Blog

Blog

CalFresh Benefits Now Available to SSI Recipients!

Excellent news for people receiving State Supplemental Income (SSI) – as of June 1st, 2019 persons receiving SSI will now be eligible to receive CalFresh benefits! Most SSI recipients and couples living on their own, will be newly eligible for CalFresh. If approved, they will receive an EBT card with CalFresh food benefits loaded monthly. Average food benefits for a household of one is estimated to be $130 per month.  More info here.

How does this affect specific customers?

  • SSI income amounts will not be reduced or eliminated.
  • Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI) income amounts will increase by $10 per person to align the rates with SSI rates.
  • Single persons receiving SSI will be able to apply for benefits starting 6/1/2019.
  • SSI persons who are included in active CalFresh households will automatically be added to the case when their next report or renewal is due.  They do not need to apply.

What if adding the SSI person to the household would reduce or lose CalFresh benefits because of the added SSI income?

    1. If adding the SSI person to the active CalFresh case would result in reduced benefits, these households will be grandfathered in and will not have their benefits reduced as long as they remain on aid.
    2. If adding the SSI person to the active CalFresh case would result in benefits being discontinued, these households will be grandfathered in and will continue to receive benefits as long as they remain on aid.
    3. Once the CalFresh household case discontinues for any reason, these rules would no longer apply and the household would be evaluated according to normal income processing guidelines.

Thanks to Nevada County Social Services for improving access to fresh food for Nevada County residents.  Call the Nevada County Health and Human Services Agency, Department of Social Services with your questions at: 530-265-1627

 

 

Farmers Bring Spring into Local Classrooms and Beyond

Rebecca getting a visit from the farmer visit at cascade senior centerSpring is here, which means in addition to getting seeds started and soil prepped, local farmers are also taking time to go into school classrooms as part of Sierra Harvest’s Farm to School program. 

Now in its 10th year, this popular program has expanded to include serving residents at the Cascade Senior Center with the Harvest of the Month program, and now farmer visits too!

Farmer Emily Koller of Sierra Harvest’s Food Love Farm is doing spring farmer visits at Union Hill School, Deer Creek Elementary, Seven Hills Middle School and Cascades Senior Living of Grass Valley. 

In the school setting, each lesson is geared toward the next generation science standards (NGSS) for that grade level and is the middle piece of a 3-part series (fall field trip, winter farmer visit, spring field trip) on the topic specific to that grade level. 

For example, the 2nd grade classes are focusing on how and why seeds travel, so for their farmer visit, they are making seed bombs/balls filled with wildflower and native plant seeds.  At Seven Hills, students are learning about the history of seeds and genetically modified organisms in 7th grade science.  

When asked about why she likes going into the classroom, Koller said, “I love visiting classrooms in the winter because it provides continuity for the students between farm visits in the fall and spring.  We get to continue the thread of learning that we began at their first farm visit in the fall and get them excited about things coming alive in the spring!”  

And after this wet and wild winter, we are all excited for the coming spring.  For residents of Cascade Senior Living, Farmer Emily’s visit was especially welcomed.  Koller brought fluffy baby chicks that were just one week old, which was a ray of springtime sunshine for everyone involved.

While going into schools, Koller is also busily preparing the Food Love Farm for spring field trips and volunteer days.  She and her crew will have a series of certified organic plant sales on the farm this spring: M.  To learn more about the Food Love Farm and the spring plant sale visit: https://sierraharvest.org/children-connect-to-fresh-food/food-love-farm/

 

Food Love Farm Renewed Their Organic Certification!

2019 - Emily Koller at Food Love Farm - CCOFIt’s official! The Food Love Farm just renewed their CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers) organic certification!  This means that all plant starts and produce grown at the Food Love Farm are done so without the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers or GMO seeds. This has always been our practice from day one and farm production has grown to the point where we needed to renew our organic certification. Organic standards ensure that the farming practices used produce not just safe and healthy food for you, but also protect and nurture the land we farm and the natural resources around us. Detailed record keeping and an annual re-certification and inspection will guarantee that the farming practices at the Food Love Farm continue to follow organic standards. Come visit the Food Love Farm to see organic in action!  Our weekly U-Pick will start again in June and we are happy to share how we do what we do! 

