Earlier this week we mentioned Emma Prusch Farm Park, in San José, where we attended this year’s Scion Exchange.  What I didn’t have a chance to cover was the rest of the park beyond the fruit orchards.

The International Fruit Orchard at Emma Prusch Farm Park

There’s a lot of buzz about ‘Urban Farming’ these days, but Urban Farming is not new.  Although she never intended to be, Emma Prusch became an Urban Farmer of sorts.  She didn’t take up farming in the City as many do today.  Instead, the City of San José grew over the years, and eventually surrounded her family farm.

Emma was born in 1876, to German parents William and Kate Prusch.  From the late 19th Century, the Prusch’s farmed in San José, in an area that was once mostly comprised of farms, and orchards, as difficult as that might be to envision today.

The Prusch family in 1880, in San José Township, with Emma aged 4 years (click image to enlarge)

It’s doubtful that when William and Kate Prusch were raising their family in the 1870s, that they ever would have expected San José to eventually become the third largest city in California.

Remarkably, through the decades of San José’s development and growth, the farm survived.  The old Prusch family farmhouse still stands, now as a park office, and the barns have been recently renovated.

The Prusch Farm Homestead

The 47 acre site that is now Emma Prusch Farm Park,  was once Emma’s dairy. Having never married, and never had children, in 1962 Emma Prusch deeded the property to the City of San José, and asked that the land be preserved as a working farm and park.  In her obituary, recorded in the San Jose Mercury, it was stated that Emma’s wishes were to have “a model farm to remind future generations that their fathers sprang from the land and lived a country life before subdivisions took over the valley“.

Emma Prusch (1876-1969)

Emma originally bequeathed 86.5 acres of land to the City.  The State took almost 28 acres when Interstate 280 was constructed behind the farm, and a further 11.3 acres was subsequently converted into a baseball diamond for the Police Athletic League.   The remaining 47 acres today though are what is now Emma Prusch Farm Park.

We’re so grateful Emma had the foresight to set this land aside, and surely if she were to walk through the grounds today, she’d be proud of what remains.  As much as we’d like to think that farms this size might become a thing of the future, the direction of modern agriculture instead is making farms this size virtually extinct, so this park provides a unique opportunity for children in the inner city to truly experience a working farm, the way it used to be, just as Emma had wished.

I’m sure if Emma Prusch’s parents were to walk through the City today, they’d be astounded at what has grown up around the farm.  Malls, freeways, busy streets.

If you look behind the tractor, behind the goat barn roof, you can see a glimpse of the Hwy 101/I-280 freeway interchange in the upper left corner

Fortunately though, Emma’s legacy is that even in the 21st Century this park remains, and affords the public, especially children, an opportunity to enjoy the property she cherished, as they learn about growing vegetables, or raising farm animals, and the farm has lots of animals to interact with.

If only Curbstone Valley was this flat!

In the midst of all the city chaos it’s easy to forget for a moment where you are.

When we first arrived at the park, we were greeted by one of many resident park roosters.

It's quite likely if you visit the Park, that you'll be greeted at your car by a rooster!

Roosters and cities generally don’t mix. Cities that permit the raising of hens, usually have ordinances banishing roosters, because of the noise.  Personally I’d rather listen to a rooster crowing than a car alarm, but that’s what I’m used to these days.

San José does permit the raising of up to 6 hens in residential neighborhoods, but like most cities roosters are strictly forbidden.  Fortunately for these roosters, the Park is not in a residential district.

In addition to the rooster in the parking lot, we then met this rooster just outside of the building where the scion exchange was being held.

"Please, don't bug me, I'm busy..."

He clearly was rummaging in the soil for bugs and grubs, and quite oblivious to our presence.

Another group of young roosters was gathered in the middle of the International Fruit Orchard among some citrus.

"We're supposed to be here, honest!"

This handsome group was being fed near the children’s playground.  It was quite fun to just sit and watch all these birds wandering around.

A rather dapper looking group, including what appears to be a handsome Dominique rooster on the right

As we walked around the park, it became more evident just how special this refuge is in the midst of a metropolis.  Watching children playing on the swings, and running around the huge open field in the center of park, they all seemed to take it in stride, many didn’t even seem to notice the birds, like they are just part of everyday life.  How wonderful is that?  I wonder if they’ll realize when they grow up how special this park was?

"Pssst...that lady is lookin' at us funny, you'd think she never saw a chicken in a water fountain before"

After we’d collected our scions, we’d heard rumors of goats over in the children’s animal area, so of course, I had to investigate for myself.  I’m quite short, maybe nobody would notice if I snuck in for a peek.  As we walked through the gate we were first greeted by a small group of rather gregarious Muscovy Ducks.

"Personally, I think I'm rather handsome. Don't you?"

Just beyond the ducks we found a pot-bellied pig, snoozing in the sun.

This is Rachel, she seemed to be enjoying the warm sunshine

I wonder if Rachel knows how lucky she is to live here?

