Monday, April 6, 2015
Wild Willow Farm and Education Center.
Wild Willow Farm and Education Center http://sandiegoroots.org/farm/index.php is nestled between the willows at the US/Mexican border about twenty minutes from downtown San Diego. The Tijuana River edges this 6-acre plot of fertile land and the notorious border fence can be seen curving its way up the adjacent hills. The sound of cockerels crowing and bird song is mixed with the whirling sound of border patrol helicopters flying back and forth.
As we arrived Kaylie was working at the entrance of the quonset hut/come cafe, she graciously welcomed us and offered to take us on a tour.
Kaylie is one of the education staff and is passionate about the potential that working with the land and food production provides as a base of deep learning.
“We have to slow down”, she explained, “This farm and the plants create a space for learning that has been so important to me.”
Kaylie’s father is a landscaper so she grew up with plants but it was not until she took the Sustainable Farming course at Wild Willow that she began to see farming in a different way.
“It created a connection for me; I made a relationship with this land through Farm School and so wanted to give back. I also have a love of education and so it was a dream for me to work here. Lots of different hands have created this farm and I can get teary eyed when I talk about my experiences here."
Her favorite areas are the Children Garden, which is created between two hoop houses and provides a creative work and play space for children’s groups when they arrive at the farm. She also has a special connection to the goats, as we enter the pen she gently talks to them all as they nudge her and try to escape.
All slows down here, the heat of the day raises and we take our time wandering around the farm and disappearing into the hoop houses to look at well-organized tools, green spouting starts, drying herbs, gourds and seeds. Joe was carefully tending the plants. Slowly meandering up and down the rows of vegetables, calendula and sunflowers watering where needed. When he took a break for lunch he explained that they had to hand water now and then just to help the seedlings along. The cool season did not really happen this year, and there was very little rain so they have to be extra diligent.
Wild Willow has a commitment to mentoring and encouraging the next generation of farmers.
One of the main educators is Paul Maschka, who has been farming and homesteading in this area for many years, he comes from this land and knows it like the back of his hand? As we talk he points out specific birds, like the tiny mauve colored ground dove hopping in the kale patch and the flycatcher Black Phoebe.
“We have land and we have seeds but we always need to be relearning and re-skilling ourselves. We need to be passing on this knowledge. Sometimes we are looked at as hippie radicals but really what we are doing is just growing as our families have done for years. We have inspectors that come out here, California has strict rules that we have to follow and one was here the other day. I know he learned allot from us, and we learn from him. He was curious about how we do certain things and we had a long conversation. Then he showed me the leaves on the trees in the orchard, they were long and pointed and he told us that shows there is not enough zinc in the soil." As Paul turned to go back to moving his bees to new hive he left us with this thought "We cannot always go down the road of doom and gloom, let’s go from doom and gloom to bloom.”
This is what Wild Willow does it brings people together in a shared hopeful experience to learn together, to listen, to notice, to eat together and to take action in the vital resurgence of a local food movement. Everyone learns in this space of action and nourishment. In this small haven intentional reciprocity fills the air and informs all the interactions.
There is a generosity and abundance. There is a deep communication with the plants and animals, with the land, with the escaping goats, the groups of school kids and to each other.
There are many opportunities to be become involved, the folks at Wild Willow are always looking for volunteers, you can become part of their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), take one of their courses or turn up to one of their monthly potlucks where the wood fired pizza oven is fired up. It’s a chance not to be missed and we encourage you to join with them in any way you can, your hands too can be part of this on going process of growing for a better future.