Sierra Harvest Agrarian Art Exhibit and Open House

Featured artists
Jude Bischoff                  Karel Hendee
 Ruth Chase                       Lori Lachman
             Kathryn Wronski            Pricilla Alden Roach  
Randy Griffis               Maisie Ganz
Chelsea Weisel                    Anya Tuton and
Sweetland Pottery

 Thursday, December 6th   

Sierra Harvest Office

313 Railroad Ave. Suite 201, Nevada City


The staff at Sierra Harvest is excited to welcome you to our newly renovated and expanded office. We have partnered with Nevada County Arts Council to showcase a gorgeous selection of agrarian-themed, locally made art which will be available for purchase and viewing beginning Dec 6th through Feb 9th when it will move to the Sustainable Food and Farm conference. This is the perfect chance to get holiday gifts for your farmer/foodie friends and family. 

Sierra Harvest staff will prepare seasonal culinary delights. Join us for appetizers, libations, good cheer and lots of conversation. Let’s raise our glasses together to celebrate a robust local food movement that grows stronger every day.

Hear from the Artists and Sierra Harvest from 6:00-6:15pm

Office: 530-265-2343

Our office is next door to the Tri-Counties bank on the corner of Sacramento St. and Railroad Ave. in Nevada City.

800 years of experience to be shared at the Sustainable Food and Farm Conference Feb 7-10th

farm conference field daysSAVE the date in your calendars now. In its 9th year, Sierra Harvest’s Sustainable Food and Farm Conference draws over 600 guests to expand their knowledge, network, and rub shoulders with nationally renowned food producers who share cutting edge techniques and the secrets to their success. 

Whether you are an experience farmer or beginning farmer, or just love good food, this event held at Nevada Union high school Feb 7-10th has something for you.

This year Sierra Harvest has expanded the number of day-long Thursday and Friday “Field Days” which allow participants to get outside, on farms and participate in a more hands on way with what they are learning. These days always sell out early.

Thursday field days will include a choice between an Ag Tech workshop bringing together farmers and techies to innovate for small scale food and livestock production, a Quickbooks for the small farm course and a whole animal butchery workshop.

Friday will offer the choice of a seed saving workshop, a cheesemaking workshop or a farm tour. This year’s tour will visit a cattle ranch, an alpaca farm and spinnery and an olive oil producer.

Other new conference elements this year include an Agrarian Art Exhibit and sale in collaboration with Nevada County Arts Council and a Friday night agricultural film screening in collaboration with the SYRCL Wild and Scenic Film Festival.

We hope you can join us!

“Amazing, awesome, yummy and good tasting.” Tasting Days were a hit!

Williams ranch making tacos in a jarLooking for new ideas for Thanksgiving meals?  Maybe try asking your kids!  As farm to school celebrates 10 years of serving students in Western Nevada County, there’s plenty to be grateful for and lots of seasonal inspiration for eating well.  Last month, Sierra Harvest completed its 8th year doing one of the most well-loved parts of farm to school- “Tasting Days.”

Originally billed as “Tasting Week,” this popular part of Farm to School brought 19 real life chefs into 27 schools over the month of October.  In past years, all of this happened in one crazy week, but this part of the program has grown to serve so many students (nearly 3,000!) that now it’s a whole delicious month.

Students participated in making and tasting so many different seasonal recipes, it’s hard to keep track!  Some favorites were: Tuesday Tacos in a Jar, Beet Relish and Beet Brownies, Fresh Spring Rolls, Tomato Salsa Challenge and Massaged Kale Salad- all starring local produce!

union hill tasting 2018

Veteran Chef Shauna Schultz (who is also a farm to school liaison) demoed at Seven Hills where 5th graders prepared and enjoyed Spaghetti Squash (from Posh Squash) with Cilantro Pesto. 

Schultz, who is also a Registered Dietitian said, “The kids loved making ‘noodles’ from the squash and were quite adventurous with the pesto!  My goal was to inspire kids to eat their veggies in a fun and creative way and overall, I would say it was a success as many kids were excited to make it at home!” 

Her report is spot on.  5th grader Alex said, “Today I learned a lot.  This was my first time trying squash and I am really thankful for this day.  I really hope we get to do this again in 6th, 7th or 8th grade.  Today I am going to ask my dad if we can have squash.”

williams ranch tasting 2018Chef Bill Jensen also got some squash praise, “after students scooped out baked squash, mashed, carefully measured maple syrup and cinnamon, then spread their creations on crackers and enjoyed, one of the first grade students said with a broad smile, “I’m going to ask my mom to make this for my birthday party!”

