Bounty of the County – Aug. 21st

bounty of the county posterJoin Nevada County Grown for their annual Bounty of the County fundraiser, where they unite local farmers and ranchers with their favorite restaurants, local breweries and vintners to provide you with a fun, exciting tasting event that explores the best of our food scene Aug. 21st from 5:30-8PM.
This year they are highlighting “Putting Local on the Menu” a community effort to offer more local meat and produce in restaurants all around the county, strengthening our local food supply, building our local economy, and defining our local food culture.
They have also expanded the event to be a family friendly affair offering a Youth Culinary Experience sponsored by Sierra Harvest.

Proceeds will benefit Nevada County Grown and their mission to promote and celebrate our local food culture.  Purchase tickets online here.

Smash, Chop, Mix and Devour!

tasting at deer creek school 2018Do you love to cook with fresh, local produce and want to share your enthusiasm for healthy eating with Nevada County students? We are seeking volunteer chefs to teach hands-on cooking lessons utilizing seasonal produce from local farmers.   Volunteer chefs will craft simple recipes with students at 24 elementary schools and 4 high schools in Nevada County Sept. 30 – Nov. 1. A stipend is offered to cover costs. You don’t need to be a professional chef to enjoy this fun volunteer opportunity. Training is offered for new and experienced chefs.  “I had a blast today and was blown away by the kids’ enthusiasm for and enjoyment of the food! At least two girls said that it was the most delicious salad they ever tasted which melted my heart!” stated a 2018 volunteer chef. Email Miriam Limov to sign up today! Full volunteer description here.  Peruse last year’s tasty recipe’s for ideas: 2018 Tasting Days Recipe Book.

2018 chicago park school tasting day with bill jensen

Hospitality House, Sierra Harvest team up to nourish, educate homeless residents

hospitality house partnership 2019Hospitality House and Sierra Harvest have partnered to grow their programs together with a goal to increase self-sufficiency and skills for low-income and homeless individuals through nutrition-related endeavors, a news release states.

Sierra Harvest’s mission is to educate, inspire, and connect Nevada County families to fresh, local, seasonal food, and now it will be directly helping homeless individuals at Utah’s Place, the shelter operated by Hospitality House.

As part of the partnership, the release states, Sierra Harvest will help Hospitality House expand its current garden to four seasons to ensure year-round sustainability and availability of fresh, organic produce to guests. They will provide quarterly site visits/workshops for planting with guests in conjunction with each new garden season, lead specialized training courses for Hospitality House’s culinary students, and build gardens at newly housed guests’ homes to reduce their costs of living through the Sierra Gardens program.

Sierra Harvest connected a master gardener, Toni Smith, to give weekly support for the shelter garden as well.

“Thrilled to be working in tandem with Hospitality House to solve some of our most pressing community issues regarding homelessness and hunger,” Aimee Retzler, co-director of Sierra Harvest said in the release. “We are joining forces to leverage Sierra Harvest’s passion to enable fresh food access for everyone and Hospitality House’s ability to provide a space and compassion for our homeless community.

“Working together we give Hospitality House clients opportunities to gain knowledge, skills, self-worth and access to fresh, local, organic food. Our combined efforts will deliver hope, healing and health to those most in need.”

According to the release, Hospitality House works to bring homeless people in Nevada County into a circle of community caring that offers shelter, sustenance, medical care, advocacy, opportunity, dignity, and hope as they assist them in transitioning from homelessness to housing. To aid this transition, Hospitality House encourages its guests to embrace educational opportunities, volunteerism and job-training programs. The shelter currently offers its guests a 12-week culinary job training program and a 6-week retail job training program and will now incorporate Sierra Harvest into its curriculum as an instrumental volunteer and job training program, available and encouraged to every guest at the shelter.

“Food deserts are a serious issue,” said Nancy Baglietto, executive director of Hospitality House. “When low income and homeless individuals have limited access to affordable, nutritious food, their health and livelihood suffers. Because of Sierra Harvest, guests will have an opportunity to develop a better understanding of gardening and the nutritional value associated with produce, in addition to learning best methods for farm-to-table cooking.”

Guests of Utah’s Place will volunteer at Sierra Harvest’s Food Love Farm to learn gardening and farming techniques and give back to their community; guests will learn hands-on carpentry skills by building garden beds for low-income Nevada County residents, including garden beds for former homeless guests of Utah’s Place.

Hospitality House will enroll in the Harvest of the Month program offered through the generosity of BriarPatch Food Co-op to expand culinary students’ education by learning about new farm fresh produce and how to incorporate it into new recipes to learn and master.

Select graduates of the culinary program will even participate in Sierra Harvest’s “Tasting Days” in which a culinary student will give short cooking lessons/demos to kids interested in cooking.

The Best Part of Being an Organic Farm

It’s not every day that you get the opportunity to make someone’s day.  I just told Sandra Higareda of Higareda Family Farm that there is a gorgeous, new photo of her husband, Paco, and her father-in-law up on the wall of the BriarPatch Food Coop.  You should have heard the whoop on the other end of the line!  “We’re on the wall?! Yahooooo!  We made it!” 

