How did you decide to become a farmer?
I was looking for a new career – I started out as an Outward Bound instructor, but wanted something more settled. As part of settling down, I grew a garden, and got more and more into it. In 1993, I was working as a contractor and really dug it, but I wasn’t completely fulfilled. Farming was a great fit, being able to work outdoors and doing something I believe in.
Tell us about your farm, Mountain Bounty.
I grew up in Nevada County and In 1997 I wanted to move back (from Portland, Oregon). The farm started small and has grown over time. 90% of our produce goes to CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) – I love the idea of a CSA. I find it very meaningful – the direct connection between people who grow and eat the food. It’s an elegant business model, that people pledge their support, and in return, receive the best that the farm has to offer.
We also sell at the farmer’s market — it’s been a great way to get out in the community. My wife, Angie Tomey, was involved in founding the Nevada City Farmers’ market with Reinette Senum. We were the first booth to set up at the market.
How did you work with Sierra Harvest last season?
We do field trips and Harvest of the Month with Sierra Harvest—we grew peas and lettuce, melons, red sweet peppers, broccoli, and carrots. It’s been great and challenging in ways that we didn’t expect – it’s difficult to produce something for a specific date. That’s not how farming works. It’s ready when it’s ready. We pulled it off, barely. It’s worth it because I believe in it and I love it.
What do you hope the kids experience or learn when they visit Mountain Bounty?
I hope they get that food and farming is connected. Food doesn’t happen without farming. Showing them: Here’s a carrot – it grows in the ground, we are going to dig it up and eat it. That’s a really direct way to learn.
I like to challenge them to try things they aren’t familiar with, like fennel. It’s one of my kids’ favorite snacks – it’s crunchy and sweet and tastes like licorice. Most of the kids will try it, and of the kids that try it, most of them like it. That’s a kick. I just love having kids visit – it’s really fun. They have so much energy and they have a great time frolicking on the farm. They love seeing all the stuff and getting to taste things. There’s magic in gardens and farms.
What is the biggest challenge you face in connecting Nevada County families with the produce that you are growing?
We are facing a food system that has been in place for a very long time – people expect food to be very cheap. The more people understand that food comes from farms, and the more people value the idea of getting to know those farms and farmers, the demand will slowly shift and they will be more directly connected to farms, bit by bit. It’s a long, educational process, and that is why I am so excited and invested in Sierra Harvest – working with the schools is the best way to do it. It’s a big institutional part of our society where kids pay attention. Once people get connected, it’s hard to go back. I want people to think about where their food comes from – I want kids to ask: Who grew this?
Anything else you want to share with our readers?
Thank you for supporting Mountain Bounty. Please continue to support small, local farms as much as you can. Challenge your friends: Why are you eating eggplant in January? When you go to a potluck, or are at your friends’ house for dinner – help educate your community.