Ecological Reflections on the Corona Virus from Dr. Vandana Shiva

Dr. Vandana Shiva asked us recently to share this message with our community, and to let everyone how important this work is that we are all doing together.   We thank you for your part in building our local food economy – Sierra Harvest’s programs and the resulting transformation we see in our community would not exist without you.

We understand more poignantly than ever the importance of the resilience created by growing and preparing our own food!  We have pulled out some highlights of Dr. Shiva’s full essay below that link the destruction of nature, forests and animal habitat to the outbreak of disease globally.

Please share this message with your networks!

-The Sierra Harvest Team


One Planet, One Health – Connected through Biodiversity: From the Forests, to our Farms, to our Gut Microbiome
By Dr Vandana Shiva

We are one Earth Family on one planet, healthy in our diversity and interconnectedness.

The planet’s health and our health is non separable.

As Dr King reminded us

“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

We can be linked world-wide through the spread of disease like the corona virus when we invade the homes of other species, manipulate plants and animals for commercial profits and greed, and spread monocultures .

Or we can be connected through health and well-being for all by protecting diversity of ecosystems and protecting the biodiversity, integrity, self-organization (autopoiesis) of all living beings, including humans.

New diseases are being created because a globalized, industrialized, inefficient food and agriculture model is invading into the ecological habitat of other species and manipulating animals and plants with no respect for their integrity and their health ………

Globalized, industrialized food systems spread disease. Monocultures spread disease. Deforestation is spreading disease …..

Over the past 50 years, 300 new pathogens have emerged as we destroy the habitat of species and manipulate them for profits.

According to the WHO (World Health Organization), the Ebola virus moved from wild animals to humans “The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.

As the New Internationalist reports,“From 2014-16, an unprecedented Ebola epidemic killed more than 11,000 people across West Africa. Now scientists have linked the outbreak to rapid deforestation.”…….

As Professor John E. Fa of Manchester Metropolitan University, a senior research associate with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). Says ‘Emerging diseases are linked to environmental alterations caused by humans. Humans are in much more contact with animals when you open up a forest… You have a balance of animals, viruses and bacteria and you alter that when you open up a forest.’

The Kyasanur Forest Disease (KFD) is a highly pathogenic virus that spread from monkeys to humans through virus infected ticks as deforestation shrunk the forest habitat of monkeys.

“The KFD virus is a pathogen that has long existed as part of an established ecosystem in South Kanara. Human modification of that ecosystem through deforestation caused the epidemic occurrence of the disease.”

The Coronavirus too has come from bats. As Sonia Shah says “When we cut down the forests that the bats live in, they don’t just go away-they come and live in the trees in our backyards and farms”.

Prof Dennis Carroll of Cornell acknowledge that as we penetrate deeper into eco-zones we did not occupy before, we create the potential for spread of infection.

“Mad cow” disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), is an infectious disease caused by deformed proteins called “prions” that affect the brains of cattle.

Cows were infected by the Mad Cow Disease when they were fed rendered meat of dead infected cows . When beef from infected cows was fed to humans , they were infected with the CJD. The prion is a self-infective agent, not a virus or bacteria .It illustrates that when animals are manipulated and their integrity and right to health is violated, new diseases can emerge .

Anti-biotic resistance is growing in humans because of the intensive use of chemicals in factory farms. Anti-biotic resistance markers in GMOs could also be contributing to anti biotic resistance. Horizontal gene transfer across species is a scientifically known phenomena. This is why we have Biosafety science and Biosafety regulations like the Cartagena protocol to the Convention on Biodiversity and national laws for Biosafety.

Diseases are moving from non-human animals to the human animal as we destroy the habitat and homes of wild species ,we violate the integrity of species  as we manipulate animals in factory farms and genetically manipulate plants through genetic engineering with viral promoters and anti-biotic resistance markers……….

Localization of biodiverse agriculture and food systems grow health and reduce the ecological footprint. Localization leaves space for diverse species, diverse cultures and diverse local living economies to thrive.

We need to protect the Biodiversity of our forests, farms , our food to increase the biodiversity of our gut which is the true source of health. Plantations are not forests, and growing monoculture commercial plantations of trees or GMO soya is a threat to diverse species, diverse cultures and our own health .

