Sunset Ridge Fine Fruits has been a strong supporter of Sierra Harvest and the Harvest of the Month program for several years. This month farmer Greg Lewis sold 600 lbs of local, and organic Cara Cara pink navels and blood oranges to Grass Valley Child Nutrition Services (GVCNS) and 40 pounds for the high schools for taste testing and California Thursdays menus. Sierra Harvest spoke with him about his farm and his involvement with the community.
Sierra Harvest (SH): Tell me about your orchard – what are you growing?
Greg Lewis (GL): We have a 20-acre farm that is 70% citrus: Satsuma mandarins, Tango mandarins, Cara Cara pink navel, blood oranges, navel oranges, Minneola Tangelo, Meyer and Eureka lemons, Red Flame grapefruit. We also grow other types of fruits: apples, Asian pears, plums, pluots, pomegranates, and apricots.
SH: How did you get into growing fruit?
GL: Farmer blood has run deep in our family for four generations. I was in construction for 20 years, in the ministry for 15 years, but that farmer blood kept calling, so in 1999 we started a farm in Newcastle, a mile from where I grew up. It’s a modern-day homestead. We turned 20 acres of weeds into orchards, a couple of houses, and a barn. My four kids and my wife – we all worked on it together.
Our farm store is open for three months (November-January) for U-pick. We welcome families for picnics, and exploring the orchard. Kids get to learn what it is like to tromp around in the mud, and pick their own fruit. We do school tours, both self-guided (free) and if you pay $5/kid you get a tour from a farm manager, learn about why we are organic, and go home with fresh-squeezed juice.
SH: Why are you organic?
GL: It’s part of our philosophy of taking care of the environment. We wanted wholesome, clean fruit for our own family and families in our community. We want to produce healthy soil, which produces healthy fruit.
SH: How did you get connected with Sierra Harvest and GVCNS?
GL: Malaika Bishop knew about us through Mountain Bounty – we provide fruit for their CSA program. She started talking to me, and I was excited that we were kindred spirits, me growing it, Sierra Harvest turning people on to good, wholesome, organic food. I started supporting Sierra Harvest financially, and by donating fruit. Amanda Thibodeau reached out to me to buy fruit for Harvest of the Month, and connected me with Suzanne Grass at GVCNS. I’ve been providing fruit for the Harvest of the Month program for three years now. This year, Sierra Harvest’s Food Corps Service Member Sara Lieber suggested that I provide fruit for the GVCNS Nevada Joint Union High School District CA Thursdays program so on Jan. 26th, my fruit will be tasted by almost 10,000 students in Western Nevada County and it will be served in their school lunch.
SH: How are these relationships helping your business?
GL: Any time you connect with the end user (school system, parents, local customers), they learn about local farms that are producing crops that they are excited about, and it’s a win-win for all of us.