An outstanding example of what it means to grow organically and sustainably within an urban setting, the one acre Taylor Street Farm nestled right in the heart of San Jose continues to attract garden enthusiasts from around the south bay, people looking to lend a hand and learn what it takes to grow food and live in a more healthful and sustainable way.
Once known simply as Garden To Table, the farm has been given new life under the direction of composting and gardening guru Sean Autio. Sean has been working with area gardeners throughout the south bay for years, teaching them about building hot compost piles and using low till growing methods. Gardens he’s worked at in the past include Full Circle Farm in Sunnyvale and the Benton Teaching Garden in Santa Clara. Visitors to Taylor Street will likely hear him imparting words of wisdom, jewels such as “Farming is like surfing: you can’t just read about it, you have to do it!”, or “For we humans, the first sign of friendship after the initial handshake is the exchanging of a basket of food”.
Sean took over operations at Taylor Street in the summer of 2016. At the time, the property was in sad shape: growing beds were overrun with mallow and bindweed, leadership and growers were nowhere to be found, and operations were in dire need of a reboot. It took seven long months of yanking out weeds and re-invigorating the soil before things finally started to look up.
Even so, things didn’t really turn the corner until the arrival of two outstanding farm educators, Trinity Tomsic and Sally Moiseff. Both ladies love spending time at the farm.
Trinity chairs the farm’s board and is instrumental in keeping farm programs on track by seeing to their various nitty gritty details. Growing up on a small farm in rural Utah amongst a family of teachers, Trinity has always focused on community. “Community is in me, so I do what I can to build community, to create community if it’s not there”. Wherever she’s lived, Trinity has always been interested in growing things. It’s a passion that led her to join the ranks of the Master Gardeners while living back east in Maryland. Today, Trinity finds herself especially interested in encouraging the younger gardeners in our midst, so it’s no wonder she’s especially happy to see one of the newer farm programs taking root, The ABCs of Farming. The six week, one hour per week class teaches young growers (those in grades K through 5) all about growing food on a farm.
Sally turns out to be homegrown, having been raised right here in the town of Campbell. Another person with a heart for teaching, Sally has worked in a number of educational capacities, including as a middle school teacher and school librarian. Some of her fondest memories growing up involve being outside with her dad as he tended to his vegetable garden. In later years while working as a stay at home mom, Sally found herself drawn to volunteer projects of all kinds, especially those having to do with growing food. A self taught gardener and avid seed saver, the growing of highly nutritious, wholesome foods is what draws Sally to the farm.
Together, the dynamic trio of Sean, Trinity, and Sally promote a shared vision of what urban farming is all about: keeping things simple, building community, learning and teaching. The enthusiasm they each exhibit for teaching is both heartfelt and infectious. With a renewed focus on teaching people — young and old alike, from every walk of life — about what it takes to grow fresh wholesome food in one’s own yard or community garden plot, Taylor Street Farm is enjoying a solid resurgence of interest. The management team understands that the solid foundation of any farming or gardening endeavor takes place along two tracks: the building of an interconnected community and the building of rich healthy soil. The farm’s team strives to keep things simple by keeping focus on big picture principles which align with the way things are done in nature.
A Community of Farm Volunteers
Open to the volunteer workforce every Saturday from 10 am to 2 pm and every Wednesday from 3:30 pm to 6:30 pm (dusk during winter months), Taylor Street continues to make inroads into its stated goals of creating a network of interrelated (self supporting) food systems, improving access to healthy locally grown foods, building/supporting a vibrant community of growers, and educating the public about what sustainable living looks like here in Silicon Valley.
Volunteers come to watch chickens being chickens, feel the heat produced by a healthy compost pile in need of turning, and work alongside fellow gardeners in one of the most primal of endeavors, the growing of food.Averaging 80 to 90 visitors each week, today’s volunteers come from a wide variety of places, from San Jose State university to Mitty and Bellarmine high schools to Recovery Caf. The farm is also happy to offer tours to schools and other organizations.
People interested in becoming involved in the farm’s ongoing internship program are invited to apply. The work commitment is eight hours a week for three months, with scheduling of hours kept very flexible. While having farming and/or gardening experience is a definite plus, it’s not a requirement. What is required is the ability and desire to engage with members of the general public who visit the farm. In addition, interns are expected to be open to learning new things, especially horticulture topics, and have the ability to communicate effectively to audience members with a wide range of backgrounds and interests. A short seven word poetic summary of the Taylor Street Farm internship program: Interns have fun, and learn a ton!
A Simple Approach to Farming
The work being done at the Taylor Street farm is much like work being done at other farms: it is constant, dynamic, challenging, and rewarding. Yes, Taylor Street offers a bevy of traditional farm components, all of which come together in a very compact setting. But there are some glaring differences between this farm and other farms, chief among them being the fact that this farm actually encourages walk-ins. That’s right, if you wake up one Saturday morning and feel the need to learn a bit more about where it is your food comes from, you can stop in at the farm and do just that. It matters not whether you have any farming experience, whether you’re a cop or a former convict. Everyone is invited to work and to learn, with those putting in as little as two or three hours being invited to help themselves to some delicious, fresh off the vine veggies. It’s that simple.
Included in the farm’s operations are some very friendly chickens (the coop currently houses a flock of five birds, which will grow considerably once a new run comes online), a very large greenhouse (for keeping the plant starts happy), an impressive variety of seasonal veggies grown in raised beds (farm favorites being Egyptian Spinach and Lacinato, aka “Dino”, Kale), and a nice selection of herbs and pollinator attracting flowers.
Getting to Taylor Street Farm
If you’ve never been to the farm, finding it can be a bit of a challenge.
While it’s easy enough to spot on a map, it turns out there are a couple of tricks involved in locating the farm’s real life enterance. First and foremost among these is knowing the CitiBank that sits on the corner of Taylor and San Pedro streets. The farm shares a small parking area with the bank; that lot is accessible from Taylor street, immediately after the downward slope at the intersection of Guadalupe and Taylor. If you should miss it (we often do), just turn right onto San Pedro and park on one of the side streets. At that point, the farm’s entrance is gotten to by walking across the CitiBank parking lot.
Supporting Taylor Street’s Activities
People interested in getting involved in the farm’s ongoing operations are invited to email the team for more information. Special events and corporate functions offer further avenues for involvement. As a community farm, the management team is always interested in hearing ideas about new ways in which to engage with the public, like the Farm Family Day that takes place every couple of months.
A final reminder that Taylor Street Farm operates as a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) urban agricultural entity. The farm is appreciative of any and all financial gifts that it can use to help cover operating expenses. The farm is also happy to accept contributions of rakes, shovels, hoes, wheelbarrows, gloves, and any tools that are designed specifically for younger gardeners.
As Trinity says, “This farm is such a special place”. Indeed it is. So spread the word. Hope to see you at the farm…