The Harvest of the Month for June is zucchini! In addition to being delicious, zucchini packs a nutritious punch as a good source of vitamin C. It is also a source of manganese which helps with bone formation. Keep those bones healthy and strong this summer by enjoying zucchini- appearing at farmer’s markets starting this weekend!
Not all heroes and heroines wear capes – some wear kitchen aprons and others wear farm boots! And this is where our story begins with 300 pounds of fresh, spring lettuce delivered by two passionate organic farmers to three Nevada County school districts who continue to provide school lunches (to-go style) for low-income families during COVID.
Would you like to have a bigger harvest out of your garden this year? After many years of requests, we are happy to announce that Sierra Harvest is now offering home garden consultations with Emily Koller, our Food Love Farm Director! If you have been struggling with a specific garden challenge, or just want to get general tips to upgrade your garden or improve your harvest, now is the time to schedule an appointment!
In anticipation of the summer harvest season, we are now recruiting harvest leaders!
Gleaning Harvest Leaders commit to leading a small crew of volunteers to harvest excess fruit or vegetables in farms and gardens, and deliver the delicious bounty to Interfaith Food Ministry (IFM), who then distribute the produce to 8,000 clients in need! Crew leaders typically lead 1-2 gleans a month, July – October. To date the Sierra Harvest gleaning volunteers have harvested and donated more than 36,000 pounds of produce in the past two seasons!
Why should YOU be a volunteer Harvest Leader?
Due 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 Available Below
Now 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!
Food 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.
These are strange times to find ourselves in, and I hope that you all are staying home as much as you can, and staying as safe as you can be. Crises such as these present opportunities at the same time as they threaten security, and there is definitely no better time to put work into your home garden than the present moment. From food security to psychological well-being, a home garden can offer some bit of stability in these increasingly uncertain times. With that being said, we are gearing up to get started on our spring plant deliveries, and have compiled this planting guide to help you along once you receive your spring starts and seeds.
Winter is a nice time to just let your garden go unattended for a bit. Hopefully you tucked your garden in last fall, mulched and/or cover cropped, and planted fall Brassicas and garlic.
Now is the time to start to prepare your beds for your first spring planting. Most of those Brassicas have probably been harvested and eaten, and your garlic is hopefully growing tall and loving this mild winter. Leave that garlic alone…it needs to stay in the ground for another 4 or 5 months.
Jeff Coats and his wife always knew they wanted to return to Nevada County, having lived here some 20 years ago – so much so that they bought a house in Nevada City a few years back. When Jeff read about a Food Services Director opening in the Grass Valley School District, he applied and is happy to be “home.”
Coats and his team are responsible for providing nutrition to school aged children around the county – breakfast and lunch in Grass Valley schools as well as meals for two preschool and after school programs which consist of dinner and a snack. The district also contracts with other schools to provide meals–be it snacks, lunches, or both. Coats said they follow USDA guidelines. “Contrary to what a lot of people believe, the guidelines for school lunches and school breakfasts are geared to more healthy choices. We determined our students need whole grains- they are better for them than processed flour – we provide a meat or meat alternative every day. We are required to serve fresh fruits and vegetables every day, and 8 fluid ounces of milk. So, every day, what we send out to the students include all of those components.” The current administration is rolling back some of those guidelines which Coats does not necessarily agree with but expects an increase in what he calls “food acceptability” by the students.
The district just underwent an audit which Coats expects to pass but also feels there is room for improvement. “Can we do better? Gosh, we could do so much better! I believe there is some room to improve the program. Parents are concerned about a lot of things, for example, all of the packaging and plastic that we put things in and the perception that it (the food) is not fresh and not healthy for the children.”
Less than six months into the job, Coats is already looking at different ways to effectively meet the guidelines while making improvements to the menus and the process. At the beginning of February, he put salad bars back into the Grass Valley elementary and middle schools. “Reintroducing the salad bars gives us an opportunity to offer more of a variety of fresh vegetables and fresh fruit,” Coats said, “It also allows us to be able to purchase some of the wonderful local stuff that we have and offer that on our salad bar and do some nice marketing for our local farms.” Jeff is looking to connect with local farms this spring and summer and is committed to making purchases of fresh, local food.
Fresh fruits and vegetables in a salad bar do not require packaging so Coats expects to cut packaging by 50% with that one small change. He said more kids eat fruits and vegetables and by giving them a choice, they are more likely to eat what they select, which will cut back on waste while still meeting the guidelines. “It’s a start,” he said. “We have some longer terms goals to retrofit our areas where we serve and put in some steam wells and hot holding wells so that instead of packaging hot food we can serve more family style.” He says while that may not change the corndog they are serving, (which are very popular with students), it won’t be in a package. Coats also plans to retrofit the industrial kitchens to do some scratch cooking.
While Coats has the freedom to serve what he chooses as long as he hits the guidelines and stays within budget, he believes processed food is not the best for growing bodies. “Access to fresh fruits and vegetables with natural sugars and things like that give your body that natural energy and gets you through the day while processed food fills your belly but bogs you down,” he said. “I don’t think our students can concentrate and be the best they can be in school having that type of (processed) food all the time.”
Coats hopes to partner with Sierra Harvest for some marketing to get the word out and to better use produce from local farmers and expects to include harvests from the school’s gardens in the salad bar. Coats concludes, “We are making strides. I am excited to be here and am excited to make changes for the better of our community.”