Biodiverse organic systems need to become central to the public health solutions to the health emergency we are witnessing.

Biodiversity of the Mind must replace the monocultures of the mechanistic mind which see life’s diversity as the enemy to be exterminated.

India’s greeting “Namaste” has gone global in times of the corona virus. The significance of Namaste is not separation but a deeper unity that connects us all. Namaste means “I bow to the divine in you”. It signifies an interconnectedness that we are part of a sacred universe where everything is permeated by the divine for the benefit of all, the exclusion of none.

Let not the social isolation required in a health emergency become a permanent pattern of separation, destroying community and social cohesion.

The future depends on our oneness as humanity on one planet connected through biodiversity and health. We need each other and the earth in our rich diversity and self-organization to create resilience in times of the emergency, and to regenerate health and well-being in the post corona world

The Corona crisis creates a new opportunity to make a paradigm shift from the mechanistic, industrial age of separation, domination, greed and disease, to the age of Gaia, of a planetary civilization based on planetary consciousness that we are one earth family. That our health is One Health rooted in ecological interconnectedness, diversity, regeneration, harmony.

Read Dr. Shiva’s full essay here.

We are here for you!

tasting days - williams ranch 2019 - approvedSierra Harvest’s roots are grounded in community.  Since 2008, we have been working together to improve our collective health and wellness through local food. Today, we find ourselves feeling even more committed to our work ensuring the community has access to healthy food to nourish us as we embrace what is important.  

Even though schools are closed, we will continue to support children by providing assistance to food service directors as they offer school meals for pick up. We are also expanding educational materials on our website and social media that are chock full of farm fresh activities for children now at home.   

Even though farmer training classes can’t happen in-person right now, we will continue to support our local farmers by holding classes online, helping them find markets for their nutritious foods, and ramping up our efforts for institutions who are providing meal services to buy local. And we are committed to helping YOU connect with and source local food.

Even though our community couldn’t gather in person to celebrate our farmers at soup night and our farm potlucks may take on a Nicole Stevenson - gleaning at Johansen Farm 2019new form, we will continue to support our community.  Our backyard gardens program is booming as the desire to become more self-sufficient with our food sources takes priority.  And our Gold Country Gleaning program, getting local food distributed to those who are struggling with feeding their family, now becomes critical. 

While some of our programs and services cannot be delivered at this time, we will continue to take care of each other.  Our staff are working and communicating with our supporters and community partners to continue to create the impact you have come to expect from Sierra Harvest.   The organization is positioned well to stay viable and we are grateful for twelve years of outstanding community support. 

We are here and listening should you have ideas to share about how we can best assist those needing access to food and wanting to learn how to grow their own food right where they live.  Our mission is to transform lives and strengthen community through fresh, local, seasonal food.  And to this end, may you find ways to nurture those in our community who need our help the most. 

In connection and mutual health,

The Sierra Harvest Team

Food Love Farm welcomes new Farm Educator

Melanya, Sophie and Emily at Food Love Farm 2020
Left to right: Melanya, Sophie and Emily at the Food Love Farm

This spring, Melanya Gonshorowski joined the team of educators at the Food Love Farm.  Melanya brings many years of experience with both farming and educating, including guiding kids’ backpacking and canoe trips and as a counselor at Camp Augusta.  Most recently she has served our community as a midwife with Sierra Homebirth.  Melanya says “I’m excited to have my hands in the dirt and share my love of cooking with Nevada County students!”  Field trips to the farm will begin this April for local students.  Sophie Larsen, Senior Farm Educator and Emily Koller, Farm Director, both entering their third year at the Food Love Farm, are excited to begin this season and to welcome Melanya to the team!  The Food Love team has been busy in the greenhouse this spring, seeding thousands of vegetable, herb, and flower starts. Stop by the farm April 25, May 2, or May 9 for our annual plant sale! 

Registration Open for the Tastiest Summer Camp in Town!

food love camp 2019Sierra Harvest will once again offer 2 weeks of farm fun and fresh fruits and veggies at their educational farm, the Food Love Farm!  Each July, campers arrive at the farm ready to work, play, cook, and eat.  This camp is designed to encourage children to understand their connection to themselves, their community, the earth, and the food they eat. 

