Updates & Helpful Tips

Updates & Helpful Tips

Food Love Farm CSA

Sierra Harvest is excited to announce a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program for the 2020 season!  Bring the fresh flavors of the Food Love Farm to your home for just $30 each week!  Not only will you be eating vibrant, delicious, certified organic vegetables, herbs, and fruits, your family will also receive a weekly newsletter with updates from the farm, seasonal recipes, and a fun activity to do with your family.  Your CSA membership will provide you with 16 weeks of produce (Mid-June through September).  There are only 10 spots available for this season and they will go quickly, so sign up now!

What is a CSA share?

Community Supported Agriculture is a sales model that connects the producer and consumers more closely by allowing the consumer to subscribe to the harvest of a certain farm. A customer buys a share of the crop prior to the harvest season and receives weekly boxes of seasonal produce during the months when crops are ready to be harvested.

What will come in a Food Love Farm CSA box? 

Fresh, seasonal, certified organic vegetables, fruits, herbs, and a weekly mini flower bouquet.  As an educational farm, we grow lots of interesting things that you may not have tried before – be ready for fun surprises each week!    Don’t worry, we will have suggestions for how to use the more unique items in your box.

How much does a CSA share cost and how long does it last?

We offer a 16 week share for $480 ($30/week), June 18 through Sept. 24th. 

How do I pick up my CSA box?

Once you are registered, you will receive more details about how and when to pick up your box every Thursday at the Food Love Farm.

How do I sign up?

Register Now!

Contact Emily

Not All Heroes Wear Capes!

Michael and Shanon Whamond of Hillview Farms

Not all heroes and heroines wear capes – some wear kitchen aprons and others wear farm boots!  And this is where our story begins with 300 pounds of fresh, spring lettuce delivered by two passionate organic farmers to three Nevada County school districts who continue to provide school lunches (to-go style) for low-income families during COVID.

Continue reading “Not All Heroes Wear Capes!”

Get Set For Success With Our Sierra Harvest Garden Experts!

Would you like to have a bigger harvest out of your garden this year? After many years of requests, we are happy to announce that Sierra Harvest is now offering home garden consultations with Emily Koller, our Food Love Farm Director! If you have been struggling with a specific garden challenge, or just want to get general tips to upgrade your garden or improve your harvest, now is the time to schedule an appointment!

Continue reading “Get Set For Success With Our Sierra Harvest Garden Experts!”

It’s Time to Plant Summer Starts! (Plus a plant-approved playlist)

It’s official, this is the year of the home garden!  With so many people spending time at home and regular supply chains being interrupted, if you are growing a garden for the first time this year, you are not alone.  Seasoned growers are expanding plots and new gardens are popping up nationwide.

If you are part of the Sierra Gardens Program, you’ll be receiving your summer starts from Edy this coming week.  While it almost seems late to be getting them, we promise it’s not!  The last few weeks have been so warm that many people have already planted their frost sensitive summer crops, but spring is a finicky season!  Many people wait until Mother’s Day to plant heat loving plants and this timing is just fine. 

Continue reading “It’s Time to Plant Summer Starts! (Plus a plant-approved playlist)”

Nevada County Farmers and Ranchers Respond to COVID

Concerns about our food supply are getting national attention.  In some cases, farmers and ranchers are facing pandemic-related staff shortages and abrupt loss of markets, resulting in economic hardships for some growers and fresh food that can’t get out to the people who need it.

Here in Nevada County, the impact of COVID on our local farmers and ranchers has been quite a different story, largely due to the benefits of small scale agriculture in a local economy with strong community ties.

“Small farms who sell directly to local communities haven’t had many of the struggles that other farmers are facing with COVID,” says Molly Nakahara, Director of Sierra Harvest’s Farm Institute Program.  “Many local farmers have strong relationships with the customers who, through investing in their products, have helped them grow their business over the years.  Now, the farmers are there for the customers, providing new options like pre-packaging or online ordering to help keep the flow of local food going from farm to customer.  This two-way relationship between farmer and customer is one of the reasons why small-scale agriculture creates community resilience.”

