On Tuesday, May 18, 2021, the East Bay Regional Park District Board of Directors unanimously approved a 5-year lease with Dig Deep Farms to continue organic heritage farming at the Park District’s 205-acre Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont. Dig Deep Farms is a nonprofit enterprise of the Alameda County Deputy Sheriffs’ Activities League. Ardenwood Historic Farms has been operation by J.E. Perry Farms since the mid-1980s. J.E. Perry Farms ceased operations in 2020 due to retirement.
Ardenwood Historic Farms is a working farm that provides a journey back to the 1850s Patterson Ranch – a prosperous, 19th-century country estate with a beautiful Victorian mansion and elaborate Victorian Gardens. The farm still grows the same kind of produce grown in the region over the last 100 years, utilizing historical agricultural practices from the 1870s to present. Park District interpretive staff and volunteers guide guests through the Victorian house, demonstrate historical farming practices and chores, and describe what life was like in the early 1900s. Ardenwood receives over 120,000 visitors annually.
“The lease is an important step to continue the historical farming at Ardenwood and provide the public, especially youngsters, an opportunity to learn about the history of science and agriculture and what life was like in the late 1800s and early 1900s,” said Ayn Wieskamp, who represents Fremont on the East Bay Regional Park District Board of Directors. “The farming operation provides the mechanical labor that produces all of the traditional heritage fruits and vegetables, all of which helps educate visitors about the history of agriculture in the region.”
Ardenwood Historic Farm is owned by the City of Fremont and operated by the Park District on a long-term management lease. Established in the 1996 Ardenwood Business Plan, the purpose of Ardenwood Historic Farm is to preserve agricultural land, provide an opportunity to demonstrate historical and current farming practices, and offer educational, cultural, and recreational opportunities to the community related to historical and heritage farming and horticultural practices. The Park District’s 2005 Land Use Plan for Ardenwood Historic Farm requires preservation of the land through agricultural use.
"I would like to first express my thanks to the members of the East Bay Regional Park District Board of Directors for awarding the lease agreement to Dig Deep Farms to operate Ardenwood Farms,” said Alameda County Supervisor Richard Valle. “Alameda County has invested in and partnered with Dig Deep Farms and other stakeholders to strengthen the local food system, increase food security, and provide training and employment to disadvantaged residents by building local capacity to harvest, process, and distribute fresh and sustainable specialty crops.”
"Dig Deep Farms uses traditional farming methods and applies years of Certified Organic Farming experience to work harmoniously with the land, minimizing waste and maximizing nutrient rich soil and produce,” added Valle.
Dig Deep Farms is expected to begin site preparations in June, with the first crop harvest in late summer/early fall.
“The Sheriff’s Office, in partnership with the Deputy Sheriffs’ Activities League and members of our community, started Dig Deep Farms 11 years ago because we recognized how public safety was impacted by more than just crime. Public safety includes improvement to issues that include our environment, public health, employment and education, along with the economic development of the area,” said Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern. “We are very excited to now have the East Bay Regional Park District and the historic Ardenwood farm site as partners in building safer and more livable communities.”
The East Bay Regional Park District is the largest regional park system in the nation, comprising 73 parks, 55 miles of shoreline, and over 1,300 miles of trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and environmental education. The Park District receives more than 25 million visits annually throughout Alameda and Contra Costa counties in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Dave Mason, Public Information Supervisor