Farm to School Liaison Profile – Jodi Porter

Jodi Porter - Farm to School Liaison 2018One of Sierra Harvest’s core programs is Farm to School.  Now in its 10th year, this program is at the heart of Sierra Harvest’s work to educate, inspire and connect Nevada County families to fresh, local, seasonal food.  From its humble start renewing the school garden at Hennessey Elementary, the program has since grown to serve 33 schools and 7484 students with a whole suite of activities.

Farm to School is comprised of many elements, including Harvest of the Month tastings, seasonal school garden carts, guest chef visits during “Tasting Days”, experiential farm field trips and hands-on garden education. 

As one can imagine, it’s a lot to coordinate!  Luckily, there are 22 passionate Farm to School liaisons that make this magic happen each school year for our lucky local students.  This dedicated group of people is what makes Farm to School possible. 

From loading their cars with boxes and boxes of fresh fruits and veggies, to counting it out and distributing it to individual classrooms and teachers and helping guest chefs and surveying students- these folks do it all, and it’s not always easy or pretty.

But the result of all this hard work is that thousands of kids of all ages are eating and preparing more fresh fruits and veggies, and knowing what’s in season and who grew it.

We caught up with one of the veteran Farm to School liaisons, Jodi Porter, to learn how she gets kids to fall in love with veggies.  Starting her 4th year as a liaison, Jodi is now responsible for 3 schools: Cottage Hill Elementary, Magnolia Intermediate, and Arete Charter- which means she’s delivering the Farm to School program to 847 students!

Why are you a farm to school liaison?

JP: I have a passion for getting kids to eat healthier and to enjoy veggies.  I love getting kids to try new things!

Tell us about the school garden work you do.

JP:I teach classes in the garden twice a week year round. 

I love to involve them in growing the food.  They do all the maintenance, and are very hands-on in all the aspects of growing.  It’s great when we can finally harvest and eat the end product!

One of my favorite lessons is searching for bugs, the students love it.

How have you seen the program impact the students at your school?

It’s really great to see the students find that they can actually like fruits and vegetables!  They have a lot of fun with it and get excited for the Harvest of Month.

Have you tried any new foods from Farm to School?

Yes, the kumquats and the purple and orange-colored cauliflower.  Yum!

Farm to School director Marisha Finkler is grateful to the liaisons for making the program possible.  “We couldn’t reach over 7000 students without the dedication of all the liaisons.  They work with the teachers and administration to deliver produce, host guest chefs during Tasting days, organize field trips, and make the program a success at their school.  We are also grateful for Briar Patch Food Coop’s generous sponsorship of the Harvest of the Month produce, and the numerous supporters in our community who make the program possible.  It is a collaborative effort, and that’s what allows us to have such a broad impact.”



Union Hill’s Garden Grows Community

Union Hill farm cart - 2018 - uta reimnitzThe Union Hill School garden has been getting a makeover, and the effects are rippling out into the community.  This fall, Union Hill welcomed a new farm to school liaison- Uta Reimnitz.  Uta and her family moved here 2 years ago, and since then she’s been sharing her enthusiasm for fresh local food by becoming involved in Sierra Harvest’s Farm to School program.  

With a background running the school garden at her son’s preschool, and a degree in environmental studies, Reimnitz has been energizing the school community around the garden, with the help of an encouraging administration and staff.

“Principal Limov has been super supportive!  When we originally spoke about me becoming the Farm to School liaison, he asked me if I had any interest in getting the school garden going again.  After I said yes, he was out there the next afternoon with his own weed whacker getting started!”

The energy around the garden has impacted the school’s garden cart as well.  As part of Farm to School, each school runs its own garden cart stocked with fresh, local produce from the school’s farm partner (in this case Starbright Acres Family Farm), as well as any fresh fruit and veggie donations from the school community at large. 

Union Hill is the largest K-8 school in the area, with over 700 students.  In the past it has been difficult for the cart to provide enough produce to serve everyone, but now the garden is helping to provide some of the extra bounty. 

This year, the 5th grade garden club would go to the garden and help harvest cherry tomatoes at lunchtime for the cart the next day. Additionally, Reimnitz was able to reach out to many grandparents through the school community who had productive gardens and they were able to help stock the cart. 