To learn more about CCOF and organic farming practices, visit: https://www.ccof.org/organic

 

From Apples to Zebra Tomatoes: Harvest of the Month Celebrates 10 years

tasting cauliflower at deer creek school HOM 2016This year, Sierra Harvest’s Farm to School program is celebrating 10 years of tastings, and over 50,000 pounds of local produce!  From jicama to kumquats, purple cauliflower to kiwis- thousands of Nevada County students and adults alike have munched their way through 50 different local and seasonal favorites over the years.  After trying so many new foods, local students averaged a 43% increase in liking the items sampled through the Harvest of the Month program.

Sierra Harvest has found that even picky eaters will often try vegetables at school if they see other kids trying them.  A parent recently reported, “I want you to know I have been trying to get my son to eat celery for years… He said someone at school gave him celery at the Harvest of the Month tasting… For the first time last night he asked me for celery with peanut butter on it! Because he tried it at school. So this project you have going is making the kids want to try vegetables.  It probably is a life changer for kids in their future because they want to start trying other things while they’re so young! “

One of the major supporters of Farm to School is the BriarPatch Food Co-op.  Located in Grass Valley, BriarPatch is a cooperatively-owned grocery store that has been a pillar of this community for over 40 years now.  And during the 2018-19 school year, BriarPatch has sponsored all the produce for the Harvest of the Month program!

Currently providing monthly tastings to 33 schools and other institutions such as Dignity Health, and Cascade Senior Living- the Harvest of the Month is not just for kids anymore.  If you shop at  BriarPatch you can now learn more about the program there, too.  Just look up in the produce section, where this month’s item is proudly featured.  February’s seasonal pick: crunchy carrots from Full Belly Farm.

Here’s what students are saying about the Harvest of the Month:

“We decided that persimmons are better than fruit snacks.”

“It makes the room smell good. Can I have seconds? It tastes like mind-blowing achievement!”

“The best thing in the world! So scrumptious.”

“They’re crunchy & a little juicy on the inside! They taste different! They taste so good & I love them! Carrots are my favorite food! We should make carrot juice sometime.”

“Does my breath smell like broccoli?”

It has been said that it takes trying a new item over 10 times to know if you like it or not!  Plus your taste buds change every 10 days as well.  This past year, 72% of students tried something new through Harvest of the Month.  Thanks to the Harvest of the Month program, community members of all ages are getting a chance to taste the best local produce available.  It might not be for the 10th time, but every bite counts. 

HOM tasting

 

 

Like a Good Neighbor – Peaceful Valley is Always There

Edy and Emily - Peaceful Valley seed donations 2019If you are a gardener or organic farmer in Nevada County, chances are you’ve spent some time in Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply!  A source for all things related to organic farming and gardening, this local business has been a core supporter of Sierra Harvest for 4 years now.

Indeed, over the years Peaceful Valley has donated more than $31,000 in kind to the organization as well as provided thousands of dollars in farm conference sponsorships and gifts.

In addition to this support, the talented folks at Peaceful Valley have also produced a number of videos showcasing the work of Sierra Harvest in the community.  Owner Pattie Boudier said, “One of the first videos we made was for the Harvest of the Month program showcasing Persimmons from Pearson Family Orchards.  It was so fun!  I also loved going out to Deer Creek Elementary- watching Yolanda Williges do the pepper tasting was really inspiring.  We have also done videos about the high school salad bars, and tasting week too.” Watch the Tasting Week video.

Sierra Harvest recently received a donation of 2,100 organic seed packets that will be used to teach people how to grow their own food locally through the Sierra Gardens program, in school gardens, and at the Food Love educational farm.  Peaceful Valley enables children and families of all income levels to get access to organic foods that they themselves have cultivated and harvested.

If you haven’t been to www.groworganic.com then you might want to head over, as Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply not only provides great products but also has over 300 how-to videos that have been viewed over 12 million times!

