Food Love Farm Veggie, Herb and Flower Starts Now Available at our On-line Store!

Food Love Farm plant sales 2020Home gardeners, the Food Love Farm annual plant sale has officially begun! Starting today, we have opened an easy to use on-line store where you can shop at home for the starts you need for your backyard garden.   

If your budget is too tight to buy plant starts – we can help! Thanks to the generosity of the Nevada County Department of Social Services and the The Lee & Dunn Group at Baird, Jon Lee & Janice Dunn, we can provide starts regardless of ability to pay, as long as supplies last.   Contact Farmer Emily to find out how more.

Here’s how easy it is to shop for your plant starts!

  1. Go to our on-line store and begin browsing over 100 varieties of vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers to choose from, all certified organic. 
  2. Choose your favorites, then use our secure payment system to purchase your plants.
  3. Your plants can be picked up at the farm on Saturday, April 25, May 2 or May 9th between 9 – 11am. Your order must be completed by Friday at noon, the day prior, for Saturday pick up. 


The Food Love Farm will have thousands of starts for sale, but don’t forget that many of our local farmers and BriarPatch Food Co-op are currently selling starts as well. Check out the Sierra Harvest Food, Farm & Garden Resources page for more details. 

What Impact has COVID-19had on the Food Love Farm?

We are grateful for our dedicated staff at the Food Love Farm, who have used their flexibility, creativity, and vision to best serve our community during this time.  Typically, the Food Love Farm has hundreds of school children coming out this time of year to participate in spring planting and other fun farm to school educational activities, and we miss the excitement and wonder of those field trips!  But without school groups to manage this spring, our farm staff has shifted more energy into food production for our community and special infrastructure projects that will make education at the farm better than ever. We will keep you posted on Food Love Farm updates, such as “pop up” farm stands, modified community u-picks, summer camp status and new educational features at the farm as we move into the summer season.

Do you miss visiting the farm and our farm educators? Watch Farmer Bri give you a sneak peek at what’s happening at Food Love Farm this week!

How Does Your Garden Grow?

sierra garden install at Washington School 2018Has there ever been a better time to take control of your food security then today?  One way to ensure a steady supply of fresh produce is to grow your own at home. If you don’t know how, the Sierra Harvest Garden program is here to help.

Sierra Gardens began about 9 years ago, in order to address local food insecurity and expand access to fresh organic food in Nevada County. Last year, Sierra Gardens participants grew over 4,000 pounds of fresh produce at home, with 100% reporting they now eat more fresh vegetables in their regular diet. According to program director Edy Cassel, “We expect to build our 100th garden this year”, including a new project at the Nevada County Youth Center, formerly Juvenile Hall. 

The Sierra Gardens program offers several levels of service – from a full garden build, including irrigation and fencing to “toppings only” for those who already have the infrastructure.  All options include two years of garden mentorship and support with veggie starts, seeds, cooking classes and more.  How do you know if this program is right for you? It all begins with an application and a site visit.

Cassel explains that during a site visit, “I come out and evaluate the yard or property to see if there is an appropriate spot for a garden.”  She said, sometimes there is not an appropriate spot so community gardens can be helpful, but if the property allows, the standard garden offered by the program is a 16 x 16-foot plot. Sierra Garden cooking class

“Part of what we do in the program is we provide the plant starts,” explains Cassel. “We go seasonally with the right plants at the right time.  We show up four different times of the year with seedlings and seeds to grow. Ideally, starting in early to mid- April, with cool weather crops like broccoli, cabbage, kale, chard, lettuce, collards, things like that.” 

She added, “We do not try to fill the garden, leaving room from the spring crop to plant summer crops so there is a lot of planning that goes with a garden that size.  We help with where to grow and what to grow.”  Over the course of the year, Sierra Harvest will also incorporate tomato plants, pepper plants, summer squash, winter squash, melons, and a variety of herbs.

