Costanoa Commons logo with the tagline, "We grow for life."
Costanoa Commons
December 2015
A community farm needs everyone!
Families plant a tree at the farm site2016 promises to be a year of many new beginnings at Costanoa Commons. Thank you so much to those who have already generously supported our farm. A gift of any amount will help us launch our community farm where people with disabilities and others grow healthy food and build community. Please consider a donation today, and read more from our terrific Farm Manager, Liz, about organic farming, which encourages us all to grow for life. Donate Now!

Your year-end gift will help us get started with needed farm supplies and equipment. Here are some of the items we need to purchase as soon as we can:

  • Seed (veggie, cover crop, potato)—$600
  • Propagation materials (mix ingredients, trays)—$300
  • Hand tools (spades, forks, rakes)—$200
  • Push seeder—$150
  • Hoes and weeding tools—$200
  • Harvest supplies (totes, knives, boxes)—$500
  • Line trimmer—$200
  • Deer fencing—$4,500 and volunteer labor to install it!
  • Irrigation supplies (tanks, pump, pipe, and sprinklers)—$15,000
Your donation—of any size—will go directly toward getting our farm started.
Donate Now!
Best wishes from the Board and staff at Costanoa Commons for a healthy, restful and joy-filled holiday season.

Costanoa Commons, Inc. is a non-profit corporation in California awaiting its tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) status from the I.R.S.

Why our farm site is unique
by Liz Milazzo, Farm Manager

The farm site is special in modern Santa Cruz history for having been farmed organically in the 1980s and 1990s and up until several years ago. Just a mile from downtown, it’s an urban farm! Mention the site and those in the know attest to the incredible soil and microclimate of this location. Along a beautiful stretch of creek, we imagine the land was sacred for tens of thousands of years to indigenous people.

The vision taking shape now is to grow mixed vegetables for a CSA and farmstand, planting quarter-acre blocks in succession, rows going from Golf Club Drive towards the creek. Some of the crops that will do well here are potatoes, dry farmed tomatoes (non-irrigated), sweet corn, dry corn, dry beans, green cabbage, winter squash and pumpkins, zucchini, onions, root crops, and greens.

We will refine the crop plan following our successes in discerning appropriate supported work. As we do, we will adopt and adapt work practices—for example, planting, irrigating, harvesting—that are inclusive and led by people with disabilities.

For soil fertility, we’ll plant winter and summer cover crops to return biomass back into the soil and purchase quality organic compost to spread on the field. Cover crops and compost supplemented by good crop rotations are the backbone of an organic farm system. Planting diversity for overall ecosystem health is another tenet, which we will pursue not only by planting multiple crop species, but also many varieties of particular species of vegetables, flowers, small grains and beans.

It’s a great gift to be able to farm along a riparian corridor, biodiversity manifest! So beautiful and teeming with life.

Once infrastructure is in place—irrigation line, deer fence, farm perimeter road, and the like—we will plan a small orchard and flower and herb garden by the planned community building, the Barn.
The dialect of white poppies
Ryan climbing a tree and smilingby Pauline Navarro

Before Ryan, now 21, was born, a visit to the doctor made it fairly clear that this little baby probably had an extra chromosome and Down Syndrome. Driving home from that defining moment, I passed a field of flowers. A white poppy was in the middle of thousands of orange California poppies—it seemed to leap out of the field, in fact dancing above it, calling me to pay attention. Hallucination? In my state of mind, I wasn’t sure. But being at that moment in the frame of mind and spirit to listen when bidden, I stopped the car, got out and did as bid.

In fact, once I paid attention, the white poppy seemed larger than the others, and though I rubbed my eyes, still danced and shimmered above the others. But wait, what was this? The California Orange Poppies nearer the white poppy were more beautiful than those farther away. Was it from the reflection of the white poppy? Whatever it was, the white and orange poppies helped each other shine brighter by their difference. The lesson of the dancing white poppy was clear and timely. Gratefully, with a little newfound peace, though questioning my sanity, I got in my car and continued home.

The lesson of the white poppy was hard to hold onto at times of great setbacks. Similar to Jake and his family in last month’s Newsletter, our family often jokes that we are fluent in at least two dialects—English and Ryan. We dutifully learned sign language with Ryan until he was three years old, when his verbal expression was “due” to begin to bloom, as is typical in children with Down Syndrome. But at three, instead of language, his hidden autism bloomed. He lost all his emerging expressive and sign language—and his personality. Ryan was frustrated, screaming, crying, no hugs, no eye contact, no language, no communication other than the screaming. And thus began a new phase of learning for all of us—and the poppy receded.

Months later at the family dinner table, I told a comic story of how I had fallen down. We looked at each other in shock when we heard Ryan say “ow” and chuckle at the vaudevillian nature of my comment. Clearly he was paying attention and flowering again. He—and we—began to become fluent in “Ryan” again, though in a different way.

And now, here we are 18 years later, a bilingual family in English and “Ryan,” a family of white and orange poppies. Ryan has learned to communicate, as have we, without much in the way of words. He jokes, laughs (still especially at vaudeville!), dances, hugs, and calls out the best and happiest in everyone who meets him. He needs no words to show the spectrum of his full humanity, such as his gleaming pride in a job well done, his joy at interacting with friends and family who “speak Ryan,” or his grief at the passing of an era, like his brothers leaving home or his leaving the friends and structure of high school. Suffice it to say that he grew into a gorgeous white poppy.

With gratitude to the current and future White and Orange Poppies of Costanoa Commons, this little story ends.
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