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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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Swiss Chard Stuffed Acorn Squash with Garlic Cream Sauce

Although there are only 5 ingredients in this simple dish, it sure packs a punch and allows the hearty flavor of the vegetables speak for themselves.  As a great cold weather green that is packed with vitamins and fiber, the sauteed chard is mellowed by the soft roasted squash and warm garlic cream sauce. Impress your guests with this simple dish that is full of flavor, texture and nourishment. 

Ingredients:

1 Acorn Squash
1 Bunch Swiss Chard
4 cloves Garlic
¾ Cup Milk
2 Oz Feta Cheese

 

1.  Cut squash in half and scoop out the seeds and pulp.
2.  Place aquash cut side down on an oiled baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes at 400°F, until fork tender and set aside.
3. 
Peel cloves of garlic and add to oven for 10 minutes alongside the squash.
4.  Remove garlic and in a small mixing bowl, puree with milk and feta cheese, adding salt and pepper to taste.  5.  Coarsely chop chard and sauté in a medium saucepan with olive oil over high heat until wilty (stems are okay to use, add 2 or 3 minutes before leaves).
6.  Place sauteed chard into hallowed out squash and drizzle with cream sauce.  Bake for another 10 minutes and serve hot out of the oven. 

classic baked acorn squash

Photo courtesy of simplyrecipes.com

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Tomatillo and Pepper Stew

Ripening in their delicate husks, tomatillos are hidden gems that provide a pop of flavor and color to many late summer dishes.   This week's recipe combines these flavorful fruits with our favorite smoky peppers to yield an easy yet hearty meal.  Keep it vegetarian and serve with crispy toast or toss in cubed pork for some added gusto.

tomatillos

Ingredients:

1pt tomatillos
olive oil
pinch of salt
1 medium onion, finely chopped
5 medium peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped
6 oz grated cheddar cheese
Cubed pork (optional)

 

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2.  Husk and dice tomatillos. On a baking sheet, toss with oil, chopped onion, and salt and place in the oven for about 20 minutes or until well cooked.
3.  Place tomatillos in a large saucepan and puree with an immersion blender until chunky.  Add seeded, chopped peppers.
4.  Stew until peppers become soft and add cooked pork if you like. Top stew with grated cheese and enjoy with crispy toast or tortilla chips!

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Sweet and Tangy Shaved Fennel Salad

 

 

 

Fennel is widely cultivated for its aromatic seeds, flowers and bulb that closely resembles a sweet anise flavor, though not quite as strong.  It is light and crunchy and can be integrated into soup, roasted, sauteed or even served raw.  This recipe incorporates the crunch and sweetness of raw fennel with the fresh tang of lemon and serves as a great as a side dish to any meal.     

 

 

Ingredients:

1 fennel bulb, shaved paper thin with a mandoline or meat slicer

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon of chopped fresh thyme leaves

1  Tbsp chopped flat-leafed parsley

2   Tbsp shaved Parmesan cheese

In a large mixing bowl, gently toss all of the ingredients together and serve immediately or chill before serving to allow flavors to blend.

 

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Pasta with Roasted Turnips and Sage Brown Butter

The 2013 CSA season has had a delicious first month! This week's box offers collard greens, turnips, spring onions, sage, summer squash and lettuce. Yearning for a scrumptious turnip recipe? Look no further and enjoy!

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Hidden Villa CSA Newsletter: Week of July 2, 2012

Hi CSA Members, Summer is finally here! I was looking forward to watching our summer crops come on, and long days of hiking and swimming. However, back in May I injured my knee. Being couch and crutch-ridden has forced me to slow down, and I’ve struggled to adjust to this change of pace. But there’s always a silver lining, right? As I heal, I’ve had time to work with other departments at Hidden Villa. (And I caught up on my reading. Seriously, ask me for suggestions.) As the sidelined Farm Crew member, I want to share what I’ve been working on in the past month or so.
Hi CSA Members, Summer is finally here! I was looking forward to watching our summer crops come on, and long days of hiking and swimming. However, back in May I injured my knee. Being couch and crutch-ridden has forced me to slow down, and I’ve struggled to adjust to this change of pace. But there’s always a silver lining, right? As I heal, I’ve had time to work with other departments at Hidden Villa. (And I caught up on my reading. Seriously, ask me for suggestions.) As the sidelined Farm Crew member, I want to share what I’ve been working on in the past month or so.
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Hidden Villa CSA Newsletter: Week of June 25, 2012

At my Nana's 88th birthday celebration, last weekend, she received two touched up photos of her eighteen year old self that were taken shortly after Pearl Harbor was bombed. One of the photos is a portrait of her sitting on an old, horse drawn, harvester and the other is a wider shot of her on what looks like a 1936 steel wheeled John Deer tractor, hitched to a trailer piled high with hay; included are two young farmhands, one standing in front of the trailer and another sitting on top of the hay. In both photos my Nana is fashionably clad in loafers.

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What's Happening with the Farm Bill?

Just last week the Senate approved the latest edition of the Farm Bill, and the House will begin reviewing it in July. Some argue the changes are for the better, but others say that changes aren’t fundamental enough to support a healthier food system. Here’s an update on the Farm Bill and some of my ideas, from a young farmer's perspective, about creating the food system we want.