Stone’s Throw Farm in in Colfax now offers on-line ordering for farm boxes, eggs, and flowers, so you can make purchases at home and simply pick it up at the farm.   Starbright Acres Family Farm offers online purchases for their farm stand and veggie starts, so you can easily pick up what you need.   Early Bird Farm, specializing in those milled grains that have been harder to find at the grocery store, has also launched an online store where you can shop for what you need to pick up flour freshly milled at the farm.

“For the produce growers that have direct-to-consumer business plans, not too much has changed with COVID, though it is still early in the season,” says Chris DeNijs, Nevada County Agricultural Commissioner. “I am concerned about the businesses that rely heavily on restaurant sales.” He has been helping some of these businesses take advantage of Farm Stands and other opportunities to sell directly to their customers.

Ciara Fuller, who operates AM Ranch with her partner Michael Shapiro, is one of those ranchers who rely heavily on restaurant sales.  “It was really hard and scary when COVID hit because we had a lot of animals on the ground, ready to go to restaurants,” she said.  Ciara and Michael had to move fast to shift how and where their meats were butchered so it could be packaged and sold directly to consumers, and then create a new website for an online store.  The outcome of their efforts so far looks encouraging.  “We have reached a lot of new customers, especially those who are feeling insecure about going to the store or wanting to secure a reliable source of meat,” Ciara said.  “This experience has opened our eyes to new ways to operate and sell to customers, and in case this ever happens again, we have a back-up plan to keep the business going and keep people fed.”

While some agricultural businesses like vineyards and cow-calf operations may face bigger challenges later in the season as they rely more heavily on labor and market trends from outside the county, the COVID crisis may indeed have long-lasting positives impact on local agriculture.   “COVID is bringing greater awareness to consumers about where their food comes from. It’s giving Nevada County growers an opportunity to shine, to show that they can produce healthy, nutritious food that is better than what you will find in chain grocery stores,” said says Chris DeNijs, Nevada County Agricultural Commissioner. “When all this is done, we will have a new outlook of how things can be done in Nevada County.  Our growers are nimble and will be able to adapt and survive, and that makes me feel hopeful for the future.”

Support the farmers and ranchers who are working harder than ever to support our community! Check out the Nevada City or Grass Valley Farmers Markets this weekend, the Nevada County Grown Farm Guide, or our Sierra Harvest Food, Farm & Garden Resource page to find more locally produced food.

Farmers Markets Opening This Weekend!

Nevada County’s Farmers Markets are considered essential businesses, just like our grocery stores, and several are opening up in May with new social distancing rules in place.

Producers and market managers have taken measures to comply with the California Department of Public Health Guidance, and according to news posted by Nevada County “will allow for a low-risk environment for residents of Nevada County to obtain the necessary and nutrient-rich foods for their family.”

The Grass Valley Farmers’ Market on Saturdays begins this weekend at its new location at McKnight Crossing in the Kmart parking lot, from 8am – 1pm. The Tuesday Market begins next week at the Pine Creek Shopping Center (in the Raley’s parking lot), from 8am – 1pm.  The Grass Valley downtown and Thursday night markets are not yet open.

The Nevada City Farmers’ Market will be held this Saturday, from 9 – 12pm, off Union Street in Nevada City, in the Three Forks Bakery & Brewing Co. parking lot.  The summer season weekly markets will begin June 6th.  If you would like to learn more about safety measures put in place for the market, you can read more here.

Both markets accept EBT/Calfresh benefits, and you can even double your EBT shopping dollars with the market match program!

Now more than ever, we have come to understand the importance of our local food system, and have deeper appreciation for the hardworking farmers and ranchers who are providing our community with nourishing food during these unprecedented times.  The County of Nevada and the County Department of Agriculture urges residents to support their local farmers’ and producers by shopping at local farmers’ markets.  We hope you will too! Come out and enjoy these locally and regionally grown foods, maintain your social distancing, and enjoy this great benefit of living in Nevada County.

Note: In Eastern Nevada County, the Truckee Farmers’ Market is currently suspended for the 2020 season.

