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Like a Good Neighbor – Peaceful Valley is Always There

Edy and Emily - Peaceful Valley seed donations 2019If you are a gardener or organic farmer in Nevada County, chances are you’ve spent some time in Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply!  A source for all things related to organic farming and gardening, this local business has been a core supporter of Sierra Harvest for 4 years now.

Indeed, over the years Peaceful Valley has donated more than $31,000 in kind to the organization as well as provided thousands of dollars in farm conference sponsorships and gifts.

In addition to this support, the talented folks at Peaceful Valley have also produced a number of videos showcasing the work of Sierra Harvest in the community.  Owner Pattie Boudier said, “One of the first videos we made was for the Harvest of the Month program showcasing Persimmons from Pearson Family Orchards.  It was so fun!  I also loved going out to Deer Creek Elementary- watching Yolanda Williges do the pepper tasting was really inspiring.  We have also done videos about the high school salad bars, and tasting week too.” Watch the Tasting Week video.

Sierra Harvest recently received a donation of 2,100 organic seed packets that will be used to teach people how to grow their own food locally through the Sierra Gardens program, in school gardens, and at the Food Love educational farm.  Peaceful Valley enables children and families of all income levels to get access to organic foods that they themselves have cultivated and harvested.

If you haven’t been to www.groworganic.com then you might want to head over, as Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply not only provides great products but also has over 300 how-to videos that have been viewed over 12 million times!

Peaceful Valley is an amazing resource for growers around the country and Sierra Harvest is incredibly grateful for their ongoing support of our mission and vision. 

Thanks to Volunteers, Sponsors, Presenters and Attendees – Conference a Success!

Doniga Markegard speaking at Nevada Union High School

“I always leave feeling optimistic about the future — a high I look forward to every year!”
– Conference Participant

Despite rain, snow, and sleet, the 9th annual Sustainable Food and Farm Conference was a success. Thursday and Friday Field Days offered an assortment of workshop opportunities, as well as a Farm Tour to Apollo Olive Oil, Heart and Soul Alpacas, Grant Marie Winery, and Richard’s Grassfed Beef. Doniga Markegard kicked off the keynote speaker series on Saturday with an inspiring look at her family-run farm and the future of regenerative ranching. Paul Muller and Dru Rivers of Full Belly Farm shared the secrets of their success, and Jeff Lowenfels kept the audience laughing with his unique brand of soil science humor.

The Main Hall was packed for the Farm Expo – which included conference sponsors, Vital Garden Supply, Forever Flowering Greenhouses, Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and many others – and conversation was lively between our vendors and participants. Conference Sponsors, BriarPatch Food Co-op, provided an assortment of snacks and beverages, and Summer Thymes Bakery & Deli served hundreds of locally-sourced lunches. Participants who braved the cold Sunday built their own curriculum from a selection of twenty workshops taught by local and regional experts.

It takes a village to put on an event, and it could not be done without our outstanding volunteers. From mailing flyers, to stuffing bags, to waking up at the crack of dawn to help register folks on Saturday, our volunteers are involved in every aspect of the conference. The Sustainable Food and Farm Conference is truly an event created for the community, by the community.

Putting Local on the Menu

Putting local on the menu attendees - 2019Hosted by Sierra Harvest, BriarPatch Food Co-op, and Three Forks Bakery and Brewing Co, the workshop ‘Putting Local on the Menu’ brought together nearly 70 food service professionals and food producers from throughout Nevada County to talk about building a stronger local food economy.  Area chefs know how challenging it can be to feature local food on their menus and the event was designed to learn how farm direct purchasing can differentiate a business, enhance the local economy and improve marketability.

Presenters included Nevada County Food Policy Council coordinator Stephanie Stevens, owner and head chef of Three Forks Bakery and Brewing Co. Shana Maziarz and Sean Dockery, farmers Kristen Draz and Wil Holland of FogDog farm, ranchers Ciara and Michael Shapiro of AM Ranch, BriarPatch Food Coop produce manager David Benson, and Sierra Harvest procurement specialist Lauren Scott.  

Over a dozen local farms participated in the conversation and Tim VanWagner of First Rain Farm shared, “There’s a lot of good energy around these issues right now. The time is ripe to figure out ways to make and sustain the needed connections between producers, restaurants and caterers; it’s just a matter of identifying the best methods to do so”.

Owners and chefs from fourteen local restaurants, caterers, and institutional food service employees attended including Dre Maher, nutrition director for Nevada City School of the Arts.  ‘My biggest takeaway were how many people showed up, were active listeners, and had enthusiasm for moving the relationship between growers and consumers forward in a way beneficial to all.”

Three Forks Bakery owners - 2019

“People are interested in learning more and figuring out how to do this” said Nevada County Grown’s new Executive Director, Shanin Ybarrondo. What she valued most about the event was that the conversation has started and it emphasizes the importance of the relationships.  Nevada County Grown is poised to support this effort by meeting with individual producers and buyers to understand their needs around promoting their efforts to put local on the menu. 

Producers and buyers had the opportunity to address the barriers of getting local food onto menus and into the hands of residents and visitors alike. Participants shared their challenges as well as their ideas for overcoming those obstacles. Organizers see this event as the first in a series to build a collaborative effort to increase the number of Nevada County eateries serving local produce.

If you would like more information about how to get involved or to support this effort, please contact Lauren Scott, procurement specialist at Lauren@sierraharvest.org or call 530-265-2343.

Farm to School Liaison Profile – Jodi Porter

Jodi Porter - Farm to School Liaison 2018One of Sierra Harvest’s core programs is Farm to School.  Now in its 10th year, this program is at the heart of Sierra Harvest’s work to educate, inspire and connect Nevada County families to fresh, local, seasonal food.  From its humble start renewing the school garden at Hennessey Elementary, the program has since grown to serve 33 schools and 7484 students with a whole suite of activities.

