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May 2020

Appreciating Agriculture: Now More Than Ever

TomatoesAs part of its core mission, the Open Space Authority works to protect not only natural areas, but also our region’s incredible agricultural lands and their heritage. The Authority is committed to partnering with the Santa Clara Valley agricultural community to conserve and steward these invaluable working lands and their many essential benefits, so that they can support all of us. The Santa Clara Valley Agricultural Plan lays out a strategy for protecting local farms and ranches, and the Authority continues to work closely with Santa Clara County on implementation of that plan.

In the midst of global health concerns, we are especially grateful for the local farmers and farm workers who continue to feed our communities, even while facing uncertainty about their markets.

Sam Thorp, of Spade & Plow Organics, is thankful that the small size of their operation has allowed them to adapt during this time. “As a small farm, with a small number of workers, we have been able to respond to the crisis pretty easily and keep our team safe,” Thorp says.

Small farms that distribute regionally have shown much greater resilience to the impacts of COVID-19 by selling at farmer’s markets and through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm boxes. The timely Small Farms Report from the Santa Clara County Food Systems Alliance makes the case for supporting small family farms that can help us weather crises like COVID-19 as well as climate change.

Like grocery stores, most of California’s 750 certified farmers' markets remain open, as they are recognized as essential food outlets. Specifically, local farmers’ markets offer additional important benefits, such as nutrient-rich produce, open air environments that allow for social distancing, and food that is handled at a lower rate than in the commercial system. Farmers’ market associations are also requiring that people take additional measures to protect themselves and others, like wearing face masks, spreading out, and only sending one shopper per household.

“To protect farmers' market customers, we started picking out produce for the customers," Thorp says of Spade & Plow's market booths. "It seems this practice has spread around the Bay Area. It has resulted in better customer relationships as we can ask customers about their preferences and pick out the best produce for them.” 

If you are comfortable doing so, we encourage continuing to support these local farms and businesses. Find a list of open markets and information about additional health and safety measures from the California Farmers' Markets Association, Urban Village Markets, and Pacific Coast Farmers' Market Association. Another way to get healthy food while supporting local ag is to sign up for CSA boxes. In this subscription-based system, members receive produce boxes straight from farms, which can be picked up from a nearby location or delivered straight to the home on a regular basis. Check out our list of farms that offer CSA boxes, and read the rest of this article here.

Community Connections: Anna Pascual

Community Connections highlights the many leaders, partners, and neighbors who make a difference in our community. This month we are featuring Anna Pascual, Educational Outreach Coordinator at the Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Center (W.E.R.C.), an organization that provides rehabilitation services for orphaned, injured, and sick native wildlife.

When Anna Pascual was in junior high school, she remembers seeing an educational live animal presentation in her science class. An organization came in and brought rehabilitated wildlife that the students could see up close and learn about their native habitats. “I remember thinking, ‘How can I do that job?’”

Anna PascualMore than a decade later, Pascual is living her childhood dream and helping to teach the next generation about wildlife on behalf of Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Center (W.E.R.C.), a Morgan Hill-based organization that arranges medical and rehabilitation services for orphaned, injured, and sick native animals with a goal of releasing them back into the wild. As part of the organization’s educational outreach, Pascual teaches lessons about wildlife issues at schools, libraries, and community events usually joined by one or more charismatic instructional companions including “Leilani,” an opossum, “Tara,” a burrowing owl, or “Zorro,” a turkey vulture. These animal “Educational Ambassadors,” are former rehabilitation clients of the W.E.R.C. program, but due to the extent of their injuries or loss of habitat or social structures, they can no longer survive on their own in the wild. Instead, they are cared for by staff while helping to educate the public about wildlife and habitat conservation.

While these presentations are typically in South County, a thriving partnership with Open Space Authority helped the organization expand its outreach and host classes all around Santa Clara County.

Pascual, a Morgan Hill native, began volunteering with W.E.R.C. in 2002. In 2004, she left to pursue her Animal Health Science Degree at Cal Poly Pomona and returned to W.E.R.C. in 2011 to become the organization’s Educational Outreach Coordinator. She loves to see people light up when they see animals up close. “Kids connect so much more with live animals,” she says, noting that connecting with wildlife as children can make people lifelong advocates for conservation.