The cost of the programs varies, as there are discounted rates for lower income families.  Cassel said, “Anybody who has children in school receiving free or reduced lunch will be eligible for some degree of scholarship. And if you can pay for it on your own, we offer a very reasonable price for all of the products and personalized services.” 

Cassel emphasizes that regular participation is the key to success.  “The people who get the most out of it are the people who take part and attend the classes.  Once you have a garden, it is something you need to engage with on a regular basis,” she said.

Joan Lyons followed Sierra Harvest on social media sites and read about the gardening program – applied online and was a recipient of a garden!  Lyons said it has inspired her and is thrilled to be growing food for her and for her family including a niece with special needs who loves to help in the garden.   “It’s nice to be able to share my bounty” she said, “It feels really good to be able to do it.”

Erin Sorani sierra Garden

Lyons takes part in many of the Sierra Harvest offerings and recently volunteered to be the coordinator of the garden program at her daughter’s school.  “I am really excited about this opportunity.  I really like the community of Sierra Harvest and everyone I have met so far has been really great.  It’s fun to be geeky about gardens!”

While growing food is hugely important, Cassel has seen how the benefits of gardening far exceed food production.  “It addresses other things besides the food.  It is healthy.  It is fun to get out there.  It gives people something to do.  It feeds the body and the soul.”

Applications are available at the Sierra Harvest offices at 313 Railroad Avenue in Nevada City or online.



New Positions for Sierra Harvest Staff Members!

Miriam LimovWe are delighted to share that Miriam Limov, who many of you know as our beloved Engagement Manager, has been hired as our new Farm Institute Associate!  She has been playing many roles at Sierra Harvest over the last five years, and in this new capacity, she will be working with Molly Nakahara to help support and expand our Farm Institute Programs, continue the great work Lauren Scott has done to help more restaurants and institutions buy directly from local farmers, take the lead on the Nevada County Food Policy Council, and continue to manage Soup Night and Farm Potlucks.   

Lauren ScottWe also want to give a heartfelt thanks to Lauren Scott, who has used her passion and creativity for almost 3 years to help do what many thought couldn’t be done – get more fresh, local food served in institutions like school lunches, hospital meals, as well as food banks and local restaurants. We are sad to see her go, but happy she is using her skills at The BriarPatch Food Co-op as their Sustainability Coordinator. 


Grow Your Own Recipe Challenge

Parents, have you found yourself in the role of teacher, principal and cafeteria chef at home?  Here are some fun and fresh ideas from our staff that you bring into your “school day”, including a chance to win prizes!

Grow Your Own Recipe Challenge

It’s easy to grow your own sprouts or microgreens at home – they are tasty and packed with nutrition! Join our Grow Your Own Recipe Challenge and you could win a $25 gift card to the BriarPatch Food Co-op! Here’s how:

1) To get a free sample of seeds to sprout or grow as microgreens, contact our office, and the first 50 people will receive free seeds.  Or, start with your own seeds at home.

Microgreens are typically grown in shallow tray with some soil, and are harvested when the first green leaves have developed.   You can grow virtually any kind of vegetable or herb seed – sunflower seeds are a fun and crunchy microgreen, and you can also experiment with the flavors of radish or mustard and the colors of beets.  Once the first leaves have developed on the microgreens, you simply cut them above the root and eat them stacked on a sandwich, sprinkled on a salad, rolled into a wrap, or just hand to mouth!  To make microgreens, you’ll need:  

  -A small, shallow tray (recycled food packaging works great)
  -A large handful of potting soil (or soil from your garden)
Watch Farmer Bri and her daughter Bella to get started!  Download the full directions.

Sprouts are typically grown in a glass jar with just water and seeds, and are ready to eat in a few days.  Alfalfa sprouts are what we most often see at stores and restaurants, but you can sprout lots of vegetable seeds like broccoli, spicy mustard greens, beets, and even dried legumes and beans you might already have in your kitchen cabinet.  They are a nice addition to salad or sandwiches.  This is what you’ll need at home to get started:

-Seeds, including dry beans or legumes
 -A glass jar (a quart-size mason jar works great)
 -A mesh strainer, or cheesecloth

Watch how to grow sprouts! Download the full directions.