While a bountiful, intergenerational, donation-based school garden cart may seem too good to be true- that’s exactly what happened.  Grandparents were trading veggies, and kids were coming to school with money specifically for produce.  The cart was selling out in record time.  (All proceeds go back to supporting Farm to School programming at Union Hill School.)

Alas, with the change in weather, the cart is done for this season.  But the garden remains, and its energy is continuing to build.  Reimnitz and her parent volunteers just finished teaching a seed saving lesson, and there are plans to build more raised beds for the garden.  Older students are helping with garden projects as community service.  Reimnitz is preparing lessons so Union Hill teachers and students can take full advantage of this outdoor classroom.  Numerous parents have volunteered to be garden docents and help teach in the garden.  It is truly a community effort thanks to Uta’s leadership. 

To learn more about Sierra Harvest’s Farm to School program, visit  If you would like to make a gift to support school garden and orchard programs, please call 530-265-2343 or donate online.

It’s time to take a closer look at your farm or ranch business!

farm crew class 2018You are great at growing things.  You love working outside with your hands in the soil.  And…you are also a small business owner!  While the winter winds are blowing, take the time to build your business management skills and gain the financial understanding you need to earn a living from the land.

Sign up today for FARM BIZ, Sierra Harvest’s business planning course for farmers and ranchers.  Starting in January 2019, gather with fellow farmers in a supportive, collaborative and confidential classroom as we explore how money moves in and out of your business and what it can tell you about the long term health and success of your farm or ranch.

To sign up, and for more information, click here. Attendance at the Sustainable Food and Farm Conference is included in the course.  Class size is limited to 10 so be sure to reserve your spot soon!

For questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with

Sierra Harvest Agrarian Art Exhibit and Open House

Featured artists
Jude Bischoff                  Karel Hendee
 Ruth Chase                       Lori Lachman
             Kathryn Wronski            Pricilla Alden Roach  
Randy Griffis               Maisie Ganz
Chelsea Weisel                    Anya Tuton and
Sweetland Pottery

 Thursday, December 6th   

Sierra Harvest Office

313 Railroad Ave. Suite 201, Nevada City


The staff at Sierra Harvest is excited to welcome you to our newly renovated and expanded office. We have partnered with Nevada County Arts Council to showcase a gorgeous selection of agrarian-themed, locally made art which will be available for purchase and viewing beginning Dec 6th through Feb 9th when it will move to the Sustainable Food and Farm conference. This is the perfect chance to get holiday gifts for your farmer/foodie friends and family. 

Sierra Harvest staff will prepare seasonal culinary delights. Join us for appetizers, libations, good cheer and lots of conversation. Let’s raise our glasses together to celebrate a robust local food movement that grows stronger every day.

Hear from the Artists and Sierra Harvest from 6:00-6:15pm

Office: 530-265-2343

Our office is next door to the Tri-Counties bank on the corner of Sacramento St. and Railroad Ave. in Nevada City.

800 years of experience to be shared at the Sustainable Food and Farm Conference Feb 7-10th

farm conference field daysSAVE the date in your calendars now. In its 9th year, Sierra Harvest’s Sustainable Food and Farm Conference draws over 600 guests to expand their knowledge, network, and rub shoulders with nationally renowned food producers who share cutting edge techniques and the secrets to their success. 

Whether you are an experience farmer or beginning farmer, or just love good food, this event held at Nevada Union high school Feb 7-10th has something for you.

This year Sierra Harvest has expanded the number of day-long Thursday and Friday “Field Days” which allow participants to get outside, on farms and participate in a more hands on way with what they are learning. These days always sell out early.

Thursday field days will include a choice between an Ag Tech workshop bringing together farmers and techies to innovate for small scale food and livestock production, a Quickbooks for the small farm course and a whole animal butchery workshop.

Friday will offer the choice of a seed saving workshop, a cheesemaking workshop or a farm tour. This year’s tour will visit a cattle ranch, an alpaca farm and spinnery and an olive oil producer.

Other new conference elements this year include an Agrarian Art Exhibit and sale in collaboration with Nevada County Arts Council and a Friday night agricultural film screening in collaboration with the SYRCL Wild and Scenic Film Festival.

We hope you can join us!

