Farm of the Month: Happy Acre Farm

January 2018 marked the beginning of our "Farm of the Month" series on the Tend Blog, where we highlight the amazing work and delicious produce and food that small organic farms are producing across the country. December’s featured farm is Happy Acre Farm in Sunol, California owned by Helena and Matthew Sylvester. Check back in 2019 for new farms featured every month. To be considered for our series, please email [email protected].

Owner/Manager Name: Helena & Matthew Sylvester
Location: Sunol, CA
Website: www.happyacrefarm.com
Number of Employees: 3
Acreage: 3.5 acres
Specialties of the Farm: Tomatoes and greens



How did you get into farming?
I got into farming after becoming interested in locally-grown food and small farms. When I first started growing vegetables, small scale on our studio apartment lanai, which led to an experience WWOOFing on the Big Island of Hawaii, I just could believe how simple it was. You plant a seed, water it, and it grows, and you can eat it and you can save the seeds and start again. And yet, when I dove deeper, the complexities of the simplicity were so intriguing to me - I found devouring books about gardening and farming, scouring the web for more farms to visit and people to talk to, it was all I could talk about.

Tell us about the story of your farm – how did you (and your farm partner) get started? What was that like? What challenges did you encounter?
Happy Acre Farm is the culmination of a lot of hard work, planning, learning as we go and, honestly, ignorance. When we started I had no idea how challenging the record-keeping and bookkeeping would be, and that was probably a huge benefit - I didn't know what I couldn't achieve. Year one, we started on one acre, and it was me, my brother and Matthew on the weekends - he was still working a full-time office job. That didn't last long. Midway through the season, he quit his job and jumped into farming full-time. Neither of us have formal education in agriculture, nor do we have a family member who farms; but we had (and still have) a passion for farming, some experience working on other farms and at markets, and the ability to be flexible when things don’t go as planned.



What are some important things you’ve learned since you started at your farm?
Some things are out of your control, and the sooner you accept that and make the most of it rather than dwell on what could have been done better. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, from neighbors, peers or even social media.

What is the most challenging aspect given the location of your farm?
The location of our farm would be great for a farm stand - we're on the urban edge near a commuter route - but we haven't figured out how to make that a possibility just yet.

What do you love about your community that makes it a special place to farm?
It’s our community. We grew up in the Bay Area, we see friends, family, old classmates, teachers, former teammates, kids we used to babysit - and even the occasional ex.

Name something you would love to grow that you haven't tried or been able to grow yet?
Ginger.

Where do you see your farm 10 years from now?
There are a few roads we could travel down, for now we have a 5-year plan and we'll see which road that points us down.



What are a few of your favorite farming pro tips?
Trust your gut first, google second.

Who are your greatest farming influencers?
Our favorite go-to farmers will probably always be farmers Lily and Matt formerly of Shooting Star CSA. Aside from them, I am really inspired seeing all the farms we've been able to connect with on instagram. Seeing all the different methods, varieties, climates, yields - it’s all so inspiring.

How has Tend helped your business?
Its helped us better predict the estimated crop yield, and plan for our different sales routes accordingly.

What are some of the greatest challenges, for your farm, that you have overcome? How?
Farming is a physically and mentally tough job, and an everyday job - farming with your spouse takes it to the next level. We've had to learn how to 'turn it off' and not talk about the farm 24/7 (well, we try at least). Having good communication, clear division of duties and the same expectations helps - as does a sense of humor.




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