Be the Local Food Movement – Join the Gleaning Volunteer Leadership Team!

In anticipation of the summer harvest season, we are now recruiting harvest leaders!

Gleaning Harvest Leaders commit to leading a small crew of volunteers to harvest excess fruit or vegetables in farms and gardens, and deliver the delicious bounty to Interfaith Food Ministry (IFM), who then distribute the produce to 8,000 clients in need! Crew leaders typically lead 1-2 gleans a month, July – October. To date the Sierra Harvest gleaning volunteers have harvested and donated more than 36,000 pounds of produce in the past two seasons!

Why should YOU be a volunteer Harvest Leader?

Lisa Haden, one of our returning leaders, shares that “being a harvest leader has been an incredibly enriching experience on many levels.  From learning about picking techniques to different methods of pest control for apple trees, to learning about how Interfaith serves the community, to representing Sierra Harvest and meeting all the volunteers; it’s been like biting into a juicy exotic heirloom apple and savoring all the waves of flavors!”

Awesome perks

There are so many reasons to be a leader – create new friendships, see gorgeous areas of Nevada County, meet wonderful hosts that are generously offering up their fruit to be gleaned, feel good about helping to reduce food waste and diverting it to those that truly need it, build your leadership skills, get more fresh air and take some produce home too! 

What about social distancing?

Sierra Harvest is closely watching state and local guidelines for COVID as they evolve over the season, and the most recent news suggests that restrictions will slowly begin to be lifted as the harvest season approaches.  Gleaning will only happen if it can be done within the safety guidelines provided to us by local and state governments. 

How to apply

Email Miriam@sierraharvest.org  by May 20 with your contact info to set up a phone interview.  Training and mentoring from veteran leaders will take place prior to leading your own gleaning team.  First team meeting will be the first week of June.  

Join the fun and supportive gleaning team of volunteer Harvest Leaders and make a significant difference in the health of our community members while savoring all the waves of flavors of juicy fruit this season!



Food Love Farm Veggie, Herb and Flower Starts Now Available at our On-line Store!

Food Love Farm plant sales 2020Home gardeners, the Food Love Farm annual plant sale has officially begun! Starting today, we have opened an easy to use on-line store where you can shop at home for the starts you need for your backyard garden.   

If your budget is too tight to buy plant starts – we can help! Thanks to the generosity of the Nevada County Department of Social Services and the The Lee & Dunn Group at Baird, Jon Lee & Janice Dunn, we can provide starts regardless of ability to pay, as long as supplies last.   Contact Farmer Emily to find out how more.

Here’s how easy it is to shop for your plant starts!

  1. Go to our on-line store and begin browsing over 100 varieties of vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers to choose from, all certified organic. 
  2. Choose your favorites, then use our secure payment system to purchase your plants.
  3. Your plants can be picked up at the farm on Saturday, April 25, May 2 or May 9th between 9 – 11am. Your order must be completed by Friday at noon, the day prior, for Saturday pick up. 


The Food Love Farm will have thousands of starts for sale, but don’t forget that many of our local farmers and BriarPatch Food Co-op are currently selling starts as well. Check out the Sierra Harvest Food, Farm & Garden Resources page for more details. 

What Impact has COVID-19had on the Food Love Farm?

We are grateful for our dedicated staff at the Food Love Farm, who have used their flexibility, creativity, and vision to best serve our community during this time.  Typically, the Food Love Farm has hundreds of school children coming out this time of year to participate in spring planting and other fun farm to school educational activities, and we miss the excitement and wonder of those field trips!  But without school groups to manage this spring, our farm staff has shifted more energy into food production for our community and special infrastructure projects that will make education at the farm better than ever. We will keep you posted on Food Love Farm updates, such as “pop up” farm stands, modified community u-picks, summer camp status and new educational features at the farm as we move into the summer season.

Do you miss visiting the farm and our farm educators? Watch Farmer Bri give you a sneak peek at what’s happening at Food Love Farm this week!

