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The Impact of a Second Year Internship at Hidden Villa

The Impact of a Second Year Internship at Hidden Villa

My name is Elena and I am the animal husbandry intern, just starting my second year internship here. Hidden Villa is a special place to learn and discover and I am excited to spend another year here farming and talking with the public who visits us. All these skills and experiences I am gaining here will help prepare me for when I have my own farm. I am learning how a farm is more than a place to cultivate food, but also has the potential to cultivate community.

I work on weekends, which means I am a very visible person to the public and am learning the value of having a strong relationship and dialogue available for the people who visit the farm. Families come up to me and talk to me about the different things they are seeing with the animals and our crop fields. They ask me questions and we are able to have a discussion. Sometimes they are quick questions, such as names or breeds of our animals. Other times those introductory questions lengthen and they start digging deeper into issues of food production and all the things needed and steps taken to make a food system sustainable and available for a broad range of people. I enjoy when this happens because those are the moments I get to see the effect Hidden Villa has on the community.

I appreciate that Hidden Villa does so much; it is not just a farm or an educational center or a summer camp or a nature preserve, but a mixture of all of these.  People usually come for just one of these things, but end up staying for all of them.  If Hidden Villa were just a farm, I would not have gained all the skills I have now and am continuing to work on.  I would not have had such strong mentors who have clear tasks to complete, but who also understand and actively want to teach and pass on what they know. They are able to take the extra time to teach and make sure that the interns get to see the whole process of a project, and explain all the details, even if it is something new that we have never done before, such as building a chicken wagon to house seventy chickens on the back of a trailer bed.  

I am excited and so grateful to stay on a second year. I now understand better how things work and the goals of the organization as a whole. I can see the impact Hidden Villa has on the community and thus I am better able to serve the visitors and interact with them when they come. I look forward to experiencing another year of full seasons and comparing how things differ from the year before. I am more able to think critically about projects and tasks, with one year under my belt. I appreciate living and learning in a safe environment where we are encouraged to try new things and stretch ourselves physically, emotionally, and socially, but where we are supported by each other.

 

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A Happy Youth Development Program

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"The 16 and 17 were happy days," says Dietrich on the second and last day of the Compass High Retreat. "I wish we would stay another night," he says.  "Me, too, Dietrich. Me, too," I respond.

Last Thursday and Friday were also happy days for me. Actually, they are the happiest days I have experienced as the Youth Development Intern.  We had our first retreat of the year and we were privileged to work with Compass High, a comprehensive high school for students with learning differences that just opened last fall.  Five of the eight students at Compass High joined us on Thursday morning, along with four staff, including administrators, so with Bill, Sid, and I, the ratio was greater than 1:1.  

"Welcome, everyone! We are excited to have you here. Now before we start with introductions, who can tell me why we are here?" I ask. "Community service," says Paige quietly.  I remember their names because we paid them a visit just last week.  We at Youth Development strive to visit every classroom before they visit ours, which is Hidden Villa's vast land.  We want to give students an opportunity to meet us and get to know us through our ice breakers and activities before we spend a whole day or more with them.

"That's a great answer, Paige. Who else has ideas of why we are here?" I ask.  A few moments later, Madison says, "Connect?"  "Yes!" I sigh.  "We are here for connection. We want to give you opportunities to connect with one another and we want to connect with you.  We want you to feel connected to this land, these trees, and these hills," I say, as I glance at the glistening green leaves around us.  

Connection was a theme of the retreat while the program focused on farm and wilderness.  After a few team-building activities and introducing the group to our beautiful farm animals, we set out to make apple muffins to deepen their understanding of where our food comes from.  We picked apples from our apple trees, collected eggs straight from chicken's nests, made butter, and grinded wheat berries.  In the end, we enjoyed apple muffins with a greater appreciation for earth because it provides so much for us.  

