Lessons from the farmFollowing last week's decisive 6-1 vote to halt any more discussion of zoning the Grant Road farm property for agriculture, up to 77 new homes will sprout on the property, rather than corn, beans or pumpkins.
During a tension-laden discussion last week, the council, in some cases reluctantly, shot down the Farmlands Group's proposal to zone only 10 of the parcel's 15 acres for housing. In that scheme, a third of the property would have been set aside for a demonstration farm (modeled after the original farm there, which had been in operation for nearly two decades), surrounded by up to 44 new homes.
But that doesn't mean that the idea for a farm has to die on the vine. During the spirited discussion before the council last week, it appeared that there could be support for finding a city-owned parcel to establish a farm, perhaps in the same mold that the Farmlands Group envisioned at Grant Road.
And why not? In the high-tech world of Mountain View, which encompasses Google and other bright lights of Silicon Valley, a working farm or orchard would demonstrate to our children and many others what this land was like before the microchip took over.
The legacy we have from the Farmlands Group is the germ of an idea that continues to focus attention on our heritage, and on how the world worked in the days when farmers tilling the fields or large tracts of fruit trees were the economic engines of the community.
A smaller version of the Grant Road farm — or even a more crop-intensive model, as seen at places like Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont — could be an excellent use of a small piece of vacant city property.
The interest piqued by the Farmlands Group's proposal shows once again how eager many residents are to support small farming enterprises that can bring fresh vegetables and fruit to market during the summers. For more evidence of this, look at the great success of the Mountain View Farmers Market and similar markets up and down the Peninsula.
For many reasons, including the critical question of how the owners would be compensated if they were forced to "donate" valuable property to establish a farm, the Farmlands Group's plan fell short. But the idea may survive in another setting, using city property. If that effort materializes, all their work may not go to waste.