Throughout the week, kids learn about food, farming, and the environment by engaging in a variety of craft, cooking, and farming activities.  Campers spend each morning helping with farm chores, harvesting produce, and preparing lunch together.  Last summer, harvesting and preparing lunch for fellow campers on the ‘Kitchen Crew’ was voted favorite activity!  Every afternoon we share our farm-fresh meal, followed by a nature-inspired craft or game.  Often we close out the day sharing a book in the shade of the hops tipi.  This camp is kept small to encourage campers and staff to create a community-like environment and to ensure each child feels fully involved in daily farm life.  We hope that kids who attend farm camp will come home excited to share healthy recipes and habits for maintaining wellness, as well as feeling inspired to participate in our local food system and our community! 

The first session will take place July 13th-17th and the second session will happen July 20th – 24th.  Scholarships may be available to families who qualify – contact Farmer Emily at or  click here for more info!

Congratulations to the Farm Biz class of 2020!

Farm Biz 2020 graduatesFor the past 7 weeks, Tuesday evenings in the Tintle Classroom at the Sierra Harvest office were loud and lively!  10 farmers gathered and shared their passion, enthusiasm and commitment to local agriculture as they learned more about farm business management.  These folks are definitely going to make waves in our community!  We are thrilled to congratulate our Farm Biz class of 2020!  Be on the lookout for their farms and farm products.  On social media? Track them down and watch them grow!

Erin Kaiser, Nightingale Farms

Cam Redford & Sydney Crow, McClaughry Farms

Jasmine Noble & David Cochran, Early Bird Farm

Rob Chase, Peardale Meadow Farm

Tia Thompson, Bailey Farm

Ken Wallace, Evolution Farms

Cate & Kevin Keller, Father Daughter Farm

Christine Eschen, Tres Jolie Lavender Farm

Don’t Panic – Certify Organic!  Organic Certification Intensive starts 3/16

pear -photo Alix BlairOrganic Certification helps farmers access new markets, better prices and is a great way to share their farming methods with customers.  But the process to certify has long been viewed as time-consuming, complicated and expensive!  That’s why we started hosting the Organic Certification Intensive.  Each spring, farm businesses ready to begin the application process can attend our 4-part course taught by Organic experts.   The class demystifies all aspects of certifying Organic from the application process to the cost of certification.  And it includes a mock-audit of a local, certified Organic farm!  Click here to learn more.

Collaborative five-year plan guides our efforts

2020 Sierra harvest strategic 5 year planTwo generations ago, people ate from their own gardens and farms and communities relied on a local network to feed themselves.  Today, the priorities of convenience and cost have replaced healthy, wholesome food that travels an average of 1500 miles from farm to plate and people are disconnected from the food they eat.  Even though the world produces one and a half times more food than the global population, food insecurity or a lack of access to enough good, healthy, and culturally appropriate food is an enormous and complex problem and is directly related to community resilience. 

Sierra Harvest exists to deliver solutions in the areas of consumption, production and access to fresh, local, seasonal food so in 2019, we asked what our community needed to improve their health and well-being.  We talked to farmers, business leaders, program participants, kids, parents, teachers, supporters, our partners and other community members.  Our board and staff spent time at a retreat, a full day workshop, and sitting down with individuals one on one to understand the complex problems and opportunities associated with feeding a community locally and creating resiliency to weather the impacts of climate change.  We distilled the creativity, inspiration, perspectives and feedback into a five-year strategic plan that now guides our work keeping a long term vision active and within reach.  The plan includes four unique Ends policies which define outcomes as a result of the work done by the organization along with corresponding strategies that we believe are the most effective way to meet our Ends.

Sierra Harvest thrives on feedback and we will continue to commit ourselves to receiving opinions and suggestions to ensure the plan itself lives and breathes with what is the only sure thing – change!  As the plan unfolds and becomes part of the fabric of our community, we hold ourselves accountable to creating a community where everyone has a seat at the table filled with local fresh foods that nurture and sustain us.  Thank you for your partnership!

