Growing Thymes - Fall 2015
How's it Growing?
Colleen Hotchkiss - Farm Manager
As the days get shorter, the temperatures approach something other than blazingly hot, and the farm gets a much-needed taste of rain, we are really feeling the change of the season here at Veggielution. Not only has the amount and type of work in the fields slowed and shifted, but with recent staff transitions and the beginning of a new internship term, we have a different team of people out here getting it all done. As we said goodbye to amazing Farm Crew members Tadashi and Liana at the end of August and to our awesome crew of summer interns (Adam, Castelline, Jamie, Lily, Sal, Sam, and Yoni), Ryan and I welcomed back Mika as a part-time staff member and Haji, Jenn, and Melanie as new Fall-Spring interns. The lighter workload in the fields, as summer production tapers off and we begin to prepare much of our land for winter cover crop, has been perfect for our smaller crew. The farm is looking great, we feel very on top of our task list, and despite a few (mostly expected, some unexpected) challenges with pests and disease, we are very confident about the state of the farm as we head into fall and winter.
There are only 4 more weeks to go in our summer Farm Box season, and I have to say it's been one of our best. Our crops of basil, slicing and cherry tomatoes, summer squash, and tomatillos produced very well throughout the summer, and we had impressive harvests of sweet corn, garlic, onions, and our very first strawberries! While our first plantings of eggplant and bell peppers were not incredibly productive, our second succession is starting to kick into high gear and we should have abundant yields of both through the end of October and into November. We also are seeing beautiful tomatoes from our June planting, including some new varieties like Yellow Pear cherry tomatoes and the gorgeous striped Copia heirlooms.
With fall and winter comes the return of some of our favorite cool-weather vegetables, like peas, lettuce, cilantro, carrots, and beets, which we can't grow in the middle of summer. We've already seeded the majority of our winter crops in the MidAcre, which we will be utilizing as an experimental no-till plot going forward, and we'll be planting our cover crop on sections A through E in early November. We're excited to see the positive effects of both approaches (cover cropping and no-till) on our soil quality, water-retention capacity, and overall soil health in the seasons and years to come.
It is with immense love and appreciation that we send off co-founder and former Education Director, Monica Lisa Benavides. Monica has been one of Veggielution's most dedicated and influential staff members, having worked for the organization since its inception. Over the past eight years, Monica has helped to steward Veggielution's growth in many different capacities, always with thoughtfulness and deliberation. We are so thankful for all that she has done for the staff and community as she embarks on a new role teaching second grade at McKinley Elementary. "Miss Benavides"--as her students call her-- is continuing to change lives day by day.
Always a passionate advocate for youth education, and especially youth empowerment through garden-based education, Monica was instrumental in establishing the school garden education programs years ago at both McKinley Elementary and Aptitud Academy, which have impacted hundreds of youth through hands-on nutrition and science-based experiences. Here on the farm, Monica spearheaded the design and implementation of Veggielution's beautiful Youth Garden and its Saturday family program, which continues to offer beauty and connection to visitors of all ages. Monica also directed the farm's highly impactful "Dig Crew" program for teens, the bilingual Cooking Matters program for adults, and Veggielution's internship program. As the organization prepares for the future, the spirit and impact of her work continues its ripple effect throughout the community.
Still dedicated, these days you may find Monica on the farm volunteering for a Saturday workday. We continue to be inspired by her passion, joy, openness, and integrity that she has brought to Veggielution these past eight years. Monica, from the bottom of our hearts, Thank You.
-From the Veggielution Family
Our Soil Story
Healthy Soil = Healthy Communities
Please join me in thanking Pacific Gas and Electric Company for supporting the Veggielution No-Till Demonstration Project. This $2,000 grant, focused on Climate Change and Renewable Energy projects, will help us fund soil testing, tools, and educational materials in English and Spanish.
“No-till” describes the practice of planting crops directly into the soil without overturning the earth beforehand. The benefits of no-till methods are, first and foremost, increased soil organic matter and water storage capacity. Unlike regular tilling and disking (mechanical cultivation) of soil, no-till methods leave crop residue on the surface, which absorbs water and limits runoff. Especially in low moisture areas like San Jose, no-till farming can also significantly increase crop yields over time. One of several carbon farming practices, which also include cover cropping and regular compost applications, no-till farming pulls excess CO₂ down from the atmosphere. Studies have shown that simply reducing CO₂ emissions alone will no longer stop climate change. But locking it into the soil where nature can repurpose it into organic matter may be one of the best things agriculture, including urban agriculture, can do.