2) Once your sprouts or microgreens are ready to eat, tell us how you like to eat them! Post your recipe on our Facebook page or send it to us in an email by May 15, 2020, and you’ll be entered to win a $25 gift card from the BriarPatch Food Co-op.  

Tasty & Kid-Friendly Recipes from the Schultz Family

Shauna Schultz – dietician, educator, and Farm to School Liaison for Seven Hills Middle School and Deer Creek Elementary School – offers this quick video on how to make delicious sweet potato black bean flautas at home, and her daughter Ashlynn will teach you and your kids how to make pizza!

Ashylyn Schultz cooks pizza 2020

Do you have some favorite kid-friendly recipes or food and garden activities to share?

Let us know on Facebook or email.  Looking for more ideas? Our Farm, Food & Garden resource page has some great activities for food and farm education at home, as well as fun and delicious recipes to make with kids. 



Many Ways to Support our Local Farmers!

farmers' Market - Sierra Harvest in Nevada City 2016We need our local farmers, now more than ever!
Local farms strengthen our community resilience, and the more we support them, the more they can successfully grow food for our community.   Here’s what you can do to support our community of farmers, and gain access to the freshest produce all season long!

Pre-purchase your veggies: By signing up for a CSA or farm card you are giving the farm the capital now to support them in sustaining the farm inputs until they are able to start selling the produce. This is a win-win because you help the farm with their cash flow and you get the best price on local produce all season long.

Shop local farmers’ markets: Buy directly from local farmers every week during the growing season in Grass Valley, Nevada City and Truckee. You get the freshest produce, and they get to sell directly to you, the customer. 

Seek out local products at the grocery store: Look for local labels when you are shopping at BriarPatch Food Co-op, SPD, Natural Selections or California Organics and preference buying from these farms. When you choose local every time, it allows those farmers to scale up and grow more for our community.

Support restaurants that are transparent about who they buy from: Many restaurants say they buy local and organic “when possible”. In order to truly support local farmers, ask what local products they have on their menu and purchase those items. This gives the restaurants positive reinforcement for buying local.

Tell institutions you want local products: If you buy school meals, meals at a senior home, or hospital meals, tell the head chef that you are interested in local. Most institutions will rise to the occasion if the demand is there and many are already stepping up to the challenge. Sierra Harvest can help them source local products.

Farmer Training: Support a farmer with a scholarship to attend a farm business or Ag skills classes through Sierra Harvest or UCCE. Support a farmer to pay for organic certification so they can fetch a higher price for their products. Contact for details.

Access to Land: Help Sierra Harvest identify viable farmland in Nevada County and match farmers to that land. If you have 5 or more acres of relatively flat, sunny land with water and would like to see a farmer farming it, let us know

Check out our Food, Farm & Garden Resource Guide for more details on how to connect with local farmers!


Need Food Assistance? Local Resources are Available to Help with Meals

students enjoying fresh veggies at a garden cart at a school 2019Due to job losses and isolation measures, many community members are suddenly faced with new challenges for feeding their families.  Our Nevada County community is working together to help those in need.  Here are some resources for you, friends, or loved ones that might need some extra help during this time.

Financial Assistance Programs

The Calfresh Program provides financial assistance to by fresh food, seeds and starts.  Many local farmers’ markets accept CALFRESH and offer a Matching Program which can double the value when purchasing fruits or vegetables.  The maximum benefit for a family of four is approximately $640 per month. Learn more about this program, how to apply, and if you qualify here.

The Nevada County WIC Program provides food assistance to pregnant women and their families with children 5 years and under.   Application is required, and services are now available by phone or video chat. 