To get inspired by more Tasting Days goodness (maybe you’ll find your next birthday party menu!), check out this recipe book from past years.

This year, like every year of Tasting Days, would not be possible without the volunteer efforts of each and every one of our amazing chefs!  These generous culinary creators not only connected directly with local farmers to get the freshest seasonal fare to share with Nevada County students, but they also crafted recipes that kids from kindergarten all the way through high school could be involved in preparing in a hands on way.  As one student from Clear Creek School said, “I actually like something that’s healthy for me!”   Now that’s something to be thankful for. 

bill jensen at chicago park school tasting 2018

“Good Food Access is a team effort” – Gleaning Program is run by passionate volunteer leaders

2018 Harvest LeadersIt’s been a busy season for the Gold Country Gleaning Program!  Since August, more than 3,500 pounds of produce has been gleaned by 6 volunteer Harvest Leaders and other volunteers from local farms and 20 private homes that would have otherwise gone to waste.  Through a partnership with the Interfaith Food Ministry (IFM), Sierra Harvest volunteers are able to get this fresh produce into the hands of those who need it most often within a day of being picked!

Watch a short video about a recent glean created and produced by BriarPatch Food Co-op to see a glean in action!

Phil Alonso, the Executive Director of IFM said, “It happened so quickly – we went from talking about it in a meeting exploring this idea to implementing in such a short time. I have been amazed at how quickly, smoothly and efficiently the program has been running over the last couple of months and am excited to keep working with Sierra Harvest.”

This program is led by 6 volunteer “Harvest Leaders” who work with Sierra Harvest to coordinate volunteers and lead them to pick fruit that would otherwise go to waste.   Each leader is enthusiastic in their own way:  Janet Delgado, Tina Hannon, Carolyn and Clif Mackinlay, Laurie Michel and Heidi Zimmerman.

“I really like to see all food get eaten and not go to waste. Gleaning is a fantastic way for us to help the folks in our community who need support with quality food,” stated Heidi Zimmerman.

Other veteran harvest leaders Cliff and Carolyn Mackinlay share similar sentiments about why they love gleaning.  Carolyn said, “It’s physical and earthy, connecting to land, plants and nature- and of course it’s fun!  I notice that people who are volunteering want to really do something- and this is a great opportunity to get in there.  It’s part of how we grow food- a process innate in humanity to want to share that with other people in need.”  Clif and Carolyn were part of the original team that launched the Gold Country Gleaners in 2011 before Sierra Harvest got involved this past August.

Gleaning in Penn Valley 2018 “The Gleaning program functions because of these 6 exceptionally selfless, passionate and enthusiastic volunteers who represent Sierra Harvest with outstanding integrity to all the gleaning volunteers and private homeowners that donate all the fruit,” stated Miriam Limov, Gold Country Gleaning program manager at Sierra Harvest.

And the bounty is being shared! The Interfaith Food Ministry serves 8,000 food insecure clients a month, 25% of which are children.  As this gleaning season begins to slow down, plans are being hatched for how to make it even better next year.

If you would like to get involved with the gleaning program or have an abundance of fruit or veggies to share, check out our website page  for more information. 


Resilience is Fertile: BriarPatch Food Coop awards farmer scholarships to the 39th Annual EcoFarm Conference!

EcofarmFor the third year in a row, The BriarPatch Food Co-op will send farmers to the EcoFarm Conference in Asilomar, Ca.  Each year, hundreds of farmers from across California and beyond, gather at EcoFarm for four, action packed days to attend workshops, tour local farms, network and celebrate ecological agriculture. 

Sierra Harvest’s farm institute administers these scholarships. This year’s lucky farmers are Lynn Archer of Sierra Gourmet Mushrooms, Carmela Higareda of Higareda Family Farm, and Christian Hund of Super Tuber Farm.

Lynn Archer, the owner of Sierra Gourmet Mushrooms, is looking forward to attending the day-long Food Safety Workshop for Produce Growers at EcoFarm.  She is also planning to attend workshops that focus on farm regulations, Organic Certification, and business management.   Moving forward, Lynn hopes “to expand our production so we meet the needs of our local grocers. We want to expand our composting operation and maybe be able to offer compost to our local farmers next spring. We are interested in becoming certified Organic and will try to get that done next year as well.”

