Credits: Jessica, Lucy, Zain, Garth