750 Pounds and Counting!

Phil Alonso, ED of Interfaith Food Ministry with organic kiwis purchased as part of the 20 x 25 challenge

Interfaith Food Ministry (IFM) is the first institution to step up to the Nevada County 20 by 25 Challenge. With the support of Sierra Harvest, the Nevada County Food Policy council is poised to launch the 20 by 25 Challenge, an effort to help the county consume 20% “Whole-sum food by 2025.” Whole-sum food is defined as local (produced within 20 miles of where it will be served), community-based (within 20-120 miles), fair, ecologically sound, and humane. Currently, only 2% of the food that Nevada County residents consume, was grown or raised locally.  The challenge aims to change that.

In April, IFM’s Executive Director, Phil Alonso sat down with Food Policy Council Manager, Stephanie Stevens, and Sierra Harvest Procurement Specialist, Lauren Scott to identify opportunities for sourcing local and organic produce. Less than a week after their initial meeting, IFM purchased nearly 750 pounds of organic kiwis from Wild River Marketing in Marysville. According to IFM staff, the kiwis were a popular addition for IFM clients and for some it was their first time trying the fruit! 

Purchasing more local food can improve health outcomes in residents, bolster the local economy, and lower individual carbon footprints. Studies have shown that local economies benefit from local purchasing, what’s known as the “economic multiplier effect.” A research team from UC Davis published a study in 2016 that showed that dollars spent at a local, direct-market fruit or vegetable grower have twice thelocal economic impact when compared to large wholesalers.

Any organization or institution is invited to participate in the 20 by 25 Challenge by contacting Stephanie Stevens to establish a baseline. Stevens says, “Buying locally can be a learning curve, and we want to meet folks where they are. If they can get their local consumption from 0 percent to 1 percent, we still consider that a victory. There is no wrong way to participate in this challenge. We’re here to support residents and help them achieve their own goals.”  Contact Stephanie at for more information about the 20 by 25 Challenge.

Three Cheers for Three Forks!

three forks owners shana maziarz and daveIf you haven’t eaten at Three Forks Bakery and Brewery Co yet, you’re going to want to after you finish reading this (just don’t go on Tuesday- they’re closed then!)  Started in 2014 by Shana Maziarz and Dave Cowie, this unassuming restaurant in downtown Nevada City is changing the face of local food in Nevada County, one meal at a time.

For the initiated, here’s the scoop- every week, the rotating menu changes based on what’s in season right now.  Nearly all of the meat they source is local, and most of their produce (especially during the high season) is grown within 20 miles, often much closer.  In close partnership with 30 local and regional producers, they serve casual fare of soups, salads, and sandwiches; as well as being a full-service bakery and brewery.  Even in the side season, Three Forks is showcasing a creative locally based menu, which has been an incredible market for growers and a learning experience for eaters.  Where else are you going to find a pizza with cardoons?  Or nettle pesto? Or wood fired hakurei turnips?

We caught up with Shana Maziarz one morning at the bakery to talk about local food and why Three Forks chooses to support Sierra Harvest as a business sponsor.  When asked about this, Maziarz said, “The work that Sierra Harvest is doing is really the lynchpin of us figuring out how to take better care of ourselves as a community.  If we can figure out how to feed ourselves well and in a way that’s democratic, a lot of other changes can follow.  I love how comprehensive Sierra Harvest’s programs are- the organization feels fine tuned to this community and holistic in its ways of addressing all these different pieces of what’s going on.”

With a background in farming and environmental education, Maziarz understands the bigger picture when it comes to local food, especially here.  “In this small town, we’re able to have a significant impact, and the time is ripe for this to be happening, “she said. “Customers are getting excited about eating seasonally, and this ripples out in a real way to our farming community.  For instance, we started sourcing spigarillo (a specialty broccoli) from Riverhill Farm and now people go to market to get it specifically from them.”

Along with a few other restaurants, Three Forks is on the vanguard of sourcing locally and is leading the charge helping other restaurants navigate how to do it well.  “It’s not enough to get a few local tomatoes in the summer, there’s so much more that’s possible and available for much of the year” and if Three Forks is any example, people are hungry for more.

