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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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Good breakfast!

Tilly, pictured below, was born on January 20, 2013 making her the third cow at Hidden Villa. Her Mom is Cleo and her older sister is Vida.

got -choclate -milk -today

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Get Excited about Mobile Coops and Pasture-Raised Eggs

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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Welcoming a New Farm Season at Hidden Villa

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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Cider-braised Lamb Shanks

This dish, featured at Hidden Villa's Second Annual Meat Tasting Tour, combines the sweet-tart flavor of hard apple cider with the earthy aroma of rosemary for an intensely flavorful sauce that, when lamb is in the picture, begs for a chewy slice of bread to mop up what's left in the pan (if there is anything left). By first browning the shanks then braising them in a Dutch oven for a few hours over low heat you are creating a rich, silky sauce and fork tender lamb that will reinvigorate your tired tastebuds in time for spring. Photo courtesy of the Los Altos Town Crier.

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Recipe for Roulade

A roulade is a wonderful way to pair your favorite meat with fresh, seasonal vegetables, fruits and herbs with minimal fuss and maximum presentability. Guests will enjoy the elegant spiral of perfectly-cooked meat wrapped delicately around a savory filling; alternatively, feel free to eat this with your fingers right off the cutting board (like we did). This recipe, featured at Hidden Villa's Second Meat Tasting Tour alongside last week's anticuchos, pairs lamb with dried apricots and arugula, but there's no reason you shouldn't experiment with what's on hand. 

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Anticuchos (Peruvian-spiced Heart) Recipe

On Saturday, December 17th, a small group of Hidden Villa supporters, local meat merchants and a few members of the press was invited to join Hidden Villa's Animal Husbandry Manager for a workshop and tasting tour featuring traditional (and untraditional!) cuts of our sustainable, organically-raised meats. We are delighted to be able to share the recipes for four of the dishes served at this event with you. Starting today, we'll be posting a new recipe once a week with pictures! Here, you will find recipes for anticuchos (heart), braised cider lamb shanks, an apricot-spinach lamb roulade and ice cream with maple and bacon toppings. Photo courtesy of the Los Altos Town Crier.

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Do I Have What it Takes to Raise Animals?

pasture_dqI wanted to share some thoughts I’ve had about our Animal Husbandry program at Hidden Villa recently. Maybe some of you have seen our eggs and meat at the Los Altos Farmer’s Market. Or you’ve visited Hidden Villa and stopped at Scarlet in her pigpen or watched Cleo the dairy cow graze in the pastures. The animals, overseen by the Animal Husbandry Department, are seemingly separate from our produce farming. However, it’s becoming clearer to me that animals are critical to an organic farming operation. For instance, we make our own compost and worm castings from the manure of our cows and pigs. These are the inputs that make our soil black gold, teeming with life from microorganisms in the dirt to the nutrients our crops absorb to grow. We are essentially creating a closed cycle in which the byproduct of animal production results in robust organic agriculture production; the compost and worm castings we make on site are better than anything we could buy (and they’re free). And though we do buy feed for our animals, their diets are supplemented with grazing in our pastures and the byproducts of our agriculture production. They happily eat our vegetable scraps, such as the sweet corn stalks that were left after you received corn in your CSA basket. Creating a closed cycle is a boon to the farming production- a win-win that is cost effective and minimizes waste.

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