Give us your feedback!

Sustainable Food & Farm Conference Brings Hope and Inspiration

farm tour - 2020 farm conference - mountain bounty farm - rachel berry photo This past weekend 620 Food & Farm Conference goers from Nevada County and throughout the Western states learned new farming, gardening, cooking, and ranching tips, gained cutting edge knowledge to make their farm businesses more successful, were inspired to eat better, grow food more efficiently, raise animals with love and create a healthier planet!

As one participant put it; “I am inspired! I am over the top inspired!”

2020 farm tour - farm conference On the farm tour participants got to see first-hand how intensive rotational grazing is restoring natural ecosystems, building soil, and increasing diversity on one ranch, they tested out human-scale seed threshing and cleaning machines which are available to the community to facilitate local seed saving, and they visited the largest and oldest community supported agriculture farm in Nevada County.

Saturday the outpouring of gratitude was palpable and the community was galvanized into action. The work of farming sustainably can be grueling yet farmers and ranchers left feeling inspired that their work is creating huge ripples of positive change beyond just feeding people. During the food and farming expo, and lunchtime round-table discussions, the attendees found new friends and made connections to support their success. One couple was so inspired by the conference and the community, that they decided this weekend to sell their house in Tahoe and buy a farm here.Dr. Vandana Shiva - Food & Farm Conference Sierra Harvest

Sunday participants honed in on the specific topics they needed to take their farms and ranches to the next level. From trouble shooting problems to exploring new recipes or enterprises, everyone took home tangible concepts to apply at home.

Here’s what we heard from conference goers over the weekend.

“Thank you Sierra Harvest for organizing the Food and Farm conference. I’ve followed Dr. Vandana Shiva’s work for the last 10 years so it was a great honor to hear her speak in person! Hearing about our broken food system is daunting and depressing but also a great MOTIVATOR to get out there and do something about it.”

wild foraging workshop at sierra harvest food and farm conference 2020“Wow, what a success the conference was! I really was inspired by the Kaiser’s talk and my time there, thank you for the farmer discount, that really made the difference!”

“Dr. Vandana Shiva has me in tears of exhilaration this morning.”

“Thank you for bringing such high caliber speakers to our community. You outdid yourselves.”

“Having a booth at the expo was awesome, epic, we can’t thank you enough!”

“I came to the conference very depressed and hopeless. The conference had opened me up to the many opportunities for a meaningful life, I am full of hope and gratitude. Thank you!”

Big thanks to our top sponsors, BriarPatch Food Co-op, Vital Garden Supply, Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply for making this event possible!

Fresh Face Brings Fresh Food to School District

Jeff Coats - GV food services directorJeff Coats and his wife always knew they wanted to return to Nevada County, having lived here some 20 years ago – so much so that they bought a house in Nevada City a few years back.  When Jeff read about a Food Services Director opening in the Grass Valley School District, he applied and is happy to be “home.”

Coats and his team are responsible for providing nutrition to school aged children around the county – breakfast and lunch in Grass Valley schools as well as meals for two preschool and after school programs which consist of dinner and a snack.  The district also contracts with other schools to provide meals–be it snacks, lunches, or both.  Coats said they follow USDA guidelines.  “Contrary to what a lot of people believe, the guidelines for school lunches and school breakfasts are geared to more healthy choices.  We determined our students need whole grains- they are better for them than processed flour – we provide a meat or meat alternative every day.  We are required to serve fresh fruits and vegetables every day, and 8 fluid ounces of milk.  So, every day, what we send out to the students include all of those components.”  The current administration is rolling back some of those guidelines which Coats does not necessarily agree with but expects an increase in what he calls “food acceptability” by the students. 

The district just underwent an audit which Coats expects to pass but also feels there is room for improvement.  “Can we do better? Gosh, we could do so much better!  I believe there is some room to improve the program.  Parents are concerned about a lot of things, for example, all of the packaging and plastic that we put things in and the perception that it (the food) is not fresh and not healthy for the children.” 