How Does Your Garden Grow?

sierra garden install at Washington School 2018Has there ever been a better time to take control of your food security then today?  One way to ensure a steady supply of fresh produce is to grow your own at home. If you don’t know how, the Sierra Harvest Garden program is here to help.

Sierra Gardens began about 9 years ago, in order to address local food insecurity and expand access to fresh organic food in Nevada County. Last year, Sierra Gardens participants grew over 4,000 pounds of fresh produce at home, with 100% reporting they now eat more fresh vegetables in their regular diet. According to program director Edy Cassel, “We expect to build our 100th garden this year”, including a new project at the Nevada County Youth Center, formerly Juvenile Hall. 

The Sierra Gardens program offers several levels of service – from a full garden build, including irrigation and fencing to “toppings only” for those who already have the infrastructure.  All options include two years of garden mentorship and support with veggie starts, seeds, cooking classes and more.  How do you know if this program is right for you? It all begins with an application and a site visit.

Cassel explains that during a site visit, “I come out and evaluate the yard or property to see if there is an appropriate spot for a garden.”  She said, sometimes there is not an appropriate spot so community gardens can be helpful, but if the property allows, the standard garden offered by the program is a 16 x 16-foot plot. Sierra Garden cooking class

“Part of what we do in the program is we provide the plant starts,” explains Cassel. “We go seasonally with the right plants at the right time.  We show up four different times of the year with seedlings and seeds to grow. Ideally, starting in early to mid- April, with cool weather crops like broccoli, cabbage, kale, chard, lettuce, collards, things like that.” 

She added, “We do not try to fill the garden, leaving room from the spring crop to plant summer crops so there is a lot of planning that goes with a garden that size.  We help with where to grow and what to grow.”  Over the course of the year, Sierra Harvest will also incorporate tomato plants, pepper plants, summer squash, winter squash, melons, and a variety of herbs.

The cost of the programs varies, as there are discounted rates for lower income families.  Cassel said, “Anybody who has children in school receiving free or reduced lunch will be eligible for some degree of scholarship. And if you can pay for it on your own, we offer a very reasonable price for all of the products and personalized services.” 

Cassel emphasizes that regular participation is the key to success.  “The people who get the most out of it are the people who take part and attend the classes.  Once you have a garden, it is something you need to engage with on a regular basis,” she said.

Joan Lyons followed Sierra Harvest on social media sites and read about the gardening program – applied online and was a recipient of a garden!  Lyons said it has inspired her and is thrilled to be growing food for her and for her family including a niece with special needs who loves to help in the garden.   “It’s nice to be able to share my bounty” she said, “It feels really good to be able to do it.”

Erin Sorani sierra Garden

Lyons takes part in many of the Sierra Harvest offerings and recently volunteered to be the coordinator of the garden program at her daughter’s school.  “I am really excited about this opportunity.  I really like the community of Sierra Harvest and everyone I have met so far has been really great.  It’s fun to be geeky about gardens!”

While growing food is hugely important, Cassel has seen how the benefits of gardening far exceed food production.  “It addresses other things besides the food.  It is healthy.  It is fun to get out there.  It gives people something to do.  It feeds the body and the soul.”

Applications are available at the Sierra Harvest offices at 313 Railroad Avenue in Nevada City or online.



New Positions for Sierra Harvest Staff Members!

Miriam LimovWe are delighted to share that Miriam Limov, who many of you know as our beloved Engagement Manager, has been hired as our new Farm Institute Associate!  She has been playing many roles at Sierra Harvest over the last five years, and in this new capacity, she will be working with Molly Nakahara to help support and expand our Farm Institute Programs, continue the great work Lauren Scott has done to help more restaurants and institutions buy directly from local farmers, take the lead on the Nevada County Food Policy Council, and continue to manage Soup Night and Farm Potlucks.   

Lauren ScottWe also want to give a heartfelt thanks to Lauren Scott, who has used her passion and creativity for almost 3 years to help do what many thought couldn’t be done – get more fresh, local food served in institutions like school lunches, hospital meals, as well as food banks and local restaurants. We are sad to see her go, but happy she is using her skills at The BriarPatch Food Co-op as their Sustainability Coordinator.