Farm to School is comprised of many elements, including Harvest of the Month tastings, seasonal school garden carts, guest chef visits during “Tasting Days”, experiential farm field trips and hands-on garden education. 

As one can imagine, it’s a lot to coordinate!  Luckily, there are 22 passionate Farm to School liaisons that make this magic happen each school year for our lucky local students.  This dedicated group of people is what makes Farm to School possible. 

From loading their cars with boxes and boxes of fresh fruits and veggies, to counting it out and distributing it to individual classrooms and teachers and helping guest chefs and surveying students- these folks do it all, and it’s not always easy or pretty.

But the result of all this hard work is that thousands of kids of all ages are eating and preparing more fresh fruits and veggies, and knowing what’s in season and who grew it.

We caught up with one of the veteran Farm to School liaisons, Jodi Porter, to learn how she gets kids to fall in love with veggies.  Starting her 4th year as a liaison, Jodi is now responsible for 3 schools: Cottage Hill Elementary, Magnolia Intermediate, and Arete Charter- which means she’s delivering the Farm to School program to 847 students!

Why are you a farm to school liaison?

JP: I have a passion for getting kids to eat healthier and to enjoy veggies.  I love getting kids to try new things!

Tell us about the school garden work you do.

JP:I teach classes in the garden twice a week year round. 

I love to involve them in growing the food.  They do all the maintenance, and are very hands-on in all the aspects of growing.  It’s great when we can finally harvest and eat the end product!

One of my favorite lessons is searching for bugs, the students love it.

How have you seen the program impact the students at your school?

It’s really great to see the students find that they can actually like fruits and vegetables!  They have a lot of fun with it and get excited for the Harvest of Month.

Have you tried any new foods from Farm to School?

Yes, the kumquats and the purple and orange-colored cauliflower.  Yum!

Farm to School director Marisha Finkler is grateful to the liaisons for making the program possible.  “We couldn’t reach over 7000 students without the dedication of all the liaisons.  They work with the teachers and administration to deliver produce, host guest chefs during Tasting days, organize field trips, and make the program a success at their school.  We are also grateful for Briar Patch Food Coop’s generous sponsorship of the Harvest of the Month produce, and the numerous supporters in our community who make the program possible.  It is a collaborative effort, and that’s what allows us to have such a broad impact.”

 

 

Union Hill’s Garden Grows Community

Union Hill farm cart - 2018 - uta reimnitzThe Union Hill School garden has been getting a makeover, and the effects are rippling out into the community.  This fall, Union Hill welcomed a new farm to school liaison- Uta Reimnitz.  Uta and her family moved here 2 years ago, and since then she’s been sharing her enthusiasm for fresh local food by becoming involved in Sierra Harvest’s Farm to School program.  

With a background running the school garden at her son’s preschool, and a degree in environmental studies, Reimnitz has been energizing the school community around the garden, with the help of an encouraging administration and staff.

“Principal Limov has been super supportive!  When we originally spoke about me becoming the Farm to School liaison, he asked me if I had any interest in getting the school garden going again.  After I said yes, he was out there the next afternoon with his own weed whacker getting started!”

The energy around the garden has impacted the school’s garden cart as well.  As part of Farm to School, each school runs its own garden cart stocked with fresh, local produce from the school’s farm partner (in this case Starbright Acres Family Farm), as well as any fresh fruit and veggie donations from the school community at large. 

Union Hill is the largest K-8 school in the area, with over 700 students.  In the past it has been difficult for the cart to provide enough produce to serve everyone, but now the garden is helping to provide some of the extra bounty. 

This year, the 5th grade garden club would go to the garden and help harvest cherry tomatoes at lunchtime for the cart the next day. Additionally, Reimnitz was able to reach out to many grandparents through the school community who had productive gardens and they were able to help stock the cart. 

While a bountiful, intergenerational, donation-based school garden cart may seem too good to be true- that’s exactly what happened.  Grandparents were trading veggies, and kids were coming to school with money specifically for produce.  The cart was selling out in record time.  (All proceeds go back to supporting Farm to School programming at Union Hill School.)

Alas, with the change in weather, the cart is done for this season.  But the garden remains, and its energy is continuing to build.  Reimnitz and her parent volunteers just finished teaching a seed saving lesson, and there are plans to build more raised beds for the garden.  Older students are helping with garden projects as community service.  Reimnitz is preparing lessons so Union Hill teachers and students can take full advantage of this outdoor classroom.  Numerous parents have volunteered to be garden docents and help teach in the garden.  It is truly a community effort thanks to Uta’s leadership. 

To learn more about Sierra Harvest’s Farm to School program, visit www.sierraharvest.org.  If you would like to make a gift to support school garden and orchard programs, please call 530-265-2343 or donate online.

It’s time to take a closer look at your farm or ranch business!

farm crew class 2018You are great at growing things.  You love working outside with your hands in the soil.  And…you are also a small business owner!  While the winter winds are blowing, take the time to build your business management skills and gain the financial understanding you need to earn a living from the land.

Sign up today for FARM BIZ, Sierra Harvest’s business planning course for farmers and ranchers.  Starting in January 2019, gather with fellow farmers in a supportive, collaborative and confidential classroom as we explore how money moves in and out of your business and what it can tell you about the long term health and success of your farm or ranch.

To sign up, and for more information, click here. Attendance at the Sustainable Food and Farm Conference is included in the course.  Class size is limited to 10 so be sure to reserve your spot soon!

For questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with molly@sierraharvest.org.

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

5-7pm

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.