“Amazing, awesome, yummy and good tasting.” Tasting Days were a hit!

Williams ranch making tacos in a jarLooking for new ideas for Thanksgiving meals?  Maybe try asking your kids!  As farm to school celebrates 10 years of serving students in Western Nevada County, there’s plenty to be grateful for and lots of seasonal inspiration for eating well.  Last month, Sierra Harvest completed its 8th year doing one of the most well-loved parts of farm to school- “Tasting Days.”

Originally billed as “Tasting Week,” this popular part of Farm to School brought 19 real life chefs into 27 schools over the month of October.  In past years, all of this happened in one crazy week, but this part of the program has grown to serve so many students (nearly 3,000!) that now it’s a whole delicious month.

Students participated in making and tasting so many different seasonal recipes, it’s hard to keep track!  Some favorites were: Tuesday Tacos in a Jar, Beet Relish and Beet Brownies, Fresh Spring Rolls, Tomato Salsa Challenge and Massaged Kale Salad- all starring local produce!

union hill tasting 2018

Veteran Chef Shauna Schultz (who is also a farm to school liaison) demoed at Seven Hills where 5th graders prepared and enjoyed Spaghetti Squash (from Posh Squash) with Cilantro Pesto. 

Schultz, who is also a Registered Dietitian said, “The kids loved making ‘noodles’ from the squash and were quite adventurous with the pesto!  My goal was to inspire kids to eat their veggies in a fun and creative way and overall, I would say it was a success as many kids were excited to make it at home!” 

Her report is spot on.  5th grader Alex said, “Today I learned a lot.  This was my first time trying squash and I am really thankful for this day.  I really hope we get to do this again in 6th, 7th or 8th grade.  Today I am going to ask my dad if we can have squash.”

williams ranch tasting 2018Chef Bill Jensen also got some squash praise, “after students scooped out baked squash, mashed, carefully measured maple syrup and cinnamon, then spread their creations on crackers and enjoyed, one of the first grade students said with a broad smile, “I’m going to ask my mom to make this for my birthday party!”

To get inspired by more Tasting Days goodness (maybe you’ll find your next birthday party menu!), check out this recipe book from past years.

This year, like every year of Tasting Days, would not be possible without the volunteer efforts of each and every one of our amazing chefs!  These generous culinary creators not only connected directly with local farmers to get the freshest seasonal fare to share with Nevada County students, but they also crafted recipes that kids from kindergarten all the way through high school could be involved in preparing in a hands on way.  As one student from Clear Creek School said, “I actually like something that’s healthy for me!”   Now that’s something to be thankful for. 

bill jensen at chicago park school tasting 2018

“Good Food Access is a team effort” – Gleaning Program is run by passionate volunteer leaders

2018 Harvest LeadersIt’s been a busy season for the Gold Country Gleaning Program!  Since August, more than 3,500 pounds of produce has been gleaned by 6 volunteer Harvest Leaders and other volunteers from local farms and 20 private homes that would have otherwise gone to waste.  Through a partnership with the Interfaith Food Ministry (IFM), Sierra Harvest volunteers are able to get this fresh produce into the hands of those who need it most often within a day of being picked!

Watch a short video about a recent glean created and produced by BriarPatch Food Co-op to see a glean in action!

Phil Alonso, the Executive Director of IFM said, “It happened so quickly – we went from talking about it in a meeting exploring this idea to implementing in such a short time. I have been amazed at how quickly, smoothly and efficiently the program has been running over the last couple of months and am excited to keep working with Sierra Harvest.”

This program is led by 6 volunteer “Harvest Leaders” who work with Sierra Harvest to coordinate volunteers and lead them to pick fruit that would otherwise go to waste.   Each leader is enthusiastic in their own way:  Janet Delgado, Tina Hannon, Carolyn and Clif Mackinlay, Laurie Michel and Heidi Zimmerman.

“I really like to see all food get eaten and not go to waste. Gleaning is a fantastic way for us to help the folks in our community who need support with quality food,” stated Heidi Zimmerman.