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Hidden Villa CSA Newsletter: Week of June 18, 2012

I think I speak for all of the farm crew when I say that some frustration has colored the last few days on the farm. The source of this disturbance to our normall ebullient field conversation comes from a strange influx of new pests. If you were to drive by our fields right now, you would probably see a large gathering of ravens. They might look like relatively happy, healthy ravens. They probably are. They should be, seeing as they are dining like kings and queens on the best seed sprouts and lettuce starts we can give them. In fact, they are probably eating ALL of the seeds and starts we plant. Next door to the feasting ravens is a massive invasion of leaf miners and flea beetles. Beyond that lies the usual but constant threat of cucumber beetles, slugs, rabbits, gophers, voles, and squirrels.

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Soil Building: Compost, Worms and Mulch

Legend has it that composting dates back to the early Roman Empire. Roman farmers put left over organic material in piles to sit over winter, and by the next season they had decayed into fertilizer to use in the soil. But no matter who “discovered” composting, we do know that thousands of years of successful agriculture preceded industrial, synthetic fertilizers. So how does decomposing stuff turn into fertilizer and why does it work?

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CSA Recipe: Chard and Cheddar Sandwiches

When the chard comes on in our fields, the Farm Crew enjoys a quick and tasty lunch of fresh chard, good bread, and some delicious cheddar cheese.

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Hidden Villa CSA Newsletter: Week of June 11, 2012

One fairly dramatic change that we have experienced in the operation of the farm this year has been our active recruitment of larger groups of volunteers working all over the farm. While Hidden Villa has worked with volunteers for years and the help they have offered has always been an important part of what makes our farm run, this year our volunteer coordinator, Marc Sidel, has been bringing larger-sized groups of people often part of larger companies in our area to carry out teambuilding exercises and to put in a day working on the farm. It is a very different kind of management of work on the farm with a crazy rhythm. On two days this spring we have had more than 60 people come out to help us with field tasks for a period of a few hours.

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“You’re a… what?”

It’s hard to compete with the Bay Area in terms of its foodie passion and support of locavore eating. Nonetheless, I find that people I meet from San Francisco or the Silicon Valley are still surprised to hear that I’m a farmer. I see a look in their eye that says, “Whoa… that’s crazy.” But the longer I farm, the more I wonder how much is wrong with our food system if people have never met a farmer. How much trouble are we in if people my age (27) haven’t heard of anyone choosing it as a career? Next time I get that look, I want to say, “Don’t you eat? How do you not know a farmer?"

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Suzanne Allcroft
Thanks for your comment Rodica! I'm happy you agree.
Wednesday, 20 June 2012 10:32
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CSA Recipe: Roasted New Potatoes with Rosemary

If you think your kitchen is too hot to roast potatoes, you can also grill them on a charcoal grill along with whatever else you're BBQing. Be warned that new potatoes are small (especially when cut in half) and can slip through the grate, plus they burn quickly, so don't leave them over a direct flame for very long. After popping them on a hot grill, keep a close eye on them, flip them once after a few minutes or when they get nice brown grill marks, leave 'em on there until they are equally toasty on each side, transfer them to a bowl, then cover. The potatoes will continue to steam in the bowl, ensuring that they are completely cooked, creamy on the inside and crispy on the outside, and warm when the rest of your meal is being prepared. Or, you can pop them in the oven for the time-tested recipe below.

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What to Plant?

The Hidden Villa Farm Crew picks what to plant not just from seed catalogues but also through trial and error and collective memory. What varieties of peppers have done well here? Which broccoli gave us the best heads and regrowth? I am learning that there are a lot of considerations when choosing seeds and plant varieties. Each seed we grow is a dedication of time and resources, so we make careful selections based on what has been successful in the past, what works for our climate, and what other local growers recommend.

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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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Hidden Villa CSA Newsletter: Week of May 21, 2012

Photo: Joey and Max at Let’s Go Farm in Santa Rosa

Hello CSA Members. It’s Taylor, your newest member of the Hidden Villa Farm Crew. As Jason mentioned in the last newsletter, I joined the Hidden Villa community in the beginning of April. I am coming to Hidden Villa with some farming and gardening experience from small farms in both Boston, MA and Western Marin County here in California. The internship program at Hidden Villa is a very exciting prospect for me as I am working with wonderful people and taking a strong first step towards my goal of one day running my own farm. So far I have been acclimating to life here on the farm, building new muscles I never knew I had, showing off blisters, eating and growing amazing food, and generally having a great time.

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Hidden Villa CSA Begins

Hidden Villa's Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) season began this Tuesday, making a fun and busy week for the Farm Crew. The CSA distributes our organic fruits and vegetables to about 140 members who receive a basket each week from May until November. This week's basket included strawberries, green garlic, spring onions, bok choi, radishes, arugula, and oregano. 

As usual we will all be taking turns writing pieces for the weekly newsletter so that you can come to know your farmers better and hear about everybody's different stories and sense of change over the season. 

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Kennedy Middle School Pizza Party

By Suzanne Allcroft, Agriculture Intern

This Tuesday I had the privilege of attending a pizza party hosted by a group of students from Kennedy Middle School.  But this wasn’t just any pizza party. The students made everything from scratch (even the cheese!) and it marked the finale of an after school class called Kitchen Literacy: Cooking, Nutrition, and Food Justice. For the final class, the students had invited their parents and teachers to enjoy their cooking.

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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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