I recently caught up with Sierra Harvest’s Co-Directors, Aimee Retzler and Malaika Bishop, in the NEW office space that we share with the BriarPatch Community Kitchen at 648 Zion Street in Nevada City.
Why did you decide to start/join this organization?
Aimee: I joined in October 2008, when the health department asked me to chair the organization. I came from a place where there was a lot of variety in what the kids were eating for lunch. When I moved to Nevada County, I was surprised at the processed foods that kids were bringing in their lunches from home; bags of Cheetos and Oreos seemed popular. I wondered: What happened to getting served a hot meal that was prepared from scratch just that morning by lunch ladies and gentlemen that you knew by name? I also wanted to see kids get connected to growing their own food, which was why our first project was the Hennessy school garden.
Malaika: I Joined in January 2012, co-directing the Farm to School program and became co-director of Sierra Harvest in Feb 2013. It felt like a good opportunity to me to work county-wide, addressing some of the most pressing issues around food and farming, such as obesity and food insecurity.
What do you love about your job?
Aimee: I really love seeing families get excited about fresh food, and for them to realize the health benefits of growing their own food and cooking it together.
Malaika: I love that we are able to make tangible differences in people’s lives and that it is varied. And I get to work with great people!
What is the hardest part of your job?
Aimee: Balancing the mission of the organization with all of the program opportunities we could invest in.
Malaika: Balancing work and family time.
Where do you see Sierra Harvest in 3 years?
Aimee: We have a reliable funding stream to support our programs and operations. Our local farmers are treated like celebrities and there is progress with farmers making a living wage. Farm to school programs are operating in 18 schools countywide. School meals are being prepared from scratch and the community is supporting this long-term goal.
Malaika: We have several successful and impactful programs reaching all of the children in our county. We are supporting children, low-income residents, and aspiring farmers.
Where do you see Sierra Harvest in 10 years?
Aimee: There is a scratch-cooked school meal program that 75% of the county’s school children participate in. All K-8 children are participating in the farm to school program. We are better meeting the demand for local, fresh food through increasing the supply of local farmers and generating interest in farming. School Wellness policies support the procurement of local, seasonal foods. Sierra Harvest is a household name throughout the county and beyond.
Malaika: No more childhood obesity or food insecurity in our county. Amazing delicious meal options for kids in all schools in Nevada County sourced from a thriving network of family farms.
What is the strangest thing you have ever eaten?
Aimee: It was something from the ocean. It was grey in color, and pretty slimy. I was in Jakarta and it was served to me in a restaurant – I don’t remember the name of it. It tasted kind of like a rubber band, really hard to chew.
Malaika: I would say kohlrabi, but it’s just not that weird. Deep-fried fiddleheads?
What is your guilty pleasure, food-wise?
Aimee: It is really difficult for me to not take seconds of chocolate pudding. Or chocolate mousse.
Malaika: My husband’s desserts. His lemon raspberry cheesecake is my favorite.