Mountain View Voice

News - July 23, 2010

Google couple saves Deer Hollow farm — for now

by Emily Hamilton

Thanks to a recent $35,000 donation from Google co-founder Sergey Brin and his wife Anne Wojcicki, co-founder of 23andMe, Deer Hollow farm isn't likely to be forced to close in the next two years.

"It means we're safe," says Sue Gale, president of the Friends of Deer Hollow Farm.

Gale calls Deer Hollow a "wonderful, magical place." Nestled in the hills of Rancho San Antonio County Park, it is a place for learning and fun, she says.

The farm, one of the last homestead farms in California, is owned by the Mid-Peninsula Open Space District, but is largely operated by the City of Mountain View, and the city can no longer guarantee funding. The grant from the Brin Wojcicki Foundation, along with an earlier $25,000 gift from an anonymous donor, will help the Friends bridge the gap in the farm's operational budget deficit.

Deer Hollow is primarily an outdoor classroom, where local kids can learn about farming and the environment. Participants in the various wilderness camps learn about where their food comes from, the proper care of animals, and the interdependence of all life, Gale says.

The farm is also well-known for its Ohlone program, designed to educate youth about the land's native people. The farm has an Ohlone "village" set up year-round in the Quail Garden. Campers tour the village, playing Ohlone games with walnuts or painting their faces with colored rocks.

Mountain View elementary students attend at least one field trip to Deer Hollow. As a non-profit organization, the Friends pay for half of the program participants, as well as funding a nature center and paying for farm improvements.

"Our organization exists to preserve and protect the farm," Gale says. She has been the Friends' president for about a year, though she has been involved since 2003. She's out on the farm at least once every week.

"Anyone who goes out there returns again and again," she says.

With 230 classes each year, Deer Hollow has something to teach everyone.

"It's a family place," Gale says.

Though the farm is safe for now, the Friends will have to use this time to look for other sources of funding, Gale says.

"It would have been so sad if they had closed it," she says.

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