The next morning, we connected deeper with nature.  We walked alone on the trail for a few minutes while practicing to walk like a fox after expressing gratitude to people, earth, water, plants, our fellow animals, wind and weather, sun and moon, and the rest of the stars.  We made nature journals and befriended trees, which we got to know after spending time with them, noticing all that they were, what they felt like, what sounds they made, and what they smelled like.  As a last activity, we made pillows out of lavender, mint and other herbs, and wool we carded ourselves, wool from our very own sheep.

After a closing circle, in which we shared our beautiful perceptions of each other and hugged one another with great warmth, Bill, Sid, and I wished for more time with them.  Time to connect with them deeper, for them to connect with each other more, for them to see the connections all around them, with the land, trees and hills.  Josephine Duveneck once said, "Becoming aware of the relationship of all living things to other living things is the key to knowing ourselves. It is the basis for understanding the intricate web of life."  With Compass High, we strived towards increasing such awareness, and as our connection with them grows, we hope this awareness will also continue to grow.

To find out more about Hidden Villa Youth Development programs check out our Youth Development Page.

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Dulce's Story

My name is Dulce Anahi Andrade Estrada and I was born to serve. Dulce-

I am the Youth Development Intern here at Hidden Villa. This means I serve middle-school- and high-school-aged youth through a wide range of programs, including farm and wilderness, team-building, and service learning. I will be sharing my personal experiences from our wonderful programming throughout the next weeks and in doing so, introduce you to the youth we love working with.

I am very fortunate to work in an organization like Hidden Villa after graduating from college. I am here because I value education and service. I am here because I wish to serve youth. As a Mexican immigrant from a low-income status and a first generation college graduate, I understand the value of being served. I understand the value of being given the opportunity to fulfill my dreams, to fulfill my dream of a college education. I understand the value of investing in youth and their hopes, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Without mentors and foundations, many dreams would be deferred, dreams including mine. I know what it feels like to be underprivileged but I also know what it feels like to be inspired by others’ commitment to make this world a better place, to make this world more just. Because of this, I am inspired to give back. I am inspired to serve youth as I have been served, with unconditional support and love.

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Youth Leaders in ACTion

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“As assistant counselors in training, we are ambassadors of the Hidden Villa legacy who strive to both learn from and teach about our experiences at Hidden Villa, not only to other campers, but to our friends, families and communities."                         
          -Assistant Counselors in Training Mission Statement 2013                         

Three weeks ago I met Hidden Villa’s Assistant Counselors in Training (ACT) participating in the first session of their training course. These young people, the majority of whom have attended Hidden Villa camp for nine or more years, emphasized that, “Hidden Villa is not just a summer place, but a place where people can find themselves.” In the training they are learning, sharing and reflecting on their deeply impactful experiences in hopes of creating the same value for future campers.

As I listen to these mature, young adults speak about their experiences I’m encouraged by their ability to consider the life lessons they’ve learned throughout the years at Hidden Villa. “We’re here to learn to be mentors and through the process we’ll be able to develop our leadership skills.” Leadership, as they explain, entails developing the skills to have a healthy dialogue, learning to be professional, and recognizing how our attitudes affect others. They recognize the importance of having a safe space where they can share, learn, and grow. “Sharing is nourishing. If you have an idea and want to make change, you can inspire others. Then, you’ll start a movement of awesomeness.” They also realize that they are leaders for one another, “If someone is not getting it, we can mentor one another.” What a beautiful understanding of the mutual learning processes at play!

Often, these conversations about both leadership and mentorship are happening at school, but the youth don’t feel they are often able practice these skills in real life situations. “As ACT’s we are getting ready for actual jobs. This is an internship where you get experience supervising kids, animals, being responsible for other individuals.” As they discuss their thoughts, I see their energy and excitement rise. They are a group of teenagers that recognize their role in the local and global community and are eager to go out and make change.

