Sierra Harvest was created to address issues of inequity in our food system. We provide education and assistance to break the cycle of two parallel food realities: one that offers beautiful, organic foods to those who have resources and another filled with empty calories, dyes, and preservatives for those who don’t. Our Farm To School program was intentionally started at a low income school in Nevada County where chips and soda were found in the hands of many children. Our team volunteered over 1000 hours that first summer, getting kids out to farms, reviving their school garden, and mentoring them as they planted, harvested and tasted their well-tended bounty.
Fast forward six years, and our Sierra Gardens program began to serve community members that were interested in gardening but needed additional support including a garden at their home, two years of education and seeds and starts to increase their knowledge about how to grow their own healthy source of food. Three years ago, Sierra Harvest began managing the Gold Country Gleaning program coordinating harvests to rescue organic food on farms and in home orchards to donate to local food banks. Throughout our growth, we created a work culture that valued providing better than living wage job opportunities, women in positions of authority, investment in professional and personal development, and incredibly flexible work plans.
Our organizational JEDI journey began in 2007 so that everyone would have a seat at the table or equitable access to fresh local foods. After bearing witness to the ever increasing racially motivated events in 2020, especially the Black Lives Matter protestors that were assaulted just blocks from our office, our team was inspired to do more.
In Oct. 2020, 30 members of our staff, board and community attended the “Uprooting Racism in Food Systems” training with Soul Fire Farm. We confronted just how white our organization was and we began to see how our whiteness and implicit bias was embedded throughout our organization. We recognized that some of our actions were outright complicit in nature.
Some of our observations included:
- We did not intentionally encourage a diverse staff or board through our recruitment and hiring practices.
- We failed to offer our educational programs or materials in multiple languages.
- We did not actively promote our program scholarship opportunities to those most in need.
- Life-long conditioning around white supremacy culture.
- We didn’t actively practice land acknowledgment for indigenous people at our events.
The Uprooting Racism training gave our team a framework to review our actions and how we serve our community. We brainstormed opportunities to move from being complicit as an organization into the realm of questioning our actions and dismantling inequities. Some things felt easy like adding pronouns to our email signatures, rewriting our job descriptions to attract more diverse candidates, and bringing more diverse voices to our board of directors. But easy isn’t often the answer as our teams acquire education regarding the 400 plus years of inequity that is built into every inch of our food system beginning with stripping indigenous and Black farmers of their agricultural lands.
We realized we have much work to do and outlined some realistic goals that our team is excited about. One large goal that directly impacts local food equity is the Foothills Fresh School Food project that will provide scratch cooked meals to all children. Over 50% of children in Nevada County qualify for free or reduced price school meals – Sierra Harvest is committed to getting them access to the freshest, most nutrient dense foods possible closing that equity gap to make sure all kids are provided beautiful meals made from scratch and with love.
With the help of our food justice consultants at Soul Fire Farm, Sierra Harvest staff and the board of directors have goals to move our JEDI work forward. We exist to transform lives and strengthen community through fresh, local, seasonal food. The only path to achieving this is to make sure that everyone truly does have a seat at the table. Only together, can we end racism and injustice as we build community around local food?
For more information about our JEDI goals or to get involved in our JEDI journey, please contact Aimee Retzler at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-265-2343. To continue your own personal exploration of food justice, here are resources and 10 local actions you can take today.