Less than six months into the job, Coats is already looking at different ways to effectively meet the guidelines while making improvements to the menus and the process.  At the beginning of February, he   put salad bars back into the Grass Valley elementary and middle schools.  “Reintroducing the salad bars gives us an opportunity to offer more of a variety of fresh vegetables and fresh fruit,” Coats said, “It also allows us to be able to purchase some of the wonderful local stuff that we have and offer that on our salad bar and do some nice marketing for our local farms.”  Jeff is looking to connect with local farms this spring and summer and is committed to making purchases of fresh, local food. 

Fresh fruits and vegetables in a salad bar do not require packaging so Coats expects to cut packaging by 50% with that one small change.  He said more kids eat fruits and vegetables and by giving them a choice, they are more likely to eat what they select, which will cut back on waste while still meeting the guidelines.  “It’s a start,” he said.  “We have some longer terms goals to  retrofit our areas where we serve and put in some steam wells and hot holding wells so that instead of packaging hot food we can serve more family style.”  He says while that may not change the corndog they are serving, (which are very popular with students), it won’t be in a package.   Coats also plans to retrofit the industrial kitchens to do some scratch cooking. 

While Coats has the freedom to serve what he chooses as long as he hits the guidelines and stays within budget, he believes processed food is not the best for growing bodies.  “Access to fresh fruits and vegetables with natural sugars and things like that give your body that natural energy and gets you through the day while processed food fills your belly but bogs you down,” he said.  “I don’t think our students can concentrate and be the best they can be in school having that type of (processed) food all the time.”

Coats hopes to partner with Sierra Harvest for some marketing to get the word out and to better use produce from local farmers and expects to include harvests from the school’s gardens in the salad bar.  Coats concludes, “We are making strides.  I am excited to be here and am excited to make changes for the better of our community.”

Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply is dedicated to supporting Sierra Harvest

Emily and Sophie getting donated seeds for the Food Love Farm 2019 from Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply
Emily and Sophie, Food Love Farm educators choosing seeds for the Food Love Farm donated by Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply

Since buying Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply with her now late husband, in 1996, Pattie Boudier has dedicated her business to supplying growers of all types with organic farming supplies. Everything the business offers for sale is either natural or organic. The company has expanded to a national market but is a major supporter of the local movement of access to organic, fresh, locally grown food.
To that end, Peaceful Valley Farm is a major supporter of Sierra Harvest. Boudier said, as a long-time sponsor of the Sustainable Food and Farm Conference, but also with other projects that happen throughout the year. Their product development manager Sarah Griffin-Boubacar will be holding a “Making Soft Cheese” workshop as part of the conferences this year.

“We have been very actively supporting Sierra Harvest. I think their mission goes very well with ours.” Boudier said, “Their mission is to transform lives and strengthen the community through fresh, local, seasonal food and our mission is to provide the tools and products for people to grow their own fresh, local, seasonal food.”

She said growing your own food is easier than you think. Boudier has made over 300 “how to” videos that are available on the Peaceful Valley website and YouTube channel. Watch a delightful short video about the history, mission and information about their company.

Boudier believes the movement to fresh and local is gaining momentum all over the country but has been a big part of Nevada County’s local culture for a long time. “Here in Nevada County, I think a big part of our population has been active in gardening because we are in a rural place and people have the space. We have good climate. I think in general people are more into gardening than other places – especially organic and natural – the horrors of the chemical and weed controls are really being put out in the media now and in general people are really gardening more and they are gardening naturally now.”

Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply has taken on Sierra Harvest as their primary recipient of donations. “We get a lot of requests from places with very, very good missions, but in order to do one thing really well and make a difference, we decided that all of our donation dollars are basically going to go to Sierra Harvest.” In addition, Peaceful Valley has helped by donating seeds and products to Sierra Harvest’s Food Love Farm and the Sierra Garden Program as well to all of the local schools and with some of their marketing efforts by creating short films that show their mission in action. “We are trying to get as involved as we can with them and support them in any way, “Boudier added.

She credits Sierra Harvest with being a nonprofit that carries out their mission very well. “These people really know what they are doing, and they are getting a lot of traction.” She said, “They have the right idea. Let’s start influencing our young people. Let’s get our parents involved. Let’s get our community involved. And just be healthier.”

peaceful valley farm supply logo