Peaceful Valley is an amazing resource for growers around the country and Sierra Harvest is incredibly grateful for their ongoing support of our mission and vision. 

Thanks to Volunteers, Sponsors, Presenters and Attendees – Conference a Success!

Doniga Markegard speaking at Nevada Union High School

“I always leave feeling optimistic about the future — a high I look forward to every year!”
– Conference Participant

Despite rain, snow, and sleet, the 9th annual Sustainable Food and Farm Conference was a success. Thursday and Friday Field Days offered an assortment of workshop opportunities, as well as a Farm Tour to Apollo Olive Oil, Heart and Soul Alpacas, Grant Marie Winery, and Richard’s Grassfed Beef. Doniga Markegard kicked off the keynote speaker series on Saturday with an inspiring look at her family-run farm and the future of regenerative ranching. Paul Muller and Dru Rivers of Full Belly Farm shared the secrets of their success, and Jeff Lowenfels kept the audience laughing with his unique brand of soil science humor.

The Main Hall was packed for the Farm Expo – which included conference sponsors, Vital Garden Supply, Forever Flowering Greenhouses, Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and many others – and conversation was lively between our vendors and participants. Conference Sponsors, BriarPatch Food Co-op, provided an assortment of snacks and beverages, and Summer Thymes Bakery & Deli served hundreds of locally-sourced lunches. Participants who braved the cold Sunday built their own curriculum from a selection of twenty workshops taught by local and regional experts.

It takes a village to put on an event, and it could not be done without our outstanding volunteers. From mailing flyers, to stuffing bags, to waking up at the crack of dawn to help register folks on Saturday, our volunteers are involved in every aspect of the conference. The Sustainable Food and Farm Conference is truly an event created for the community, by the community.

Putting Local on the Menu

Putting local on the menu attendees - 2019Hosted by Sierra Harvest, BriarPatch Food Co-op, and Three Forks Bakery and Brewing Co, the workshop ‘Putting Local on the Menu’ brought together nearly 70 food service professionals and food producers from throughout Nevada County to talk about building a stronger local food economy.  Area chefs know how challenging it can be to feature local food on their menus and the event was designed to learn how farm direct purchasing can differentiate a business, enhance the local economy and improve marketability.

Presenters included Nevada County Food Policy Council coordinator Stephanie Stevens, owner and head chef of Three Forks Bakery and Brewing Co. Shana Maziarz and Sean Dockery, farmers Kristen Draz and Wil Holland of FogDog farm, ranchers Ciara and Michael Shapiro of AM Ranch, BriarPatch Food Coop produce manager David Benson, and Sierra Harvest procurement specialist Lauren Scott.  

Over a dozen local farms participated in the conversation and Tim VanWagner of First Rain Farm shared, “There’s a lot of good energy around these issues right now. The time is ripe to figure out ways to make and sustain the needed connections between producers, restaurants and caterers; it’s just a matter of identifying the best methods to do so”.

Owners and chefs from fourteen local restaurants, caterers, and institutional food service employees attended including Dre Maher, nutrition director for Nevada City School of the Arts.  ‘My biggest takeaway were how many people showed up, were active listeners, and had enthusiasm for moving the relationship between growers and consumers forward in a way beneficial to all.”

Three Forks Bakery owners - 2019

“People are interested in learning more and figuring out how to do this” said Nevada County Grown’s new Executive Director, Shanin Ybarrondo. What she valued most about the event was that the conversation has started and it emphasizes the importance of the relationships.  Nevada County Grown is poised to support this effort by meeting with individual producers and buyers to understand their needs around promoting their efforts to put local on the menu. 

Producers and buyers had the opportunity to address the barriers of getting local food onto menus and into the hands of residents and visitors alike. Participants shared their challenges as well as their ideas for overcoming those obstacles. Organizers see this event as the first in a series to build a collaborative effort to increase the number of Nevada County eateries serving local produce.

If you would like more information about how to get involved or to support this effort, please contact Lauren Scott, procurement specialist at Lauren@sierraharvest.org or call 530-265-2343.

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 www.sierraharvest.org.  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 molly@sierraharvest.org.