I walk away from the conversation trying to imagine the seven-year olds that these young adults once were. I consider the experiences that have helped them see the importance of facilitating social justice conversations, engaging children in environmental education, and building their professional and personal self-confidence. Soon, as sixteen and seventeen year olds, they will go off and pursue interests and careers as policy makers, educators, or farmers that shape our future. I have no doubts that these young minds are building strong foundations to be empathetic, thoughtful, and inspirational leaders.

Sofía Pablo-Hoshino is a San Francisco native and the newest Development Intern at Hidden Villa. She enjoys knitting, long conversations about life, and cilantro on any and all foods. She also recently harvested her first beet, ever!

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Continuing the Legacy

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Standing outside the silent auction tent at the 16th annual Duveneck Dinner I was taken aback by a vision.  This vision was of Frank and Josephine treacherously climbing the mountainside and looking down on the canyon and I wondered what they saw all those years ago. Could they see then the potential this land had to bring communities together and collaboratively work towards a just and sustainable future? Surrounded by the diverse group of staff, board members, donors and honorees, I stopped and thought about how this farm has changed so much since the Duvenecks came here but how their legacy still continues to inspire so many.

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On the road from Camp Staff to Intern

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When I came to Hidden Villa four years ago I was searching for a place to find myself.  I grew up in a very conservative Midwest town in Indiana, a place where I never truly felt comfortable in my own skin and was left searching for confidence.  It’s funny  but reassuring that I ended up in a place that teaches kids to have that confidence in themselves; something that I had never been able to do though I understood all too well the challenges of loving yourself as an individual.

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Sensory Education (An Ode to)

Guest post by Tenaya Schnare

I am standing with a group of eight second-graders on a trail at the edge of the farm. We can still hear the goats bleating into the crisp fall air, but this spot on the path marks the transition from farm—the sound of tractors heaving bucket loads of animal bedding, chickens strutting and scratching in their yard, the earthy, sweet smell of goats—into the wilderness. I crouch down at eye level and in a soft, almost sing-song voice tell the children that we are going to do something called a caterpillar walk.

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Connected, Connected

Guest post by Daniel Chmielewski

"Connected, connected, everything’s connected.” One of the well known songs at Hidden Villa, it strikes a central point in the ecological imperative of our times: "to recognize and understand that humans are intrinsically related to all life and the systems which support it (water, air, soil).” Once “unconnected” we risk alienation from the natural flow of life processes and education, whether through formal or informal experience, is a bridge into being connected. My internship at Hidden Villa has been rich in education and in my eyes, most importantly, exposure. In my second year here, seasonal changes of weather, edible and ornamental agriculture, animal husbandry, environmental education, and sustainability have deeply connected me to the land and to the future. 

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Collective Cooperation

The interns have been talking a lot about collectives and cooperative living recently. On Monday, November 14th, we went to The Cheeseboard Collective in Berkeley where a member, who has been there for over twenty-five years, talked to us about the pros and cons of working in a collective. We sat on benches in a horseshoe shape and listened about how it took years of consensus decision making to decide on credit card machines or raises, all the while posing questions about how they deal with conflict resolution when there is no “boss”, about profit sharing, and how to hire someone new when every one of their thirty members has to give the okay. It was all very interesting and exciting, if not a little daunting. It is a radical idea in today’s society that everyone gets equal pay and equal say in a business no matter how long they have been working there.

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Saving for winter by freezing today

A lot of our time here at Hidden Villa is dedicated to food, one can infer this simply by reading these blog posts.  We spend our time talking theory, everything from organics to nutrition, and sometimes it can get out there with wild sodas bubbling in the corner and meat-slab looking kombucha mothers drying in the courtyard. But things aren’t always up in the ether. What it comes down to is that we love food. Real food. (Guest post by Liz, our Public Programs Intern)

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What's growing in Redwood City?

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Hello from Hidden Villa’s Garden Outreach program! My name is Carey Fritz. As Garden Outreach Teacher Intern, I spend 2 days a week teaching off-site at Taft Community School and at John Gill Elementary. I am excited to share how I have been involved in our partnership schools in Redwood City in this guest post.