I told Sandra the news in the midst of a conversation we were having about why she and Paco decided to certify their farm organic.  If you take a look at the remaining classes in the Sierra Harvest Ag Skills course, it becomes very clear that the farmers who grow our food need to master an enormous skill set.  When there are so many things to accomplish in a day and so many roles to play- from director of marketing to CFO and soil scientist to HR manager –  it is no wonder that many farmers decide not to go through with certification.  Although intimidated by the process, Sandra and Paco decided to certify organic in order to continue and grow their sales to the BriarPatch.  The BriarPatch is committed to being an all organic produce department and, while they give their local growers a lot of leeway, they also push those growers to eventually certify organic.  

Sandra and Paco were inspired by the other growers who they saw selling regularly to the BriarPatch and had taken the leap to becoming certified Organic.  As Sandra puts it, “We realized that [those other local farmers] were just regular people like us.  If they could do it, so could we.”  With the help of Sierra Harvest, Higareda Family Farm earned their Organic certification last season and haven’t looked back! 

When asked what was the best part of being organic, Sandra responded, “It makes us feel that we can offer the hard work of our farm in a way that people recognize and value.  It’s an accomplishment that says a lot about our farm.”  After learning that she was “on the wall” at BriarPatch, she changed her answer slightly, “Being on the wall – that’s the best part of being an organic farm!  I can’t wait to tell Paco, he’s not going to believe it!”

Written by Molly Nakahara
Director, Sierra Harvest Farm Institute

Foothills Fresh Wins Innovation Award from Center for Ecoliteracy

CEL Innovation Award Winner

On June 28, Nevada Joint Union High School District Superintendent Brett McFadden (far right), Nevada City School District interim Superintendent Monica Daugherty (second from right), and Sierra Harvest Co-director Aimee Retzler (far left) accepted an Innovation Award for their collaborative efforts in launching the Foothills Fresh School Lunch program in 2017.

The Foothills Fresh School Lunch Program is a partnership amongst the two school districts and Sierra Harvest to provide a healthy, scratch-cooked meal for K-8th grade students featuring minimal packaging and fresh ingredients. Meals are prepared in the Nevada Union High School kitchen each morning and delivered daily in hotel pans. Since the start of the program, participation in the lunch program at Nevada City School District has doubled and both districts have increased revenue to reinvest in healthy dining options. 

The award was given at the Center for Ecoliteracy’s statewide conference: Cultivating Healthy and Sustainable School Communities. School Districts and agencies from across California gathered in Oakland to learn and share practical innovative strategies for increasing access to healthier food in schools. 

While representatives from Nevada County attended the conference to bring fresh ideas home with them, they were also asked to present on successful school food strategies being implemented in Nevada County. NJUHSD Superintendent Brett McFadden was invited to take part on a panel of unique stakeholders discussing how they support Farm to School in their respective roles. McFadden advised conference participants to stay in it for the long haul.  Changing a national school lunch program isn’t done overnight and for him, nutritious meals are part of a school’s overall strategy to ensure and sustain an effective learning environment for students.

During the Good Food Showcase presented by the Community Alliance for Family Farmers (CAFF), Sierra Harvest Procurement Specialist, Lauren Scott, demonstrated a Tasting Day recipe from the guest chef in schools program that Sierra Harvest has been operating since 2011. Conference participants had the opportunity to create a ‘Taco Tuesday in a Jar’ using a recipe from the 2018 Tasting Week Recipe Book.   It’s the perfect time of year for this type of recipe as we enjoy the bounty of our local farms here in Nevada County.

From zucchini lasagna to purple potato frittata – summer camp is delectable!

food love camp 2019The Food Love Farm has been bustling with activity this July!  Along with the resident bees and butterflies, our summer campers have been busying about – harvesting produce, preparing daily farm-fresh lunches, and getting their hands dirty with farm chores!  Campers arrived at the farm each morning ready to tackle a chore:  picking flower bouquets to decorate our lunch table, collecting eggs and ensuring the chickens had food and water, harvesting herbs and flowers to make sun tea, or emptying the compost bucket of lunch scraps from the previous day.  One group of enthusiastic boys even took on the role of “Team Woodchip Pile,” as they shoveled and moved woodchips into the farm to line the pathways.  At the end of Week 1, campers were almost unanimous in their choice of “Lunch Crew” as the favorite farm activity.  Each camper had an opportunity to harvest produce and prepare lunch for the whole group once during the week.   With a menu that included roasted veggie tacos, zucchini “lasagna,” purple potato and kale frittata, fresh spring rolls, and tamales, we were all able to share in the delicious bounty of the farm and practice invaluable cooking skills!  We certainly had some adventurous eaters at camp this summer!  Of course, we also saved time to read books and write in our field guides under the shade of the hops tipi, make art and crafts with natural materials, and host our annual Summer Camp Farmers Market!  Food Love Farm Summer Camp truly is the tastiest camp in town! 