The larger animals each have a sign, with their name, and little information about their breed

Rachel has a friend Hamlet, but he was sleeping in, so we didn’t get to meet him.

Hamlet was a little camera shy

On the fence in front of the goat barn, we found this fine fellow.

Nothing says 'farm' like a rooster in the barn yard

A young rooster, presumably a Black Australorp, who doesn’t quite have his spurs yet. He was terribly friendly.

"Of course you may take my photograph"

We found the goats, who were out enjoying the sun, and not particularly interested in us at first.

Nom Nom Nom...

Note to self, do not build a feeder that the goat can stand in!  Typical of goats, if they can stand in it, or on it, they will!

We looked over toward the goat barn door, and found Mathilda Milkshake.

"Hello, I'm Mathilda Milkshake, pleased to meet you"

Isn’t she adorable with her floppy ears?  According to Mathilda’s sign, she’s a Nigerian Dwarf, but those ears suggest she is more Nubian than Nigerian.  Nevertheless, she was a very sweet goat.

"Oh, you look interesting, do you have any treats?"

This is Mrs. Oldie Sour Cream, who decided we might be worth investigating after all.

Then Emma Crema Friday came to see what all the fuss was about.

"You're taller than most of the people we see in here. Did you bring food?"

To the left of the goats is a small pond, which I forgot to take a photograph of because my lens was distracted by this pair of city slicker guinea fowl.

"Uh oh, another one with a camera, let's go hide"

As we made it beyond the goats and guineas we found the Toulouse Geese resting in sun just beyond the pond.  I’d forgotten how noisy geese are, not to mention how pushy they can be.

"Hmmm...I see humans, I wonder if they brought change?"

Just beyond the geese, a glimpse of the livestock barn.  I suddenly had a serious case of barn envy.

Our entire house would fit in this barn, more than once!

What we couldn’t do with a barn that big!  In fact, the barn at Prusch Park is the largest free-standing barn in San José.  Local 4H members use the barn to raise their farm animals, including steers, goats, pigs, and sheep, right in the heart of the City.

Dragging ourselves away from the barn, we turned back toward the goats, and suddenly found the geese in hot pursuit of Mr. Curbstone, well…his shoes at least.

"I'm so hungry I could eat a shoe! Do you think he'd mind?"

The geese were smarter than us.  What we didn’t realize at first is we were walking toward the treat dispenser.

If you visit the park, be sure to bring some extra change, or the geese might eat your shoelaces!

For 25 cents, visitors can retrieve a handful of chicken feed.

"Hey Buddy, don't listen to the duck! The geese get fed first, ok?"

The birds were clearly all conditioned to come running as soon as one’s hand plunges into a pocket to reach for a quarter.  Mr. Curbstone was mobbed before he even had a chance to put the coin in the slot!  Don’t get me wrong though, it doesn’t look like anyone here has ever missed a meal.

There is also a dispenser with goat feed in it, and yes, I couldn’t resist feeding the goats.  If you ever venture to Prusch Park, be sure to come prepared, and bring along a few extra quarters.

As we walked back by the goats, we found a contented Mathilda dozing in the warm sun with a friend.

"Can you keep watch? I'm sleepy after that snack..."

As we said goodbye to Rachel on the way toward the gate (she hadn’t moved an inch the entire time we were there), this little fellow came running up to us along Rachel’s fence rail.

"Hi there, do I remind you of anyone?"

If you gave him a pea comb, and super-sized him, he’d look almost exactly like our own rooster, Frodo, feathered feet and all. He was so friendly, you almost wanted to pick him up.  If we walked left along the fence, he followed us.  We turned and walked right, he followed us again.  No doubt hoping that one of us had at least an extra quarter hiding in a pocket somewhere.

"I'll just wait here while you look for some more change"

As much fun as we had going to the Scion Exchange that morning, I think I had more fun hanging out with our new friends.  I highly recommend a visit if you’re in the neighborhood, it’s an excellent place to bring children of all ages, and there are lots of picnic facilities within the park.

One picnic area, near the barn, is appropriately named 'rooster row'

If you go though, don’t forget to look up occasionally, you never know who might be perched on a roof above you.

This pea hen found a quiet place, up high, away from the geese

The park offers a number of educational programs for children, and hosts a summer camp from May through August where children can tend the vegetable gardens, and learn to care for the animals.  For more information, see here.

A variety of heirloom vegetables are grown in Emma's Kitchen Garden

Thanks to Emma Prusch this wonderful piece of South Bay farming history has escaped further development, and provides a glimpse of San José’s farming past, just as she hoped.  We intend to return soon, as we didn’t get a chance on this visit,  to see what’s growing in Emma’s Heirloom Kitchen Garden…

"Are you sure you want to leave?"

…and of course, we’ll be sure to stop back for another visit with the farm’s animals too.


Emma Prusch Farm Park is located at 647 S. King Road, San José, Ca 95116.  The park is open 8am-sunset Tues-Sun.  Closed Mondays.