Over the past months, Sierra Harvest has teamed up with Three Forks Bakery and Brewery Co and BriarPatch Food Coop to offer a series of workshops for local restaurants interested in sourcing directly from farmers.  “Together, we are building connections between growers and buyers and ultimately that is going to benefit everyone.”  Maziarz has also followed up with several restaurants who attended these workshops to dive deeper into helping them figure out how to source locally beyond just one or two items. 

“Many restaurants are nervous about getting local food- about the price and reliability.  But in my experience, there’s just really no comparison. The sizes that you get in cases are much bigger, the produce holds longer in the cooler, and it’s just ultimately a better deal. And I have relationships with all these growers- I can call and say that we’re out of lettuce and more often than not the farmer will go out of their way to make sure we can get what we need,” said Maziarz.

Did you realize that eating pizza could be a political act?  One that has ripple effects across your community?  When consumers choose to spend their food dollars at restaurants who are going the extra mile to support local farmers, that’s exactly what’s happening.  Sounds like a delicious way to make a difference.

three forks owners shana maziarz and dave




The Carrot was the Star at the 2019 Jr Iron Chef Competition!

jr iron chef competition at NJUHSD 2019

As Nevada Union High School students readied themselves for spring break, nearly 150 Culinary Arts students competed in the 3rd Annual Jr Iron Chef Competition sponsored by Sierra Harvest and BriarPatch Food Co-op.

The week long competition began with a reveal of the secret ingredient: organic, local carrots from Mountain Bounty Farm. In less than an hour, student teams crafted a recipe highlighting the secret ingredient. Culinary Instructor Kelli Morris shopped for all team’s ingredients at Briar Patch with a generous gift card donated by the Food Coop. Students then had a class period to prep ingredients. When the guest judges arrived on Wednesday and Thursday, students had an hour long class period to execute and present their dishes.

Recipes were scored based on flavor, presentation, creativity, and practicality. Guest judges chose a winning dish from each of the 5 culinary classes and to compete against one another for the toughest critics: their peers. Students judged the top five dishes in the Nevada Union cafeteria during lunch last week. In a close race, Roasted Carrot and Sweet Potato soup won with 35% of the vote. Cheesy Carrot Casserole came in 2nd with 23% of the vote, followed by Carrot Ginger Soup and Moroccan Carrot Tagine.

The following is a first-hand account of the competition from guest judge Roberta DesBouillons, retired chef and former owner of Apron Strings, a cooking school for youth in San Francisco.  

Once things got rolling I was aware of how industrious and ambitious these high school students were.  No one took the path of least resistance. I witnessed team work, critical thinking, time management, math, science…all the things that take place in a commercial industrial kitchen.

Fellow judges Megan Hart from Polly’s Paladar, Shana Maziarz from Three Forks, Wendy Van Wagner involved in Nevada County Nutritional Program, Shanin Ybarrondo from Nevada County Grown, Aimee Retzler, Malaika Bishop, and Lauren Scott from Sierra Harvest were roaming throughout the kitchen as the students pulled together ingredients, preheated ovens and collected tools as the clock started to tick. As dishes began to come together, the aromas started taking center stage. Cinnamon, cumin and curry were just a few of the global scents. Blenders were whirling while pureeing variations of carrot soup, food processors were busy grating for potato, carrot latkes, stand mixers were whipping up cream cheese frosting for carrot cake, muffins and blondies.

Jr iron chef - roberta and shannin
  Roberta and Shanin judging the entries

One by one the teams started bringing their completed projects up to the judging area.  The sense of pride and accomplishment was evident as the dishes were placed on the table to be judged. Each judge armed with fork and spoon took their job seriously. Initially the first taste was taken with discrimination as the students stood to the side looking for an indication as to how their offering did. Most dishes were nothing short of impressive, meeting the criteria set before-hand. Often the plating and garnishing was creative with great eye appeal. As the judges compared notes the dishes were rated and scores added up. In the end, they were all winners. As these high school students get closer to the day they leave the place they now call home and move into the world to create their own lives, they will have to feed themselves. Jr Iron Chef brings them a step closer to being able to take something as simple as a carrot and create a beautiful, healthy dish. It teaches them to eat fresh, locally sourced food and that spending time in the kitchen can be a rewarding experience.