Carmela Higareda, an integral part of the team at Higareda Family Farm, is excited to attend the conference and learn more about organic farming and expand her knowledge of healthy soil and a healthy environment.  She hopes to gain information and skills at EcoFarm to support her in “helping my family’s farm grow and improve the quality of our produce.”  Higareda Family Farm specializes in fresh herbs including parsley, cilantro and basil.  You can also find their certified Organic chard and kale at the BriarPatch Food Coop throughout the fall and winter.

Christian Hund has been farming with Super Tuber Farm for the past year.  Super Tuber grows many delicious vegetables on the shelves of the BriarPatch Food Coop produce department, including potatoes, beets, carrots and cabbage.  Christian is looking forward to attending the EcoFarm Conference and gaining more skills to help him be more efficient at vegetable production.   As a beginning farmer, he wants to “widen my horizon in many different topics:  pest control, soil, livestock and production tools.”

 A big thank you to the BriarPatch Food Coop and the National Coop Grocers Association for supporting our local farmers and helping healthy food flourish in Nevada County!



The Beet Goes On – Chef Ike participates in Tasting Days for the 7th year in a row!

Ike Frazee of Ike's Quarter Cafe at Mt. St. Mary's SchoolChef Ike Frazee likes to cook classic foods using whole, local, seasonal ingredients.  And if you’ve ever been to Ike’s Quarter Café in Nevada City, then you know he’s really good at it.  (If you haven’t had the pleasure, what are you waiting for?  Go try it!)

His restaurant’s “sole mission has always been to bring everyone together to eat in a better and tastier way. First, you eat real food, from clean local sources, properly cooked and spiced with love and flavor. Then “Magic in the Belly” happens: when the food is so good it turns into more than just nourishment, it changes your whole attitude from the inside and gives you a new, fresh outlook on life.”

Ike has been bringing this special magic out of his restaurant and into the classroom in Western Nevada County schools as part of Sierra Harvest’s Tasting Days for 7 years now!  Originally billed as “Tasting Week,” this popular part of Farm to School is bringing 19 real life chefs into 29 schools over the month of October.  In past years, all of this happened in one crazy week, but this part of the program has grown to serve so many students (nearly 3,000!) that now it’s a whole delicious month.

Earlier this month, Ike was a guest chef at Mt. St. Mary’s Academy in Grass Valley.  There, he highlighted beets as his secret ingredient for eager students.  When asked about his strategy for getting kids to eat new veggies, Ike replied, “I like to make something really familiar and then sneak in the veggies.”  Using this approach with his demo was a hit.  Ike served hot dogs with a beet pickle relish and beet brownies!

Ike’s demo was a feast of the senses; students got the chance to participate in a hands on way by cutting up cooked beets, and collectively adding an array of spices and vinegar to make the final relish.  The verdict?  According to one 4th grader, “I never knew I liked beets until I tried this relish!” 

You too can relish the experience of adding beets to your life by trying Ike’s easy (kid approved) recipe:

beet relish

Beet Pickle Relish


About 2 cups beets (diced small)

2 cups sugar

1 ½ cups white vinegar

¼ cup chopped fresh dill or 2 tablespoons dried

1 tablespoon dry mustard powder

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon clove


Combine all ingredients into a small pot and bring to a boil. Turn down heat to medium and simmer for about a half an hour. Spoon out a bit to test consistency. It should be firm yet soft to the bite.

Mix it up and add celery or carrots.  Eat on your favorite foods!



Reducing the Food Desert in the Little Town of Washington – One Garden at a Time

Washington students install a new garden - photo by Larry DiminyatzWritten by:  Edy Cassell, Sierra Gardens Program Director and Marisha Finkler, Farm to School Director

Washington School is a two-room schoolhouse in the small community of Washington, located on the banks of the South Fork of the Yuba River north of Nevada City.  Washington was settled during the gold rush and now has a population of 185.  This community has managed to keep their small school open continuously for 100 years, and local residents organize fundraisers every year to keep the school going.  The school currently serves six K-8 students.

Esther Pearcy, the energetic new director and teacher at the school, described Washington as a “food desert”.  There is one small store in town with a limited selection of fresh produce, and not much local food production.  The Sierra Garden at Washington School is changing that.

In addition to the Sierra Garden established at the school, Washington school has joined Sierra Harvests’ Farm to School program.  The Farm to School program is celebrating its 10th anniversary bringing fresh food and farming education to students in Western Nevada County through Harvest of the Month, guest chef classes, farm field trips, school produce carts, farmer-led classroom lessons, plant sales and support for school gardens.

