Wed11262014

Community

Hidden Villa delivers local harvest to downtown Los Altos Farmers Market


Photo By: Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Photo Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier A Hidden Villa farm worker tills the soil last week. The 600-acre organic farm offers produce from its gardens at the downtown Los Altos Farmers’ Market.

Although residential development replaced most local farm plots and apricot groves decades ago, in one corner of Los Altos Hills, the art of farming persists.

At Hidden Villa, the 600-acre organic farm and nature preserve on Moody Road, farmers and volunteers are not only cultivating crops, but also sustaining a model agricultural community.

“We have a long, rich history in the organic movement,” said agricultural manager Jason Mc- Kenney of Hidden Villa’s roots in community-supported agriculture, established in 1994 when it was certified as Santa Clara County’s fourth organic farm. “We’re one of the most local sources (of farm crops).”

As many businesses and farms strive to expand, Hidden Villa maintains a local focus and invests in the community via donations and educational programs. All of its produce is picked up at the farm or delivered within 10 miles of the site, with 25 percent of the harvest donated to the Community Services Agency in Mountain View for distribution to local residents who may not otherwise be able to afford organic, farm-fresh foods.

Among Hidden Villa’s signature farm initiatives is its community-supported agriculture program, which has grown over the past 20 years. From mid-May to Thanksgiving, 130 members purchase shares of fresh vegetables and fruit delivered in round bushel baskets.

Hidden Villa’s program is unique in that everything found in the baskets is grown in Los Altos Hills. According to McKenney, the content of members’ baskets reflects the “seasonality of our microclimate” and provides a colorful “snapshot of the season.”

Just as the farm has grown to include more than 50 types of crops over the years, so has the popularity of Hidden Villa’s community-supported agriculture program. Only 17 shares remain available for 2013.

In addition to distributing its harvest to community-supported agriculture program members, the farm team hosts a booth at the Los Altos Farmers’ Market, scheduled 4-8 p.m. Thursdays through September on State Street in downtown Los Altos. Hidden Villa will sell salad greens, radishes, herbs, fresh eggs and pork at Thursday’s Farmers’ Market opening.

McKenney noted that Hidden Villa’s booth is easy to spot because of the long line of customers who queue early to ensure that they don’t miss out on the limited supply of fresh eggs and meat from the farm’s pasture-raised pigs and goats.

“It’s good stuff for the grill,” said Blair Thompson, animal husbandry manager, of the pork chops, cowboy steaks and breakfast sausage available for purchase. “It’s high-quality, healthful meat that has a lot of flavor.”

The Hidden Villa team said they anticipate a bountiful season, even if the dry winter presents challenges.

The farm team plans to offer locally adaptable and organic vegetable starts, flower starts and perennials at a plant sale 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at their greenhouse, located at 26870 Moody Road in Los Altos Hills. Members of the California Native Plant Society will be on hand selling plants.

For more information on Hidden Villa’s sustainable agriculture program, visit hiddenvilla.org/programs/sustainable-agriculture or stop by the Farmers’ Market booth.

For more photos of Hidden Villa, click here.

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