If you’d like to taste the semi-finalist recipes for yourself – here they are!

1st Place: Roasted Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup


  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 1 lb carrots
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2-4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Peel and chop veggies, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Roast on a lined baking sheet on the center rack of oven for 30-40 minutes.
  4. Bring a medium pot to medium-low heat and melt butter.
  5. Add flour, slowly whisking to form a roux. Stir constantly, while the roux thickens, then slowly add in veggie broth.
  6. Add roasted veggies and season with salt.
  7. Blend soup using an immersion blender, or in batches using a regular blender.
  8. Serve hot, topped with a sprinkle of cinnamon.

2nd Place: Cheesy Carrot Casserole


  • ½ cup butter
  • ½ medium onion
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon dried mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 12 large carrots cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 cup plain bread crumbs or Ritz crackers


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9×13 casserole dish.
  2. Steam carrots until ½ way cooked, soft enough to bit but still with a little crunch.
  3. As carrots steam, combine butter and onion in a saucepan. Cook until onions are soft and translucent.
  4. Add flour, salt, mustard and pepper. Mix well to create a paste.
  5. Slowly add 1/3 cup of milk at a time while whisking continually until all the milk has been added to pan.
  6. Cook for 5 minutes, turn off heat, and add cheese. Mix well until cheese is melted.
  7. Place steamed carrots in casserole dish, pour cheese mix on top of carrots.
  8. Sprinkle bread crumbs or Ritz crackers on top and bake 25 minutes.
  9. Garnish with chives and almonds.

3rd Place: Creamy Carrot Ginger Soup


  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 pound carrots
  • 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
  • ¼ cup Sour cream


  1. Melt butter in pot, add onions and cook, stirring often, about 5-6 minutes.
  2. Add broth, carrots, and ginger. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until carrots are soft. About 30 minutes.
  3. Add sour cream, using an immersion blender (or in batches in a regular blender). Carefully blend until smooth. Bring soup back to a boil. Adjust with salt and pepper.

4th Place: Moroccan Carrot Tagine


  • 1 onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • ¾ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 Tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 5 large carrots
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 teaspoons honey
  • 2 cups chickpeas


  1. Sauté garlic, onion, and parsley on medium heat for 5 minutes.
  2. Add salt, cinnamon, pepper. Add carrots with water.
  3. Bring to simmer on low heat till tender.
  4. Stir in honey and cooked chickpeas.

Honorable Mention: Carrot Tart with Ricotta and Herbs


  • 2 cup ricotta
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion
  • 4 large carrots
  • Package of puff pastry
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup chopped chives
  • 2 tablespoon dill
  • Dried cranberries


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Whisk ricotta and cream in a small bowl, season with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, cook onion until soft. Add carrots and cook 2 minutes, season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  4. Put ricotta mixture in mini filo shells.
  5. Scatter onion and carrot on shells and bake until tender.
  6. Just before serving, toss herbs and remaining oil in a bowl with salt and pepper and place on tarts. Sprinkle on dried cranberries.



Be a Hero – Apply to be a Volunteer Harvest Leader for the 2019 Gold Country Gleaning Season!

Bill Jensen, Miriam Limov and Heidi Zimmerman on a 2018 gleanPick fruit, meet new friends, explore our stunning county and donate the fruit to those in need (plus take a wee bit home for you) – Wow! What a remarkable volunteer opportunity this is and it could be yours – apply now to be a volunteer Harvest Leader for the 2019 Sierra Harvest Gold Country Gleaning season! We are seeking 5-6 passionate and enthusiastic volunteers who can commit to leading a crew of volunteers up to twice a month July – Oct. to pick fruit that would otherwise go to waste from Nevada County farms and home orchards and deliver it to Interfaith Food Ministry (IFM) to be distributed to their 8,000 clients with 25% of them children.  Volunteers picked and donated more than 10,000 pounds in the 2018 season to IFM – be a part of this awesome team that will try and double that amount in 2019! 