Washington school students now participate in Sierra Harvest’s Harvest of the Month tastings along with 7,600 students around the county who sample a different locally-grown fruit or vegetable each month at their schools.  The students will also have the opportunity to learn about farming at Soil Sisters farm in Nevada City with the program.  Eventually, the school would love to have meals prepared on site using fresh ingredients the students grew themselves.

The Sierra Gardens program met with teacher Esther Pearcy and Calvin Wallace the head of maintenance for the school and scoped out a spot for some garden boxes, and then on Sept 7, our crew of volunteers teamed up with the Washington School students and staff and built four garden boxes, and planted them with fall crops such as cabbage, broccoli, kale, chard and lettuce, carrots and beets and more.building garden beds at Washington school - photo by Larry Diminyatz

“Spending the day at the Washington School was like being part of a big family,” stated Edy Cassell, the Sierra Gardens Program Director.  With 6 students, a teacher and a couple of support staff  you can’t help but have a tight knit group, and our crew really enjoyed being a part of the garden build. Staff and students even prepared lunch for us and we all sat down to eat together while the kids told stories and played some of their favorite music for us. All the kids participated in the garden build, and some even got to try using power tools for the first time.  Now every time they look at their beautiful garden they can say truthfully that they built it, and feel a sense of pride.  Sierra Harvest looks forward to seeing future harvests as we come back on quarterly mentorship visits and hope that this garden will provide fresh food for the students of Washington School far into the future.

The garden at the Washington School is only the beginning. A couple of weeks later Sierra Harvest took a crew back to Washington and built a garden for Calvin head of maintenance and his wife Brenda, whose 11- year old daughter Mariah also attends the school. We are tackling the food desert one garden at a time in the little town of Washington….and hoping that the interest in gardens spreads, because we can’t wait to go back!

Pineapple, Peanut Butter or Tomatoes?  You decide.

Local Ground Cherries kick off Harvest of the Month

The leaves are starting to turn, there’s a crispness to the air…the school year is well underway and farm to school is in full swing.  Now serving 32 schools all over western Nevada County, Sierra Harvest’s farm to school program is entering its 10th school year! 

One of the most popular parts of farm to school is the Harvest of the Month program (and with good reason).  For many years now, students have been trying a diverse array of local, organic and seasonal produce each month in their classroom- and this year is no different!

In fact, the 2018 school year has kicked off with one of the weirdest tastes yet, the ground cherry.  Unfamiliar with ground cherries?  You’re not alone.   

Ground cherries taste different to everyone.  Some people say they taste like nuts, others say pineapple, tomatoes and peanut butter…even Hawaiian pizza!  These seasonal treats are seldom seen in the grocery store, and are a farmer’s market favorite.

Protected in their own little wrappers, these tiny “garden candies” are a perfectly yummy start to the school year.  Local growers Starbright Acres Family Farm and The Posh Squash provided over 18,000 pieces to be sampled throughout the county. 

Ground cherries are not really cherries, but a relative of tomatillos, tomatoes, peppers and potatoes.  They grow on low vining plants that drop their fruit on the ground when ripe (hence the name).

When sourcing enough produce to serve over 7,400 students, it can be difficult to work with smaller growers because of the vast quantity of food required to meet the needs of the program.  Sometimes, it can be thousands of pounds!  Often, Sierra Harvest needs to work with bigger farms to meet the demand for Harvest of the Month.  Not this month though!  Both of the farms that provided ground cherries are small, family operations who work directly with local students in a number of ways.   In fact, both farms are run by women who are also “farm to school liaisons” with Sierra Harvest.  That means, in addition to growing the food, they are the ones working directly with the schools to make sure each student gets a taste test.  Go ladies!

                    Starbright Acres Family Farm

Starbright Acres Family Farm is a certified organic farm run by Ken and Aleta Barrett (with help from their kids, Xea and Sam).  They produce nutritious, delicious, planet-friendly food for our local community and sell directly at the Nevada City Farmer’s market, the Nevada County Certified Growers Markets, and at their farm stand.  They host many school field trips each year as a Sierra Harvest farm partner; where kids love to pet the goats, help with the harvest and see a thriving home scale farm in action!  They separate the dirt and debris from the ground cherries using their own “GC Separator” that our daughter Xea built as her 8th grade STEAM project.

Brianna Abundiz, Posh Squash Farm

The Posh Squash:  If you have kids that have been out to the Food Love Farm, or who go to Scotten or Lyman Gilmore- chances are they know “Farmer Bri.” (aka Brianna Abundiz).  This powerhouse mother of five got into farming 4 years ago and can’t be stopped!  Her energy for sharing her love of farming and food is contagious.  After working with many local farmers, this year she started her own venture at Bluebird Farm where she grows mostly winter squash, pumpkins and ground cherries. You can get your holiday pumpkins from her (and her kids) at the Nevada City farmers market from October through Thanksgiving- a portion of proceeds support the Farm to School Program at Scotten and Lyman Gilmore schools.