Other veteran harvest leaders Cliff and Carolyn Mackinlay share similar sentiments about why they love gleaning.  Carolyn said, “It’s physical and earthy, connecting to land, plants and nature- and of course it’s fun!  I notice that people who are volunteering want to really do something- and this is a great opportunity to get in there.  It’s part of how we grow food- a process innate in humanity to want to share that with other people in need.”  Clif and Carolyn were part of the original team that launched the Gold Country Gleaners in 2011 before Sierra Harvest got involved this past August.

Gleaning in Penn Valley 2018 “The Gleaning program functions because of these 6 exceptionally selfless, passionate and enthusiastic volunteers who represent Sierra Harvest with outstanding integrity to all the gleaning volunteers and private homeowners that donate all the fruit,” stated Miriam Limov, Gold Country Gleaning program manager at Sierra Harvest.

And the bounty is being shared! The Interfaith Food Ministry serves 8,000 food insecure clients a month, 25% of which are children.  As this gleaning season begins to slow down, plans are being hatched for how to make it even better next year.

If you would like to get involved with the gleaning program or have an abundance of fruit or veggies to share, check out our website page  for more information. 


Resilience is Fertile: BriarPatch Food Coop awards farmer scholarships to the 39th Annual EcoFarm Conference!

EcofarmFor the third year in a row, The BriarPatch Food Co-op will send farmers to the EcoFarm Conference in Asilomar, Ca.  Each year, hundreds of farmers from across California and beyond, gather at EcoFarm for four, action packed days to attend workshops, tour local farms, network and celebrate ecological agriculture. 

Sierra Harvest’s farm institute administers these scholarships. This year’s lucky farmers are Lynn Archer of Sierra Gourmet Mushrooms, Carmela Higareda of Higareda Family Farm, and Christian Hund of Super Tuber Farm.

Lynn Archer, the owner of Sierra Gourmet Mushrooms, is looking forward to attending the day-long Food Safety Workshop for Produce Growers at EcoFarm.  She is also planning to attend workshops that focus on farm regulations, Organic Certification, and business management.   Moving forward, Lynn hopes “to expand our production so we meet the needs of our local grocers. We want to expand our composting operation and maybe be able to offer compost to our local farmers next spring. We are interested in becoming certified Organic and will try to get that done next year as well.”

Carmela Higareda, an integral part of the team at Higareda Family Farm, is excited to attend the conference and learn more about organic farming and expand her knowledge of healthy soil and a healthy environment.  She hopes to gain information and skills at EcoFarm to support her in “helping my family’s farm grow and improve the quality of our produce.”  Higareda Family Farm specializes in fresh herbs including parsley, cilantro and basil.  You can also find their certified Organic chard and kale at the BriarPatch Food Coop throughout the fall and winter.

Christian Hund has been farming with Super Tuber Farm for the past year.  Super Tuber grows many delicious vegetables on the shelves of the BriarPatch Food Coop produce department, including potatoes, beets, carrots and cabbage.  Christian is looking forward to attending the EcoFarm Conference and gaining more skills to help him be more efficient at vegetable production.   As a beginning farmer, he wants to “widen my horizon in many different topics:  pest control, soil, livestock and production tools.”

 A big thank you to the BriarPatch Food Coop and the National Coop Grocers Association for supporting our local farmers and helping healthy food flourish in Nevada County!



The Beet Goes On – Chef Ike participates in Tasting Days for the 7th year in a row!

Ike Frazee of Ike's Quarter Cafe at Mt. St. Mary's SchoolChef Ike Frazee likes to cook classic foods using whole, local, seasonal ingredients.  And if you’ve ever been to Ike’s Quarter Café in Nevada City, then you know he’s really good at it.  (If you haven’t had the pleasure, what are you waiting for?  Go try it!)

His restaurant’s “sole mission has always been to bring everyone together to eat in a better and tastier way. First, you eat real food, from clean local sources, properly cooked and spiced with love and flavor. Then “Magic in the Belly” happens: when the food is so good it turns into more than just nourishment, it changes your whole attitude from the inside and gives you a new, fresh outlook on life.”

Ike has been bringing this special magic out of his restaurant and into the classroom in Western Nevada County schools as part of Sierra Harvest’s Tasting Days for 7 years now!  Originally billed as “Tasting Week,” this popular part of Farm to School is bringing 19 real life chefs into 29 schools over the month of October.  In past years, all of this happened in one crazy week, but this part of the program has grown to serve so many students (nearly 3,000!) that now it’s a whole delicious month.