If you want to experience the magic of the Food Love Farm, stop by our U-Pick on Tuesdays from 4:30 to 6:30, through October! 

food love camp - art shirts 2019
food love camp 2019


Meet Mountain People’s Wine Distributing Inc.

Mountain People's winery logoThere are several stellar local businesses who choose to support Sierra Harvest in a number of ways ranging from sharing in kind products and services to annual donations. Periodically, we highlight these amazing sponsors and the work they do.  We caught up with Laurie and Michael Michel from Mountain People’s Wine Distributing Inc.  to talk about who they are and why they support the work of Sierra Harvest.

Mountain People’s Wine Distributing Inc. is a member of Harvesting our Future Society, which means they have committed to donating to Sierra Harvest for 5 consecutive years based on their pledge. Michael Michel, Owner and Laura Fung, President have chosen to support Sierra Harvest because it is local to Nevada County and shares in their mission of supporting small family farms and organic agriculture. They also believe that bringing education and high-quality organic farm products to our schools is a great investment in the future. 

Mountain Peoples Wine Distributing Inc. has been in business for 25 years this year.  Distributing over 300 Organic and Biodynamic wines both domestic and from around the world, you can purchase their wines locally from Natural Selection, Briar Patch Food Co-op, California Organics, SPD, Watershed, Three Forks, The Onyx and many more restaurants and stores throughout California.  Their main local wine is Chacewater and many of the reds are grown organically off Bitney Springs Road.

In addition to their business support, Laurie Michel has been involved with the gleaning program for 9 years now!  Michel said, “It has morphed and evolved since I first started way back then.  Now with Sierra Harvest managing the program, they have made great improvements in the technology, volunteerism, donation of crops and overall exposure to the public.  I signed up as a harvest leader last year because I wanted to be more involved in harvesting unused crops of fruit and vegetables and therefore reducing food waste.  I also enjoy the fact that we are providing healthy fresh food options to the clients of Interfaith Food Ministry by delivering the harvest to them for distribution to their clients.  It is a win for everyone!  The homeowner or farmer gets their produce picked, we get to be out in the sun doing something fun, and the food doesn’t go to waste!”

When asked about why they choose to continually support Sierra Harvest, Michel said, “In addition to sharing our company’s mission, we support Sierra Harvest because we believe in supporting our community.  Sierra Harvest works hard to bring our community together around the idea of nourishing our bodies and our earth with healthy, locally grown organic foods.”

Pick or Donate Your Fruit: Two Magnificent Ways to Help Your Neighbors

HARVEST local, ripe and delicious fruit and veggies this summer and fall from Nevada County farms and home orchards and donate this fresh, yummy goodness to the Interfaith Food Ministry (IFM) that serves 8,000 clients (including 25% children)!  Sign-up today to be a rock star Gold Country Gleaner and help reduce food waste in Nevada County, feel awesome about helping others and take a wee bit of the produce home too.

All details on the website volunteer pageYou must be a registered volunteer through our new website system to sign-up for the gleans.  There is a handy dandy calendar to view the upcoming gleans available.

Help double our donations this year!  Volunteers picked and donated more than 10,000 pounds in the 2018 gleaning season to IFM.

DONATE your extra fruit to those in need!  It’s super easy…just complete the online form,  and a volunteer Harvest Leader will contact you to set up the perfect day and time for the glean utilizing our team of amazing volunteers.  Minimum of 25 pounds of fruit desired.  Your extra fruit can make a meaningful difference in someone’s life providing better nutrition.

fruit donation to IFM 2018

Farming skills classes for all – backyard and professionals!

Our Ag Skills course has a class for you!  Dive deep into crop planning and learn how to grow successful successions all season long.  Find out how to clean, cool and store crops after harvest for maximum quality and shelf life.  Tractor mechanics?  Permaculture?  Biodynamic  Agriculture?  Farm scale compost?  Seed saving? Wherever your farming interests lie, Ag Skills has a topic that you’ll want to learn more about.  See the entire class schedule and sign-up here.  Take just one or sign up for the entire season.

seed saving 2019

Tania Carlone joins the Board!

Tania Carlone - Sierra Harvest Board 2019Please join us in welcoming Tania Carlone to the Sierra Harvest board!  Tania has a wealth of knowledge and experience in the education, farming and the non-profit world and was an early leader with Live Healthy Nevada County’s Food Nutrition Action Committee (the precursor to Sierra Harvest).  Bringing over 20 years of experience in community organizing, organizational leadership and sustainable food and farm education- we are grateful to have her expertise and guidance as Sierra Harvest continues to grow. 

Her unique blend of skills and experience make her an ideal board member.  Carlone has been working on strategic planning for the organization and is excited to bring her skills into this arena.  She recently moved back to the area and said, “Since being involved in the early days of Live Healthy Nevada County more than 10 years ago, it’s so exciting to come full circle and see how the organization has grown as well as the tremendous impact it has had on the community. It feels great to be a part of that and I hope to help in whatever ways I can.”  Welcome Tania!