VALLEJO — Loma Vista Farm, a five-acre outdoor classroom in North Vallejo that provides children with hands-on educational activities with plants and animals, will open its grounds to curious visitors on Saturday for its annual Spring Open House.
The open house will be held from 11 a.m to 3 p.m. and feature a puppet show, train rides, a plant sale and fiber arts demonstrations of spinning and weaving wool from the farm’s own sheep. Guests can buy food to feed the sheep, goats and alpacas. The farm is home to two horses, two cows, two pigs, and many birds: ducks, chickens, peacocks and turkeys.
The farm was established in 1974 by a Loma Vista Elementary School teacher to teach students about agriculture. When the Vallejo City Unified School District’s funding was cut in 2003, the community rallied to save the farm and founded a nonprofit, Friends of Loma Vista Farm, the following year. It now provides all of the operational funding for the farm in partnership with the school district.
“What's very special about this school district program is that it is also very much a part of the community,” Rita “Farmer Rita” LeRoy, a teacher at the farm, said. “We have a constant flow of parents and grandparents bringing in their children and grandchildren to walk around and enjoy seeing the plants and animals.”
TJ Walkup’s daughter Aurora has been visiting Loma Vista Farm since she was a toddler. It was her first introduction to nature and the outside world. She dug in the dirt, picked a strawberry, saw a potato come out of the ground, and ran around looking at ducks and goats.
Walkup says the farm is one of the most important places in Vallejo for children who don’t have access to a yard, and whose parents lack the time or the income to take them on trips out of town.
Friends of Loma Vista Farm president Julia Allen says the farm is not just for kids. Adults volunteer or just like to visit. “Older people come out and it's like a sanctuary for them because it's very quiet and it's peaceful and they can enjoy the environment and visit the animals,” Allen said.
Allen’s first exposure to the farm was when she accompanied her own children on a school field trip. “I always thought the farm was a really cool place,” she said. “It taught the kids and exposed them to a lot of really good things.”
One of the things Allen said she loves to hear from parents is that kids learn to enjoy eating vegetables, even spinach, at the farm. “They'll say ‘You know what, my child would not touch anything green until they actually saw where it came from, and they prepared a dish with it, and then they ate it!’” Allen said.
School field trips visit the farm from as far away as St. Helena and Oakland. Students from the neighboring Loma Vista Environmental Science Academy visit the farm weekly as part of their science curriculum.
The “Summer Fun on the Farm” day camp program lets kids be a farmer for a week. There are three one-week sessions in July for kids in grades K-6. Students learn to start seedlings and plant them in the garden, care for the animals, spin wool, press apples into juice and cook with fresh-picked veggies.
Walkup’s daughter loved the summer camp so much she returned every year until she graduated from sixth grade. Some students return as Junior Counselors to help teach.
Friends of Loma Vista Farm raises funds through direct donations, pumpkin sales in the fall and Christmas Tree sales in December. An annual golf tournament fundraiser is scheduled for July 17. The “Mirth and Music” fundraiser on Aug. 26 will feature comedians and live music, and a pasta feed fundraiser will be hosted at the Mare Island Admiral’s Mansion on Sept. 23.
Individuals and businesses can donate by purchasing custom-engraved bricks that will be displayed in projects throughout the farm.
Recent upgrades funded by the nonprofit include a new goat barn, new fencing and Americans with Disabilities Act compliant sidewalks.
The Farm is located at 150 Rainier Ave. and is open to the public from 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, except for holidays.
More information can be found on the Loma Vista Farm and Friends of Loma Vista Farm websites.
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THE VALLEJO SUN NEWSLETTER
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- Vallejo City Unified School District
- Loma Vista Farm
- Rita LeRoy
- TJ Walkup
- Julia Allen
- Loma Vista Environmental Science Academy
Gretchen Zimmermann started volunteering with Vallejo Open Studios in 2010, launched the Vallejo Arts and Entertainment website in 2014 and creates mixed media sculpture at Mare Island Art Studios.
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