Silicon Valley Tour de Coop 2015

At 11 AM on Saturday, September 19, two of my friends and I set out on an adventure to visit some of the urban farms, chicken coops, and gardens of San Jose through the self-guided Silicon Valley Tour de Coop, an annual event organized by Slow Food South Bay in which owners of chicken coops, gardens, and farms submit their homes or farms for entry into the tour. The organizers compile them all together with photos and descriptions and post them on a website for those who have registered for the free event. Participants select which coops they want to visit, which are scattered throughout the entire Silicon Valley area. I had gone through the coops in San Jose and selected my own route, but the organizers also provided possible routes.

Our trusty steeds were our bicycles, and our route was written out on index cards that I had prepared that morning since I don't have a smart phone. Throughout the day, we encountered tomatoes, chickens, eggplants, compost piles, and even ducks and rabbits! We also faced unexpected challenges like a flat tire, a tire-stopping grate of doom, and a seeming dead end on the Guadalupe River Trail. Ultimately, we persevered on to three official stops on the Tour de Coop list (plus one unofficial one--my house) and had a ton of fun. By the end, after 5 hours and 15 miles of exploring coops and gardens, we celebrated our day with well-earned drinks and food at San Pedro Market, inspired by the many urban agriculture oases we had encountered to perhaps embark on our own new gardening adventures.
Our first stop on the Coop Tour was Taylor Street Farm, where the organization Farm to Table is based. On our way there, we got lost on the Guadalupe River Trail, which doesn't have very clear signage to indicate where to go when the trail seemingly dead-ends. We ended up taking city streets to get there. At the farm, we met someone who was able to explain how to get back on the trail for the journey south.

The Farm is tucked away next to a huge bridge--the Taylor Street bridge--and Highway 87, barely visible from the street. They have a community garden that has a U-pick program, where you can pick what you want and pay per pound based on that day's prices. They also sold honey and bread from a local bakery. Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County was also there to answer questions, and I learned that you can email them a photo or call them to ask questions about anything in your garden. What an awesome resource!
Lindsay posing with an eggplant at Taylor Street Farm.
Dana posing with another eggplant.
 Of course, since we were on Tour de Coop, we said hi to their chickens!
The three of us in front of Taylor Street Farm. What a neat place to start the day!

After hopping back onto the Guadalupe River Trail and traveling south, finding our way through the maze of strange detours and dead ends, we went through Willow Glen to visit our second stop on the Coop ride. This coop is called L'Espirit de Coop, and it resides in a beautiful, large backyard. The owners had raised beds, fruit trees, multiple compost systems, and of course, chickens!
 Each of the three hens they have lay different colored eggs!
At each of the coops, we saw other people who were doing their own tours. Often, we saw the same people at the stops.
Ripe figs, which the owner graciously let us enjoy!

As we were leaving L'Espirit de Coop, Dana realized her front tire was flat. Fortunately, I had a spare tube so I swapped it out quickly. The owner of the coop was kind enough to let us borrow her bike pump so I didn't have to hand-pump the tube. And then we were off to a supposedly famous place near highway 680/280 where they have a one-of-a-kind "duck-a-ponics" system, in which the water from the duck pond is used to irrigate crops, similar to aquaponics but with ducks! You can learn more about their system in this article from the San Jose Mercury News.

On the way, I accidentally rode right into one of those horrible storm drains that allows the tire to roll right into it because it doesn't have any crossbars to prevent catastrophe. Fortunately, I managed to make it through without flipping over or flying off my bike, but my back rim got a little dented and my seat got all wobbly. I made sure nothing was broken to the point of making it dangerous, and then we made our way to the Duck-a-ponics place!
The wispy green leaves growing in the lower box are asparagus plants.
 The owners described their spiral herb gardens, modeled after French herb gardens.
They have a traditional aquaponics system, which uses fish. The fish swim around and poop in the water, the water is pumped up into the plants above (no dirt, just rocks and water), then into another set of plants, and then the water that has been filtered by the plants goes back into the fish tank.
And here's the duck-a-ponics system! It uses the same principles as aquaponics, just with ducks. The owners said that many people don't like keeping ducks because you have to filter the duck ponds so they don't become nasty. With duck-a-ponics, the plants filter the water naturally!
Duckton Abbey, where the ducks live
 They also had chickens!
 So many plants everywhere in their backyard
 Look at those duck-poo-fertilized plants!!
 Their vegetable garden was incredibly lush
 Feeding time!
Can you believe how much they have growing on in their backyard? Amazing and inspiring!

Along the way during our ride, we stopped by my house so they could see my garden and worm bin. We had some apples and fed cut-up apple cores to the wormies. I checked on them yesterday, and they were LOVING the apple cores.

After the tour, we went over to San Pedro Market Square for some Vietnamese food and drinks. We sat outside in the warm summer air and shared about our adventures with a couple of Lindsay's friends who joined us. It was a nice way to end a hot, adventurous day!

Thanks to Lindsay and Dana for joining me on the tour!

And thanks for reading,
Green Gal


  1. Thanks for posting this. Now I know what a Tour De Coops is like.

  2. Thanks for posting this info. I just want to let you know that I just check out your site and I find it very interesting and informative. I can't wait to read lots of your posts.
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