Farmer Spotlight: Helena Sylvester Farms Sustainably for the Next Generation

From by Katie Opalinska
Farmer Spotlight: Helena Sylvester Farms Sustainably for the Next Generation

Hello, my name is Helena Sylvester of Happy Acre Farm and I've been a farmer for five years. 

I grow organic mixed row crops on two and a half acres at my farm in Sunol, California. 

Sustainable farming practices are important to me because it is the way people have farmed successfully for generations, giving back after they have taken, and making sure the next generation has fertile land to grow on. 

My favorite thing about being a farmer is my office - working outside with the wind on my face and sun on my back, and getting to see the full plant life cycle from seed to harvest. 

My farmer idols or superheros are Lily from Shooting Star CSA and Andrea of Quarter Acre Farm because they are kick ass lady farmers who are running successful businesses. 

My favorite song to listen to on the farm is "Push It" by Salt & Pepper. 

When I'm not farming, I like to hike, swim, and make delicious meals with great friends. 

My favorite things to grow are onions and tomatoes; it's really hard to choose! 

My favorite thing to eat is toast and avocado, and whatever we are harvesting at the farm. 

If I could change one thing about the food system, it would be to have more support of small farms, and more accessibility of fresh produce for low income neighborhoods. 

Something you don't know about me is I have a secret desire to be a tap dancer. 

If I could tell the world one thing about what being a farmer is like, it would be that it is a thankless job with long hours and lots of hard work - but it is a beautiful lifestyle with amazing food and a great community. 

I am reducing post-harvest losses by processing market leftovers, donating to local food banks, and composting. 

I conserve water on my farm by using drip irrigation and running post harvest cleaning water through some hedge rows. 

Climate change is affecting my farm through planting times. Last year our cover crop was planted later than expected due to early rains, and this year we will have to pay close attention to weather for when we can start getting the tractor in the ground. 

One thing I'm doing to protect the environment on my farm is hedgerows for beneficial insects and other farm friendly critters. 

I think we need more young people involved in farming because the future needs real food.

One thing I'm doing to create healthy soil on my farm is cover crop! 

One thing I'm doing to prevent erosion from my farm is cover crop, and successive plantings to keep the top soil covered. 

The most difficult thing about sustainable farming is you are at the mercy of mother nature. 

I did not always know I would be a farmer. I chose the agricultural life because I wanted to make a change in the food system. 

Others in my family are not involved in farming or agriculture. I work with my husband. We are first generation farmers, unless you can count my dad working as a peach inspector for one summer in the 1970s. 

The following resources, programs, or organizations are most valuable on my farm: Fruit Guys Community Fund, Farmers Guild, Kitchen Table Advisors, and Farmlink! 

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