Applications due May 17 with interviews in late May. Apply today through the on-line form located here.  All training included! Questions  – Miriam Limov at

Creating a Stronger Local Food Economy One Conversation at a Time!

putting local on the menu event april 2019 - miners foundryOn April 4th just before the start of Sierra Harvest’s annual Soup Night, more than 45 local food buyers and producers participated in a networking event with the intention to create more farm-direct relationships in Nevada County. Participants engaged in meaningful conversations around seasonal availability, pre-planning, communication, commitments, and pricing. Producers swapped their planned availability for the seasons with buyers who brought their menu plans and everyone left with a contact list of buyers and producers in attendance.

There were producers from more than 20 farms and ranches who offer a range of products including vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, eggs, poultry, pork, beef, flowers, and herbs. Well established farms like Mountain Bounty, Riverhill, Back2Basics and Starbright Acres as well as new farmers on the scene like Son of Something Farm, Lush Leaf Micro Greens, and New Leaf Grown all turned up to meet potential new buyers. 

In addition to a great producer turn out, there were food buyers from over a dozen local restaurants, grocery stores and institutions in attendance. Restaurant owners from Wild Eye Pub and Meze Eatery brought their menu plans and produce needs for the season, handing them out to farmers and discussed  varietal details. Chefs from South Pine Café, Diego’s, Stone House, Thirsty Barrel, The Ham Stand, and Gourmet Kitty Productions were among the buyer’s crowd. The produce buyers from BriarPatch Food Co-op and SPD Market were also in attendance.  

Sandra Higareda of Higareda Family Farms emailed the next day stating, “I want you to know that I appreciate the connections made at the networking event and thanks to Aimee Retzler for introducing me to John Painter of SPD Market. Today I delivered a case of parsley for them to look at my quality, so I appreciate the work Sierra Harvest is doing to connect farmers with local business. It was a success immediately”.

What started as a conversation in December of 2018 on how to engage more Nevada County restaurants and food buyers in purchasing locally, has turned into a series of gatherings attended by over a hundred local folks invested in creating a stronger local food economy. Contact Lauren Scott, Sierra Harvest Procurement Specialist, for more information on the ‘Putting Local on the Menu’ series. (530) 265-2343.


Hats Off to the 2019 Farm Biz Graduates

farm biz class 2019

Farm Biz class of 2019:  Hayley Wingerd, Patrick Kersten, Lynn Archer, Kim Overaa, Mike Ingram, Adam Pearcy and Jason Rainey.

New farms are springing up in our community!  From oyster mushrooms to hops, new farmers are finding niche crops that local markets are craving.  The members of the Farm Biz class of 2019 highlight the great land-based entrepreneurs working hard to create a vibrant food system in Nevada County.   Learn more about a few of these new farm businesses and the wonderful products they are supplying our community. 

You’ve never seen Oyster mushrooms like the ones Lynn Archer grows at Sierra Gourmet Mushrooms.  They look like they’re made of velvet and a single cluster is the size of a dinner plate!  If you were at Soup Night, you may have stopped by her table to ogle her amazing display of mushrooms and asked, like many did, “are these real?!”  Oh yes, they are real, and they are available at many local grocery stores and restaurants. 

Would you like to have a box of locally grown, fresh veggies delivered to a location of your choice every week?  Look no further than, King of the Woods Farm located just minutes from downtown Grass Valley.  Farm Biz grad Hayley Wingerd and partner Evan, co-owners of King of the Woods, grow vegetables and mushrooms on their innovative, micro-farm.

Don’t just eat local, drink local!  Mike Ingram of Yuba River Organics in Penn Valley is growing hops on a big scale.  He plans to plant a few acres of the varieties most sought after by local brewers.   

Adam Pearcy is growing high elevation vegetables at FourK Farm!  Located up Highway 20 at an elevation of 4000 feet, Fourk Farm offers a CSA with multiple pick-up locations throughout town. 

Hats off to our Farm Biz graduates!  We wish you success!

farm biz class 2019

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:


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:


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