Earlier this month, Ike was a guest chef at Mt. St. Mary’s Academy in Grass Valley.  There, he highlighted beets as his secret ingredient for eager students.  When asked about his strategy for getting kids to eat new veggies, Ike replied, “I like to make something really familiar and then sneak in the veggies.”  Using this approach with his demo was a hit.  Ike served hot dogs with a beet pickle relish and beet brownies!

Ike’s demo was a feast of the senses; students got the chance to participate in a hands on way by cutting up cooked beets, and collectively adding an array of spices and vinegar to make the final relish.  The verdict?  According to one 4th grader, “I never knew I liked beets until I tried this relish!” 

You too can relish the experience of adding beets to your life by trying Ike’s easy (kid approved) recipe:

beet relish

Beet Pickle Relish


About 2 cups beets (diced small)

2 cups sugar

1 ½ cups white vinegar

¼ cup chopped fresh dill or 2 tablespoons dried

1 tablespoon dry mustard powder

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon clove


Combine all ingredients into a small pot and bring to a boil. Turn down heat to medium and simmer for about a half an hour. Spoon out a bit to test consistency. It should be firm yet soft to the bite.

Mix it up and add celery or carrots.  Eat on your favorite foods!



Reducing the Food Desert in the Little Town of Washington – One Garden at a Time

Washington students install a new garden - photo by Larry DiminyatzWritten by:  Edy Cassell, Sierra Gardens Program Director and Marisha Finkler, Farm to School Director

Washington School is a two-room schoolhouse in the small community of Washington, located on the banks of the South Fork of the Yuba River north of Nevada City.  Washington was settled during the gold rush and now has a population of 185.  This community has managed to keep their small school open continuously for 100 years, and local residents organize fundraisers every year to keep the school going.  The school currently serves six K-8 students.

Esther Pearcy, the energetic new director and teacher at the school, described Washington as a “food desert”.  There is one small store in town with a limited selection of fresh produce, and not much local food production.  The Sierra Garden at Washington School is changing that.

In addition to the Sierra Garden established at the school, Washington school has joined Sierra Harvests’ Farm to School program.  The Farm to School program is celebrating its 10th anniversary bringing fresh food and farming education to students in Western Nevada County through Harvest of the Month, guest chef classes, farm field trips, school produce carts, farmer-led classroom lessons, plant sales and support for school gardens.

Washington school students now participate in Sierra Harvest’s Harvest of the Month tastings along with 7,600 students around the county who sample a different locally-grown fruit or vegetable each month at their schools.  The students will also have the opportunity to learn about farming at Soil Sisters farm in Nevada City with the program.  Eventually, the school would love to have meals prepared on site using fresh ingredients the students grew themselves.

The Sierra Gardens program met with teacher Esther Pearcy and Calvin Wallace the head of maintenance for the school and scoped out a spot for some garden boxes, and then on Sept 7, our crew of volunteers teamed up with the Washington School students and staff and built four garden boxes, and planted them with fall crops such as cabbage, broccoli, kale, chard and lettuce, carrots and beets and more.building garden beds at Washington school - photo by Larry Diminyatz

“Spending the day at the Washington School was like being part of a big family,” stated Edy Cassell, the Sierra Gardens Program Director.  With 6 students, a teacher and a couple of support staff  you can’t help but have a tight knit group, and our crew really enjoyed being a part of the garden build. Staff and students even prepared lunch for us and we all sat down to eat together while the kids told stories and played some of their favorite music for us. All the kids participated in the garden build, and some even got to try using power tools for the first time.  Now every time they look at their beautiful garden they can say truthfully that they built it, and feel a sense of pride.  Sierra Harvest looks forward to seeing future harvests as we come back on quarterly mentorship visits and hope that this garden will provide fresh food for the students of Washington School far into the future.

The garden at the Washington School is only the beginning. A couple of weeks later Sierra Harvest took a crew back to Washington and built a garden for Calvin head of maintenance and his wife Brenda, whose 11- year old daughter Mariah also attends the school. We are tackling the food desert one garden at a time in the little town of Washington….and hoping that the interest in gardens spreads, because we can’t wait to go back!