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About VenturaVie

Activities

Photos by Lori Markman


One morning my dear friend, Victoria, asked me if I would like to join her at a farm for the day where her non-profit, VenturaVie, runs a summer program for youth. Being up for an adventure and an opportunity to spend time with this wonderful woman, I immediately said yes! I knew that Victoria had been going to a farm "in the country" to teach summer art classes to children, yet didn't know exactly what that entailed. I figured, farm, nature, helping children, art class, and a day with my friend were enough to pique my curiosity. Little did I know the vastness that lay ahead. For a few summers now, Victoria has been telling me about this summer program for youth. It turns out that a long-time friend of hers and his family own a "farm" about two hours east of San Francisco, Zinc House Farms. Our plan was to go up for the day and get back to the city to attend a Barbie event. We stopped in small towns along the way looking for vintage Barbie, and Ken outfits, just for grins. Finding nothing but laughter and meeting random people along the way was enough for us. We headed to Zinc House Farm in Escalon.


When we got to Zinc House Farm, I was more than surprised, I was amazed! Victoria said we would stop at the best fruit stand in town, and this was beyond words. Zinc House Farm is a family-owned property and business that has been cultivated and loved by the Franzia family, who have been a wine family for generations. At this time, the next generation is growing the legacy that gets passed on and on. They take immense pride in their land, and are known for having a 100% organic farm. No pesticides, rotating of crops, letting them decide where to grow. Recently, they have expanded the footprint, and are adding a winery too. There is a lot of construction going on. The new farm stand store and restroom facilities are finished and it looks lovely! My job was to be the photographer for the event which was to take place the next day. Victoria was expecting 8 children and a parent to attend an event designed to teach children about organic farming and art. Bright and early the next morning, we headed over to the farm and started to set up the event. We brought watercolor supplies and set up on 2 shady tables in the middle of the crops. We picked fresh flowers from the gardens and made a large bouquet to greet the families. There were flowers everywhere. It was perfect. I watched as Victoria greeted everyone with her beautiful smile and joyful heart. She knew what fun these children were going to have today. Victoria is excellent at engaging children, has a caring and creative soul, and is relatable to everyone. In addition, the secret sauce to this whole organic farm is a fabulous young man named Brandon, the master gardener for Zinc House Farm. Born and raised in Appalachia, he made his way to Escalon. Being an enthusiastic and incredibly knowledgeable gardener, when the Zinc House family met him they saw his talent and turned him loose. The crops that he has grown on this land are magical. Brandon's zest for gardening draws you in with a desire to learn more. He lives, breathes, and feeds on farming. Plus, he is very easy on the eyes.


First, Victoria took all the children to the chicken coop to ease them into the property and gather a few eggs. They were instantly at ease with her warm and fun approach. Most of them have farms or gardens themselves so they are naturally comfortable and curious in this environment. The land dedicated to this organic farm is beautiful. Everywhere you look there are fruits, flowers, trees, and crops growing happily together. When Brandon joined the group it went to another level. He took the children around to the different crops and gave immense detail about why it is grown there, how the soil is, and when the crops rotate, a virtual agricultural encyclopedia. All told with a true love for his craft. Farming is literally so deep in his skin, that it will never wash out. The children, and parents, were having a wonderful time following him around the field like the pied piper. Questions were firing, and answers were soaring.

When the field trip began Victoria told the children to pay attention to something that they wanted to paint later. Since the day was seasonably hot, it was now a good time to go paint. All the kids happily sat in the shade and painted their favorite things that they saw that day and had gathered for themselves. They were having a blast! Cold refreshments were served as well as some melons cut up fresh from the field. There were smiles on all the faces. My job for the day was to be a photographer, which was a pleasure to do. The kids proudly posed with their creations and souvenirs for the day. Even the children that were shyer, got involved in this day. It is clear that the day at Zinc House Farm with Victoria and Brandon will be a day to remember. And, no doubt they will be back for another session next summer. I hope I will too! A beautiful experience with wonderful people all on a day at the farm!




VenturaVie 333 Green Street San Francisco, CA 94133

A public charity,501(c) Fed Tax ID #82-4546535



VenturaVie is an extraordinary non-profit run by some extraordinary women. I had the privilege of interning this summer after my junior year in college, gaining first-hand experience from the inspiring people behind VenturaVie’s outreach – including their brick-and-mortar V Boutique and the HiVe community. I want to dedicate space in this article/blog to the women who made this all possible, and how they each have contributed their talents and passions to make VenturaVie shine. Each interview started with a small self-introduction and background on how they became involved with VenturaVie, which I am excited to share with you:


I began my interview process with Victoria Zitrin and Renee Siller-Ellis, both of whom were so gracious working with me and who I am learning so much from. I gained some insight into VenturaVies foundations and how it came about.