Farm Biz registration now open!

Paul Glowaski and Sandra Higareda Family Farm - Organic Intensive Course 2018
                                                 Paul Glowaski and Sandra Higareda Family Farm                                                                                                        Organic Intensive Course 2018

Are you looking for a business planning class designed specifically for farmers?  Take this short quiz to find out if our Farm Biz program is right for you:

  • Are you in your first few years of farming?
  • Do you want to find out how much your farm needs to earn in order to pay you a living wage?
  • Do you need support deciding what to grow next year, how much yield you can expect and what you can earn from your crops?
  • Are you excited to connect with other local farmers while learning business management in a supportive, group setting?

If you answered YES to any of these questions, then Farm Biz is a good match for you!  Learn more about the class and register today!

Here’s what last year’s farmers said about Farm Biz:

“It helps to build a solid foundation for financial planning.”                      

“Great tools for knowing your numbers; really grounded in making your farm pay you.  Great group to learn with and from.”

“It is such a fabulous resource tool to understand how to project efficient crop production and understand marketing.”

“It is great information to have BEFORE starting up a farm business.”

What NRCD Can Do For You!

Farm Day 2017

Article submitted by Sabrina Nicholson, Nevada County Resource Conservation District, District Manager

Does your property seem healthy to you?  Are you worried about wildfire?  (If you live in California you SHOULD be worried about wildfire.)  Would you like to know if your property will accommodate an orchard or small farm enterprise?  Is your pond full of algae and weeds?  Are star thistle or blackberries running rampant through your property?  Need to know what to do with all of that animal manure?  Well, the Nevada County Resource Conservation District (NCRCD) is here to help you with all of those questions and many more.

We offer science-based advice to Nevada and western Sierra County landowners; programs and tools to aid you in the successful management of your property; suggest local seminars for you to attend; offer links to great information; and can provide you with contact information of local professionals because sometimes reading about the solution just isn’t enough – sometimes you need a little help with the work.

Right now our most popular program is the Advisory Visit Program.  It connects you with our consultant (a local expert with 37 years experience in the conservation field) who will visit your property with you and provide personalized advice on the issues you’re encountering.  After your visit, we will mail you a hard-copy summarization of your visit along with detailed documents on the topics you discussed.

We have great planning tools online, like soil surveys, and other information that can help you determine if your property can accommodate your planned uses.  If you need manure or compost for your garden or pasture, or have too much manure and need to get rid of the excess, check-out our Manure Exchange Program!  There you can sign up to give away your excess manure or contact someone who has what you need.  We also have a tool loan program where you can borrow hand tools like a soil sampler, weed wrench, pond rake, and a seed spreader.

We strongly believe in the value of grazing to reduce fire hazard and to promote and maintain plant and wildlife diversity, so we offer a Minimum-Till Drill for rent.  The Min-Till Drill is a 6-foot-wide piece of farm equipment designed to be towed behind a tractor and get into places big drills simply can’t.  Soil disturbance is minimal with this implement that creates a seedbed, applies seed, and firms the seed into the soil all in one pass – saving time and money.  It helps control noxious weeds (such as star thistle), decreases soil erosion, and conserves water for easier plant establishment.

The NCRCD offers seminars and workshops throughout the year on natural resource and conservation topics important to local landowners; sponsors educational events (Nevada County Ag in the Classroom’s Annual Farm Day and CalPac SRM’s Range Camp); and partners with a wide variety of organizations on agriculture and natural resource conservation outreach events (Nevada County Ag Tour).

We’re here to help you with all your land management needs.  For more information check out the website, stop by at 113 Presley Way, Suite 1, Grass Valley or call (530) 272-3417.

The Nevada County Resource Conservation District was founded January 4, 1944 with a mission to promote responsible resource management.  We are a state mandated ‘Special District’ that is neither a regulatory group nor a city/county entity.  We are a “Not-For-Profit” entity, as described under California Public Resources Code – Division Nine and Section 170(c)(1) of the Internal Revenue Code.  We receive a small percentage of revenue from property taxes of Nevada County residents.  The NCRCD is governed by a five-member board of directors who are appointed by the Nevada County Board of Supervisors and made up of local landowners who provide input for local resource management.

NRCD supporting farmers and ranchers with programs