Where to Pick Up Food & Meals

In Grass Valley, Interfaith Food Ministry offers food for those struggling to make ends meet. The application process is currently waived, so Nevada County residents can receive immediate drive-through service with proof of residency.  Their distributions are on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10am-1pm.  In partnership with United Way, IFM also distributes food the 2nd Saturday of each month from 10am-noon for working families who may not be able to make it during the week.

Food Bank of Nevada County in Grass Valley offers drive-through distributions to those in need several times a month (day time and evening too).

Seniors in Western Nevada County can contact Gold Country Community Services Meals on Wheels to apply for free home-delivered meals.  Pre-enrollment is required, and you can start the process by calling 530-273-4961.  In Truckee, Sierra Senior Services offers $5 take-home meals Monday through Friday from 12 – 12:45 pm (no one is turned away due to inability to pay).  Pick-up location is Truckee Donner Senior Apartments, 10040 Estates Dr, Truckee, CA 96161

Emily’s Catering, near downtown Grass Valley, is offering free, wholesome lunches every Friday at noon, intended for school children or anyone else in need of a meal. Just stop by and drive through their parking lot located at 421 Colfax Highway, Grass Valley.

If you are isolating at home and can’t make it out to pick up food, call 2-1-1 to get assistance, and see also Gold Country Meals on Wheels above.

More food distribution resources are available at 211 Connect.

Where to Buy Local Food

living lands farmers marketNow more than ever, people want to know where they can get fresh, local produce.  Whether you want to buy it, grow it, or get financial help to afford it, we have put together a new Local Food, Farm and Garden Resource on our website to help you find what you need!

Keep in mind that in our Nevada County climate, most farms don’t have much produce until mid-May, though there are some farms that have a limited supply of winter crops available. You can find this early-season produce at the  Nevada City Farmers Market (open the first Saturday of the month from 9am-12pm at the 3 Forks Bakery & Co. parking lot).  The Grass Valley Farmers Markets will open May 2 (new location in the Kmart parking lot instead of the North Star House location), Nevada City Farmer’s Market begins their weekly season June 6, and Truckee Community Farmers Market on June 14th.

The other best place to get farm fresh product before the season kicks in is BriarPatch Food Co-op, which buys from a large number of local and regional organic farms.

What are the best ways to buy directly from farmers this season?

Buying directly from farmers ensures that you are getting the freshest food possible, directly from the hands of the farmer.   It also gives our hardworking farmers the financial advantage to sell directly to customers.  In addition to the local farmers’ markets above, here are some unique ways you can buy directly from local farmers.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) delivers fresh food to the customer on a regular basis all season long.  Customers pay an agreed-upon amount up front, and enjoy weekly pick-ups of fresh food. Farms offering vegetable CSAs this year include:

First Rain Farm offers a fresh goat milk herd share, which is a little different than a CSA but provides weekly access to fresh milk.

Farm Credit provides a way for customers to pay a farmer early in the season for produce they plan to buy all season long.   The customer gets a discount, and can pick out their own produce week by week right at the farm stand on the farm.  Starbright Acres Family Farm in Grass Valley and Riverhill Farm in Nevada City both offer this option to their customers.

We need our local farmers, now more than ever!

Check out our resource guide for more details on where to find local farmers.



Our Local Food Heroes

volunteers handing out food at interfaith food ministry 3-20Food has the power to bring people together. Even with social distancing practices in place, we have witnessed in these past weeks how our local food and farm community is working together to create more local food resiliency, help out those in need, and build stronger connections.   The local food community we have been building together in Nevada County is more essential than ever.

Over the last several weeks we have been inspired by so many of our local food heroes!  Jeff Coats, Food Services Director for the Grass Valley School District, and Theresa Ruiz, Food Services Director for the Nevada Joint Union High School District have been working with their teams to provide free, drive-through meals to students after schools transitioned to home-based learning. Emily’s Catering is also offering free drive-through lunches on Fridays at noon to students and families in need.  For many children, their school lunch is the biggest meal they get all day, and it makes a world of difference for many families to have this free service, especially now.