President/Founder Victoria Zitrin:


"We had this big place on Sutter Street when we first opened V Boutique. It was still a social enterprise and I didn't know what I was doing. One door opened another door and everyone thought it was crazy because I didn’t want to take any money. I didn't know how, but my instinct told me that it would somehow work out. We had a couch in the front and people would always gather there to rest and tell stories when we first opened. These stories that I heard encouraged me because I knew that I was making a difference, that this space was making a difference. From then to now, this vision has become a place (physical and virtual) with a great sense of community.”


Although my focus was to ask questions about VenturaVie’s sense of community, I found that these questions were answered right from the self-introduction. I learned that VenturaVie, at its very center (including its foundations), is built on community and a safe space. As Victoria explains here, "VenturaVie transformed into what it is today from those connections with people in their neighborhood, from people who came in to rest and recover."


Renee also shared a really beautiful story with me that I would love to share about one such community experience:

“There was a family who came in and ended up spending an hour or so in the shop. If you come into the shop, you’re part of the community. When they were leaving, the mom took my hand and looked me straight in the eye, and said “Thank you so much.” It’s having that positive, memorable experience. She looked at me and thanked me for providing them this space. Having a brick-and-mortar nowadays is rare. How often do you see things like this in the cities now? It’s even more of a unique experience to go into a shop and get something you want and like. It’s become even more important than ever before.”



V Boutique - Days at the shop




I want to draw attention to that “brick and mortar” Renee mentioned. This really resonates as one of VenturaVie’s core values. It is about making those foundational connections with people and forming a network – not necessarily a corporate one, but a human one. Connecting on a really grounding level, where you meet people’s needs to know one another, is so essential. Another wonderful example of this through VenturaVie was their virtual HiVe program, created during Covid.


Like many small businesses, V Boutique was hit hard by Covid-19 and had to close up shop – of course, this never stopped them! I had the pleasure of speaking with Cheryl Mussachia, a volunteer, friend, and colleague of VenturaVie who has been involved closely with the non-profit since the beginning. She told me that VenturaVie’s V Boutique HiVe community worked together online with different kinds of outreach work, which included ...making face masks for the nurses… doing Zoom salons… and creating Covid capsule clothing. Cheryl said the Covid capsules were outfits put together with masks as accessories during the pandemic. VenturaVie was able to adapt and teach their interns new skills such as sewing, and how to be resilient and adaptable during these extremely difficult and unprecedented situations. I find this truly inspiring, and yet another testament to the power of outreach and community.


This collective power doesn’t end with VenturaVie and V Boutiques’ shop programs, but also with the surrounding community on a broader scale. From Marissa Pho, a former intern and current volunteer/colleague of Ventura Vie, I was able to learn about some of V Boutique/VenturaVie's programs: such as an annual walk with the local community. “One day out of the year we have a walk at Fisherman’s Wharf. We’ll open the shop with donuts and coffee, anyone can come. It’s a fun experience – just networking, and people of all ages come.” The relationship that VenturaVie has with its community in this way is so important to highlight. Connecting folks from diverse backgrounds, ages, and life experiences is not an easy feat, but it is something that the non-profit strives for with incredible success.


VenturaVie/V Boutique Community Mentoring Walk


I also want to dedicate some space to the efforts made by Cheryl Murray, a longtime supporter and friend of VenturaVie who I unfortunately was not able to interview at this time. Cheryl participated and was instrumental in the virtual Sunday Salons set up during Covid. She also suggested the art and poetry created by VenturaVie in lockdown and turned it into a beautifully published book, which came to fruition through a local grant. Many of these books were sold, and proceeds made from the books were given to a group called Doll’s Clan. This is a women’s collective in South America that uses graffiti art to communicate creatively regarding issues of domestic violence and sex trafficking.


These books are still available for purchase, and you can see the digital copy of the book here.

Virtual Sunday Salon




“When I was a child I would be in my closet, having ‘transactions’ with people and clothes, and loved it. Now I have that for real and I think it’s a really good idea to listen to your inner voice and inner child. Sometimes you forget about that inner child.”


Victoria Zitrin and Matisse


I wanted to conclude with the quote above that I really resonated with from Victoria herself. At large, no matter what you pursue, we always carry our inner child with us and I have personally found it to be a powerful guiding force when I tune into it. I wanted this to be a reminder of the incredible things listening to that voice can create – just look at what VenturaVie has become!


VenturaVie continues to create free space for both live and virtual events.

Check here for upcoming events: VenturaVie Events.



A public charity,501(c) Fed Tax ID #82-4546535

















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