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Utopian Experiment

Potrero Nuevo Farm is located just south of Half Moon Bay, about a mile east of the Coast Highway. I pick vegetables, berries, herbs and flowers there on Monday afternoons as a member of the UPick Club. I like to joke that the farm is a utopian experiment – a successful one.


I became acquainted with PNF when one of it’s owners, Bill Laven, contacted me to ask if I knew about its history. Before it was Potrero Nuevo, it was known as “The Bettencourt Place”. Bill had read Wax, and thought I might have inside knowledge of the Bettencourt clan. But my Bettencourts are fictitious; I had no stories to tell.

There’s a new chapter being written at Potrero Nuevo, however. The wonderful old homestead is now providing fresh, organically-grown vegetables to locals in need, through the efforts of dedicated volunteers and charitable organizations, that help professional farmers Jay and Suzie, cultivate and harvest forty different crops from May through November. Proceeds from the UPick Club, the sale of eggs from “pastured” chickens, and the sale of local honey, support the farm operation. Last Monday, the volunteer harvest team sent 150 pounds of fresh produce to local tables. They’re experimenting with pork, and will have their first meat available later this year.


One of my favorite WWII facts is that thirty percent of all produce served on American tables came from victory gardens — crops sown on school lots and in backyards. PNF is supporting 15 UPick families and many other recipient families with two acres in cultivation. Forty crops on two acres; it’s truly an accomplishment. And everything is done beautifully. It’s a joy to be there.


About Author

Therese Ambrosi Smith became fascinated by a remarkable collection of WWII oral histories at the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historic Park, and her debut novel, Wax, was born. Her short fiction has incorporated personal tales of work and travel: climbing mountains, surveying logging roads, designing parks and playgrounds, tending bar and selling fish. She completed the UCLA Writers' Program in June 2009, and is currently embarking on a "tin can camper book tour."