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Food Economics

apple_pieAfter graduation, I headed down the well-trodden path of a 9-to-5 office job, and under fluorescent lights I whistled while I worked inside a world of spreadsheet cells and cyberspace.  I was more than lucky enough to have access to a grocery store with copious amounts of fresh organic produce and live where a farmer’s market took place almost every day of the week. Despite the knowledge gained about the food system through my education, my work and lifestyle kept me very removed from the production of my food.  It’s the same systematic distancing that keeps most of us from seeing the connection between our strawberry milkshakes and manure.

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Enthusiastic, Motivated, Sign me up

Last week I attended an event at Stanford University, Food Summit 2, aimed at bringing together "community activists, university scholars and others who are coming together to discuss strategies to address and solve the most challenging and important food-related crisis in our communities, our country, and around the world." Among the many panels and conversations was the implicit agreement that there is a food crisis happening and that any solutions will need to be interdisciplinary. 

(A brief plug: the third panel on Hospital Food was most excellent, and Marydale DeBor and Frank Turner deserve an extra round of applause for their candor and hard work.  They've taken the daunting task of reinventing the way hospitals feed people and created simple and elegant solutions.)

One of the earliest audience questions brought up an important, and perhaps missing, component from the day - Who is training young people to farm?  A good question, considering that at the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 40% of farmers in the US at 55 years of age, or older.

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Interns, Definitions of

If you haven’t ever thought about it (and until recently, I hadn’t) the word “intern” has an interesting etymology. From the French interner or “to confine within set limits,” the word has use as both a noun and transitive verb. However, the definition can very greatly depending on its grammatical use.

Intern (in-turn) -  vb
1. ( tr ) to detain or confine (foreign or enemy citizens, ships, etc), especially during wartime - noun
2. chiefly  ( US ) a student or recent graduate receiving practical training in a working environment

(Source: Collins World English Dictionary)

But in common parlance, especially among twenty-somethings an internships is often known as “the modern equivalent of slavery, except nowadays, people are actually willing.”

So where do we fall? Confinement, like on an enemy ship? Or practical training?

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I Love...Mondays?

jeff_taft.pngMondays have a bad reputation, definitely the underdog of the week. It is the day when you see a pile on the desk, when messages are checked and coffee gets spilled, the day blamed for the end of weekends and vacations. Mondays have even become the most likely day for a break up. But at Hidden Villa? Not quite the same, especially for interns...

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Growing Farmers: Interns at Hidden Villa and Beyond

bottom_module_internships5_jbThis week marked the beginning of a flood.  And while it is unusual for it to rain in Los Altos in the summer, it is perfectly normal to drown in a tide of basil, cucumbers, and summer squash.  This is second only to the yearly drenching in tomatoes and eggplant.  Eating so much highly anticipated produce has my stomach and brain thinking about farms and how much I enjoy knowing farmers (a brief explanation:  most of my actions, professional or otherwise, are motivated by my stomach.  Freudian interpretations aside, I look forward to each meal and snack more than all holidays, vacations, and birthdays.  Unless they also happen to involve meals). 

Considering farmers I know brings up several former interns at Hidden Villa who have all dove into the world of farming headfirst, and to excellent results.  Some highlights:

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The White House? Like…Obama?

bottom_module_intern_2_jbBeing the first post, I’ll start with introductions….I am a former Hidden Villa intern now in the year-round position of Food Education Liaison and Intern Coordinator.  Coordinating the intern program means, for the most part, answering questions –  questions from interns, from other staff, and from many curious and motivated people who feel like Hidden Villa would be a great place to intern (first answer: it is).  So let me take this opportunity/soapbox to toss a few things out there.

FAQ’s about the Intern Program at Hidden Villa:

This look great! What internships are there?

We offer ten residential, year-long internships in the following departments: Community Programs (Public Programs) (one position), Animal Husbandry (one position), Agriculture (two positions, plus a more advance Journeyman’s apprenticeship), and Environmental Education (six positions).

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