For Christine Pielenz and Bill Laven, the owners of POST-protected Potrero Nuevo Farm in Half Moon Bay, starting an organic farm was always about providing free healthy produce to those in need. Now, more than a decade into this work, the local community relies upon their farm more than ever as it continues to navigate the many challenges of the pandemic and the aftermath of last fall’s historic wildfires.
Each year, Potrero Nuevo Farm grows, harvests and donates over 20,000 pounds of fresh, organic produce to low-income residents in Half Moon Bay.
Since 2011, Potrero Nuevo Farm has partnered with Abundant Grace Coastside Worker (AGCW), a local nonprofit that supports Half Moon Bay’s low-income families and homeless residents. Through their shared programming, residents who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness are employed in growing, tending and harvesting more than 40 varieties of fruits and vegetables on the farm — nearly all of which are donated to local low-income families.
In addition to the regular farm program, participants can take a deeper dive in a seven week-long Farm Apprenticeship, which focuses on learning farm skills along with personal development. This program has produced significant movement in participants’ lives. “The very first session, we saw profound transformations in everybody,” said Eric DeBode, AGCW’s executive director. “Two guys went to rehab. One guy got a job. And one woman went back to school. It was just remarkable.” For many, time on the farm is a course-correcting, life-changing experience.
“Two guys went to rehab. One guy got a job. And one woman went back to school.”
– Eric DeBode, Executive Director, AGCW
“At a very basic level, we find an appropriate path for each person to participate and make sure that they have a successful day on the farm. And sometimes, that experience is just the bit of a self-confidence they need to feel that they’re part of a community and supported. It’s what they need to start making better choices in their life,” shared Suzie Trexler, one of the farm’s managers. “We knew right from the first session we had struck gold.”
This spring, Potrero Nuevo Farm and AGCW plan to add an extra day of programming that will focus on teamwork and land stewardship on the property. Their hope is to tackle big projects like pond restoration, trail and vista area construction, invasive plant removal, erosion control and more. For Christine and Bill, it’s an exciting new chapter and one they’re eager to get underway.
In 2015, POST placed an agricultural conservation easement on this 300-acre farm, which protects it from development and ensures that the farm will remain in agricultural production for future generations. It’s our small part in supporting this transformational community effort and one we’re particularly proud to be a part of.
Photos by Drew Bird Photography
Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects open space on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 80,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Learn more