People Who Give Us Hope: Christine Pielenz and Bill Laven of Potrero Nuevo Farm

Potrero Nuevo Farm, located eight miles south of Half Moon Bay and one mile inland from the Pacific Ocean, was established in 2008 by Christine Pielenz and Bill Laven. Their vision of a charitable farm based on healthy soil, healthy food and wildlife habitat that provides food to those in need is the fulfillment of social justice work they had been doing together for many years.

Ensuring Farming Through the Ages

Potrero Nuevo Farm is the first farm on the coastside to permanently protect its 300 acres of farm fields and pastures through an affirmative agricultural conservation easement with Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) in 2015. The easement permanently protects the natural resources of the property and ensures that a portion of the land stays in agricultural production, including row crops and grazing. Christine and Bill’s estate plans provide that the farm will be passed on to POST.

Sharing the Farm’s Bounty in Support of a Just and Equitable Food System

In a unique partnership with Abundant Grace Coastside Worker (AGCW), Potrero Nuevo Farm donates use of its farmland, farm equipment, seed and other materials, as well as harvest support. AGCW employs homeless people to plant, grow, and harvest over 20,000 pounds of fresh, organic food at Potrero Nuevo Farm each year. All of the farm’s fruits and vegetables are distributed at no cost to low-income families at three locations on the coastside.

In addition to their regular farm program, AGCW offers a Farm Apprenticeship program at Potrero Nuevo where participants are mentored in specific skills including irrigation, greenhouse management, orchard care, and farm machinery maintenance and operations. A Conservation Crew also works on land stewardship projects that address soil conservation, carbon sequestration, invasive species removal and erosion control.

Rising to a New Challenge

One of the critical limiting factors that coastside farmers face is a reliable water supply. Each farm is wholly dependent upon local sources of water – coastal streams or on-site wells. During drought years such as 2020-21 these local sources can become problematic and even nonexistent. This past summer, Potrero Nuevo’s well water supply dried up which necessitated greatly curtailing their usually bountiful field crops.

Through the San Mateo Resource Conservation District, Christine and Bill are pursuing grant funds to build an off-stream pond that will be filled during the winter rainy season. Water stored in the pond can then be used during the dry summer months for drip irrigation on the farm’s field crops. They are hopeful that the new off-stream pond will soon provide greater security for the farm so the full circle of charitable work in partnership with AGCW and its full circle of bountiful harvest and food justice will continue to thrive.

At this time of year when we reflect on the seasons and our relationship to the land upon which we all depend, we salute Christine Pielenz and Bill Laven for their vision and dedication to sustainable farming and a more just and equitable world. For more information, please visit the farm’s website and that of AGCW.

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