The BriarPatch Food Co-op collaborated with one of their distributors, Earl’s Organic Produce, to donate over emily's catering free lunch friday$2,000 in fresh, organic produce to Interfaith Food Ministry, so it could be distributed to those who need it the most.  Community volunteers of all ages have stepped up to help Interfaith Food Ministry pack up bags of food so their clients can safely come by and pick up their food with curb-side service.  School Garden educator Brianna Abundiz has offered “mystery seeds” by mail to local students, so they can tend the seeds and look for clues as to what vegetable they are growing at home and can put in the garden.  Three Forks Brewing and Bakery Co. has offered its parking lot to the Winter Season Nevada City Farmers Market (first Saturdays of the month), to allow for more space and safety for the farmers and shoppers. 

We are so grateful to all these thoughtful and heartfelt efforts to take care of one another during this critical time.   If you are looking for resources for yourself, your family or friends, please check out this new listing of Food, Farm & Garden resources for our community, or share it with a friend.   Do you have stories about other local food heroes you can share? We’d love to hear about it! Join the conversation on our Facebook page or Instagram page.

We are here for you!

tasting days - williams ranch 2019 - approvedSierra Harvest’s roots are grounded in community.  Since 2008, we have been working together to improve our collective health and wellness through local food. Today, we find ourselves feeling even more committed to our work ensuring the community has access to healthy food to nourish us as we embrace what is important.  

Even though schools are closed, we will continue to support children by providing assistance to food service directors as they offer school meals for pick up. We are also expanding educational materials on our website and social media that are chock full of farm fresh activities for children now at home.   

Even though farmer training classes can’t happen in-person right now, we will continue to support our local farmers by holding classes online, helping them find markets for their nutritious foods, and ramping up our efforts for institutions who are providing meal services to buy local. And we are committed to helping YOU connect with and source local food.

Even though our community couldn’t gather in person to celebrate our farmers at soup night and our farm potlucks may take on a Nicole Stevenson - gleaning at Johansen Farm 2019new form, we will continue to support our community.  Our backyard gardens program is booming as the desire to become more self-sufficient with our food sources takes priority.  And our Gold Country Gleaning program, getting local food distributed to those who are struggling with feeding their family, now becomes critical. 

While some of our programs and services cannot be delivered at this time, we will continue to take care of each other.  Our staff are working and communicating with our supporters and community partners to continue to create the impact you have come to expect from Sierra Harvest.   The organization is positioned well to stay viable and we are grateful for twelve years of outstanding community support. 

We are here and listening should you have ideas to share about how we can best assist those needing access to food and wanting to learn how to grow their own food right where they live.  Our mission is to transform lives and strengthen community through fresh, local, seasonal food.  And to this end, may you find ways to nurture those in our community who need our help the most. 

In connection and mutual health,

The Sierra Harvest Team

Food Love Farm welcomes new Farm Educator

Melanya, Sophie and Emily at Food Love Farm 2020
Left to right: Melanya, Sophie and Emily at the Food Love Farm

This spring, Melanya Gonshorowski joined the team of educators at the Food Love Farm.  Melanya brings many years of experience with both farming and educating, including guiding kids’ backpacking and canoe trips and as a counselor at Camp Augusta.  Most recently she has served our community as a midwife with Sierra Homebirth.  Melanya says “I’m excited to have my hands in the dirt and share my love of cooking with Nevada County students!”  Field trips to the farm will begin this April for local students.  Sophie Larsen, Senior Farm Educator and Emily Koller, Farm Director, both entering their third year at the Food Love Farm, are excited to begin this season and to welcome Melanya to the team!  The Food Love team has been busy in the greenhouse this spring, seeding thousands of vegetable, herb, and flower starts. Stop by the farm April 25, May 2, or May 9 for our annual plant sale!