Loma Vista farm in Vallejo, CA is a small agrarian oasis. This small gem of a farm, located next to Loma Vista Elementary School, provides a unique opportunity for students to experience what it’s like to work on a farm.

In addition to being used as an educational resource, the farm is open to members of the public. Loma Vista is every bit as much of as much a community effort as it is a community resource.

“It takes a village to raise a child” is one of those much overused clichés, but in the case of Loma Vista Farm, it has taken just that—the village of Vallejo—to keep a farm going. Unpaid volunteers and members of the Friends of Loma Vista Farm are critical to keeping the farm running, providing necessary manpower to help the small paid staff. The volunteers have been especially critical in keeping the farm operating in past years while Vallejo schools were struggling financially, and in receivership.

The farm was established in 1974 by Carolyn Libby, who taught at Loma Vista Elementary School. Through grant funding, Libby was able to convert the vacant land next to the school into a small farm to be used for educating kindergarten students and provide a chance to experience a little bit of farm life.

Today, the farm has a caretaker’s residence, numerous animal barns and pens, chicken coops, rabbit hutches and pasture areas. A whole bunch of critters have a pretty good life at Loma Vista, including pigs, horses, goats, cows, sheep, cats, geese, peacocks and even an Alpaca or two in Loma Vista’s five acres.

The Market Garden – School Lunch Garden Program – An edible ecosystem of education

The increasingly prominent Farm to Table movement, championed by celebrity chefs (including French Laundry’s Thomas Keller), is alive and well at Loma Vista Farm, with the School Lunch Garden Program, but decidedly without the Haute Cuisine fanfare. We’re talkin’ Farm to Cafeteria here.

The School Lunch Garden Team tends whimsical patches of green and color with names such as Salad Bar, Patriotic Potato Patch and Pizza Garden. These garden patches are exactly what they sound like. The Pizza Garden is even shaped like a slice. The veggies grown go directly to school lunches.

“Of course, none of this would be possible without the awesome volunteers who have worked a ton of hours to get this project up and running,” says Shelee Loughmiller, Friends of Loma Vista Farm President.

Students also learn the value of recycling through the school lunch program. All food waste is recycled at the farm to either feed the chickens or to produce compost to grow more veggies. Of course, the well-fed chickens produce eggs, which are used to create delicacies such as Garden Fu Young, a veggie omelet of sorts made as an edible interlude to the science program held in an onsite classroom. “There are even some math lessons involved,” explains Loma Vista Principal Britt Hammon. “They’re learning to measure out cups of this and that.”

In addition to the small demonstration kitchen and classroom where students gather, there is even a robotic cow named Moozie, which is maintained by the robotics club and delivers lessons with a quirky and unique mechanical flair.

Horticultural Therapy

Loma Vista has long been a resource available to benefit handicapped members of the community as well. Through horticultural therapy, handicapped individuals can improve the quality of their life through interacting with plants, animals and meeting other members of the community.  Activities include planting and potting in the greenhouse, or are based on individual needs. But lots of folks, with disabilities or not, find relaxation benefits working around a farm, but without the full time commitment of becoming a farmer!

Around and About – Strolling Loma Vista

Walking around Loma Vista Farm, there is always lots of activity. Classes arrive from the elementary school, or from other classes on a field trip. Geese and ducks flap and paddle around a small lake in the midst of barn-red buildings. A peacock darts across the path and displays his wears. An equine senior citizen enjoys his retirement in the paddock as the sun shines on his dusty coat. One group of students is getting a demonstration on making apple cider with Farm Keeper Rita LeRoy. Apples are donated by Food rescue Vallejo, as well as grown on the farm. A small grove of fruit trees, including apple and citrus, are growing behind the greenhouse; donated by the Tree Foundation last spring, they have begun to yield.

Darkly colored pigs loll leisurely in comfortable straw, their spiral tails flicking as they dream happy pig dreams. No bacon worries here. A bowling ball rests at the corner of the pen. “They enjoy pushing those around, it’s a natural rooting instinct for them,” notes Loughmiller. A goose hisses at me from under a picnic table and darts away, headed for the pond. Plop! Surf’s up!

A group of girls arrive near the chicken cages and start to explain their job feeding the chickens.

“Oh my God, we’re going to be famous,” says one, flicking her hair back and lifting her chin movie star-style when she spies my camera.

The other girls laugh, as they move their hands through a large blue garbage pail filled with a gooey mix of discarded apple cores, bits of bread, potato chips and other lunchroom leftovers.

“Here, we put it in those,” says one holding an aluminum tin. “And feed it to the chickens!” Smiling, as if revealing some hidden secret.

“We’re taking care of these beautiful animals. Making sure the have all the food they need,” announces a third girl as she plops a wad of gooey bread and pieces of apple into the feeding dish.

The others nod, smiling. “Girl Power,” they proclaim in staggered unison.

A weathered Tom Turkey looks on from behind the fence, with his faded red comb jiggling side to side as he eyes the dish. Power some of that grub over here!


Public Workshops and activities for Old(er) Folks

If you can’t remember how many years it’s been since you graduated from elementary school, but still have a hankering for dirt under your fingernails (or more detailed knowledge about the dirt under your fingernails), there are opportunities for you at Loma Vista Farm.

Free (donation appreciated) workshops are offered on a rotating Saturday basis.

Classes offered include: Bio-intensive Gardening, Seed Saving, Plant Propagation, Chicken 101, Growing Native Plants and more options on a variable basis.

You can also purchase a Halloween pumpkin or Christmas tree at Loma Vista Farm every year.

Worth a Visit

It is unusual for a place like this to be open to the general public without charge, especially in this day and age. “The neighborhood kinda looks after things,” says one woman I chatted with, seated by the lake, when I asked about the open door policy.

Loma Vista Farm is a worthwhile place to visit if you just happen to be in the area. A nice place to duck the hustle-bustle cell phone infested modern life most of us lead. Use a picnic table during your lunch break or make Loma Vista a Saturday destination if you see a class that looks interesting. And don’t forget to stop in for this year’s Harvest Festival scheduled for October 19.  Be hayseed for a bit. Why not?

“The more we grow, the more we can do,” says Loughmiller, who has her eye on a fallow seven acres of land owned by the school district just up the hill from the farm.

For more information, activities, class schedules etc. go to: www.lomavistafarm.org

MarcMarc Garman is a watch repairer and videographer who lives in Vallejo, CA. He grew up crewing on and racing sailboats in upstate New York, mostly on the Hudson River.