Veggielution believes strongly that soil health is at the center of our work on the farm. We feel strongly that by focusing on regenerative farming techniques such as this are crucial to the food and water security of our local community. Learn more about how we are keeping carbon and water underground by visiting www.veggielution/savethesoil.org. Better yet, become a Soil Steward and donate to our efforts to educate our community and restore and protect the soil that supports us all!
-Cayce Hill, Interim Executive Director
Fall is a time for change and reflection here on the Farm. As the cooler months and shorter days approach, our fields and farm crew get a much needed chance to rest and recuperate. We also have additional time to consider our educational programs, including our Volunteer Workdays. We have always valued the hard work and effort that all of our volunteers bring to the farm. We want to make sure that each person that comes to the farm has a meaningful experience connecting with the soil, and with the community that makes Veggielution so special. To make the volunteer experience at Veggielution as fun and engaging as possible, we will be making a few changes to our Volunteer Workday guidelines. As of October 1:
- All Workday participants will be asked to sign up on our website prior to arriving at the farm for a Volunteer Workday. This will allow us to balance the work we have planned for each day with the number of hands ready to work and learn with us.
- Volunteers will be welcomed at Weekday and Saturday Workdays.
- Service Learners (volunteers seeking to fulfill community service hours) will be welcome on Saturday Workdays, when we are best able to accommodate larger groups in the field.
We’re excited to introduce these improvements to our volunteer program, which we hope will make everyone’s experience at Veggielution the best it can be.
Silicon Valley's Largest Ever Open Streets Event
- 9:30 a.m., King and Story Roads: Opening remarks by Mayor Liccardo, a performance by San Jose Taiko and the Heroes Ride. Viva CalleSJ is a FREE recreational program that temporarily closes miles of San Jose streets to bring people together to walk, bike, play, and explore.
- The inaugural route, "Downtown and Eastbound" will stretch six miles, from Emma Prusch Farm Park to the Calle Willow Business District and through Downtown to St. James Park. It's not a race, and you can start anywhere and go as far as you like.
October 24th, 10am to 2:30pm, Biochar Workshop
For home gardeners, enthusiasts, commercial and small-scale land users, and anybody who wants to learn about biochar. Biochar is an inexpensive carbon-negative soil amendment that can double your yield while reducing your fertilizer and water needs. This event is a great opportunity to interact with Paul Taylor author of The Biochar Revolution at Veggielution Community Farm in San Jose, CA. Cost: $25 – $45 Donation, light lunch included.
October 24th. 10am to 2pm, Veggielution Fall Plant Sale
Come by the farm to pick up some of the best cool weather plants for your own garden! Mika can't wait for you to take home all her little friends she has been tending to in the greenhouse!
Interested? Contact us at email@example.com
Can't make it to the Farm, but still want to help? Check out our Amazon Wish List today!
We are getting ready for the launch of our Podcast on October 12th! Be on the look out for our first ever podcast series called the Farmcast.
Here's a sneak preview of the story titles that will be featured: seed stories, soil stories, kitchen stories, farm stories, and dirt & honey.
Farm Truck (1997-2015)
Our beloved farm truck made the final farm box delivery last week. On it's way home from visiting a fellow farm, our green truck decided that its time was done. The truck was an icon on and off the farm here at Veggielution. It was an amazing rustic, vintage, artisan, forest green beauty for those of you who never had the pleasure of meeting this amazing truck. Our truck hauled farm boxes across the bay area, drove compost all over the farm, and participated in the occasional joy ride. One of the truck's longtime driving companion had this to say:
To our Dear Mean Green Veggie-Loving Machine,
You were there for me as a complete novice stick-driver at Veggielution. Even though you may have taken advantage of this by stalling on me at main intersections with honking cars behind me, purposely having a horrible turning radius, getting yourself stuck in the mulch pile and lacking the A/C during the summer, you will be truly missed. I know you were the happiest when chasing peacocks around the farm, singing karaoke with me to old school hip-pop, listening to all the gossip, and going on adventurous trips to other community farms. In retrospect, yes, we could have been better parents to you. We shouldn't have embarrassed you by decorating the interior with Christmas lights all year long, dressing the front bumper with mere ropes, and only giving you a bath twice a year. But, we truly appreciate all your hard work delivering our CSA boxes, chicken feeds, irrigation supplies, and the raucous interns. You have taught four generations of Veggielutionaries how to drive stick, and for that I'm forever thankful. The next farm truck has big shoes to fill. Rest in Peace and say "Hello!" to our other loved ones that have passed, like our weed whacker Josephine.
If you know another truck that wants to spend its time frolicking through Veggielution's fields and delivery some of the freshest produce in San Jose contact Cayce Hill.