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CSA Recipe: Plum Upside Down Cake

This week we were proud to put plums in the CSA basket for the first time. We planted a few trees four years ago, and now they are producing at a level to provide these sweet and tart fruits to the CSA. Plums, a stone fruit and a member of the rose family, are a great source of antioxidents and have historically been used in a variety of ways, such as prunes, plum wine, and pickles. Here is our favorite way to eat them - Plum Upide Down Cake.

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CSA Newsletter: Week of July 9, 2012

So much of the motivation for farming the way that we do comes from a hope for a better future. Striving towards a means of producing food that is less resource intensive, more locally adapted, and respectful of ecology feels like an important route for agriculture to take. The most significant necessary ingredient in leading us to this kind of food future is a new population of willing and able farmers.  We offer our agriculture interns an insight and a working experience operating this kind of farm in a way that is well-aligned with our mission of "inspiring a just and sustainable future." More people practicing small-scale, locally rooted agriculture is laying the groundwork for self-sufficient, environmentally friendly, localized community.

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Summer Camp - Flowers & Rainbows

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Written by Jeff (Echo)

Hello, and welcome to the very first Hidden Villa Summer Camp blog posting! My name is Echo and I will be posting regular, weekly entries for the duration of the summer. I'll start with a little bit of my background before we jump in to what is going on here at camp.

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Local Money, Local Food

It was a beautiful and rare sunny day on the coast at Pie Ranch. Sitting on a straw bale and listening to the blue grass band strum away, I took in the scene. In the open valley below the eucalyptus grove, people in the crowd chatted, shook hands, and exchanged information. Others waited in line for the potluck, to slip enchiladas and homemade pie onto their plates. Some casually stopped at tables to try samples and pick up information about the showcased entrepreneurs. Farm Fest, an event organized by Slow Money, brought together food entrepreneurs and local investors. As the program started, people took their seats, eager to hear about the new businesses taking their place in the local food economy.

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CSA Recipe: Purslane Potato Salad

Purslane grows as a weed in our fields, but it’s also an edible leafy green with a sour and salty flavor. It's known to be very nutritious and have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. While it's not the most common vegetable you'll find, we have many customers and staff who are die hard fans. It's kind of exciting to use wild foraged materials in your cooking, and you can eat all of its parts. Try it raw, steamed, or sautéed. Purslane is traditionally an ingredient in soups, stir frys or  pork marinades. Here' s a simple recipe to try the flavor for yourself.

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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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CSA Recipe: Summer Squash Basil Soup

We offer this recipe every year since it is such a simple, delicious use of squash and basil that makes a savory yet light summer meal soup.  There will be plenty of opportunities to enjoy this soup with the squash and basil that we expect to provide this season.

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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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CSA Recipe: Braised Fennel

Fennel is a highly aromatic and flavorful Mediterranean herb with a taste similar to anise. It has been growing beautifully in our fields, and we were happy to harvest it for the first time this week. The bulb, leaves, flowers, and seeds are edible. We hope you enjoy this recipe!

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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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Hidden Villa CSA Newsletter: Week of June 4, 2012

Photo Credit: Laurie Aubuchon

On our field walk today we saw newly sprouted bush beans coming in healthily next to fifteen lines of hearty looking potato plants. At the same time our old strawberry patch is almost completely inundated with noxious bind weed and some of the tomatoes that we planted on Friday have already been eaten by voles. It also rained on us, which was both good and bad. Getting a little extra water helps our crops grow but it also made it so that we couldn’t get into the field to do some needed tractor work and planting. The rain will also increase the weed pressure on all our crops.

This is why I love small scale diversified organic farming. Everyday is a new and different challenge and I get to work outside with a small crew of good friends to grow some of the best food I have ever had in my life.

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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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CSA Recipe: The Farm Crew's Perfect Kale

Everyone on the farm has a favorite cooking method or prized tips for turning dark, leafy kale, into a bowl of tender, tasty (and incredibly healthy) greens. This recipe combines the Farm Crew's favorite tips on how to make the perfect greens. 

Don't forget that you can purchase fresh veggies, fruits, eggs, and meats from Hidden Villa's stall every week Los Altos Farmers' Market, held 4 to 8 pm every Thursday in downtown Los Altos.

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Hidden Villa Interns visit Community Services Agency Mountain View

By Suzanne Allcroft, Agriculture Intern

Hidden Villa's Interns recently had our weekly enrichment class at Community Services Agency (CSA) Mountain View to learn about the organization and volunteer at its food bank. We donate a quarter of the produce we grow at Hidden Villa to the CSA Mountain View food bank during the farm season, so I was curious to see where our produce goes and how it's distributed.

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