While Pascual and her colleagues love connecting in-person, in the time of shelter in place, they’ve started adapting their educational programs to bring them online. The Authority organized a livestream program with W.E.R.C. in March and will be hosting another one focused on nocturnal animals on May 11

Read more about Pascual and see more amazing animal photos from W.E.R.C. here.

Urban Open Space Corner: Building a Green Gateway to San Jose

One day soon, when you are driving on Highway-87 past downtown San Jose, you’ll see bright rows of California poppies pointing the way to Guadalupe River Park & Gardens.

Facebook - GRPC - PoppiesA new project, organized by the nonprofit Guadalupe River Park Conservancy and funded by the Authority’s Urban Grant Program, is working to both beautify this city park and clarify the boundaries with attractive and wildlife-friendly split rail wooden fencing, new signage, and native wildflowers. The construction is two-thirds of the way completed; the last elements will include a final stretch of fencing, decorative signage, and planting poppy seeds along the perimeter.

More than 50 volunteers have done this work, literally sowing the seeds to beautify and protect the park. The volunteer teams were led by longtime Guadalupe River Park Conservancy partners and construction experts, Rebuilding Together and Habitat for Humanity. Other corporate and organizational teams, including staff from San Jose Water, have volunteered their time to help out.

In the future, the Conservancy plans to add pathways and interpretive signage that will enhance the connectivity of this open space, and further engage neighbors and members of the community to create a longer-term vision for the park.

Read more about this project here.

Who Am I?

Who Am I?

Powerful jaws, elongated body, and bony scales...some might say I resemble a mini dinosaur. I am a large lizard that can be found in a variety of California habitats, including grassland, chaparral, and oak woodlands - and even suburban yards and garages! Who am I?

Help Us Treat Nature with Kindness

Sierra Vista - Open Road - DN- 5-18-2016 - 60-1

People are connecting with nature like never before! One of the best ways to keep ourselves healthy is to spend time being active outdoors, and there is no better time to appreciate all that nature provides us.

We recognize that during this time, many preserve visitors are new to the trails and may not be familiar with natural area guidelines. Along with health precautions, including social distancing, please familiarize yourself with these basic rules if you visit a preserve at any time.

Preserve Guidelines

Join Us for Virtual Nature Events this Spring!

Livestream Hike

This spring, the Open Space Authority and our partners are bringing you a full calendar of virtual, livestreamed outdoor events and programs to keep you connected to nature from the comfort of your own home. Tune in for tours of parks, preserves, and urban open spaces, wellness activities, art lessons, live animal presentations, plant walks, and more!

If you are not able to watch a program live, all events will be uploaded as full recordings for you to enjoy at any time. See our Virtual Events Calendar for a list of upcoming events and recordings of past programs.

Virtual Events Calendar

Celebrate World Turtle Day!

Pond Turtle

Did you know May 23 is World Turtle Day? The Western Pond Turtle is California's only native freshwater turtle species. They are endangered, but our work in open space protection and habitat restoration is helping to keep this species here for the long haul. Check out our recent Coyote Valley Reptile and Amphibian Linkage Study to learn more.

Learn More

Who Am I? Answer


I am the Alligator Lizard! Alligator Lizards have very long tails which can break off when threatened, a defense behavior exhibited by many lizard species. Unlike other reptiles, Alligator Lizards do not typically bask in the sun out in the open and instead prefer sunny spots with nearby cover.

Photo Credits

Tomatoes - Authority Archives
Anna Pascual - Ron Horii, Authority Docent
Guadalupe Gardens Poppies - Guadalupe River Park Conservancy
Alligator Lizard - Ellen Stearnes
Family Hikers - Derek Neumann, Authority Staff
Livestream Hike - Annamarie Pilon, Authority Staff
Turtle - Cait Hutnik, Authority Docent
Alligator Lizard - Cait Hutnik, Authority Docent

Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority | 408.224.7476 |