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