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!

Alan Haight is Helping Farm Biz Grads Succeed

alan, Jo and antonioThere are so many challenges of being a new farmer, it’s hard to even list them all!  As part of Sierra Harvest’s commitment to supporting new farmers, graduates of the Farm Institute’s Farm Biz Program are eligible to be selected for on farm advising by an experienced farmer to help ease some of these challenges.  We can’t change the weather, or the pests, or make sure there’s enough water pressure to irrigate, but we can help farmers create realistic business plans and design for a viable future. 

That’s where retired farmer Alan Haight, known for building Riverhill Farm comes in. A veteran local grower with nearly 20 years of veggie farming under his belt, Haight and his wife Jo McProud recently retired from farming and have successfully worked with FarmLink to help their farm continue to thrive with new farmers at the helm. That is all to say, Alan knows what he’s doing because he’s learned a lot of the lessons the hard way. 

Haight said, “I started my farm without any sense of what it would cost to create or what I could make- that’s not a good basis to start a business but not unusual for farmers.  It was five years before I really started focusing on viability and sustainability beyond my ability to farm.  I wanted to build a farm for the generations with a solid economic footing.”

Through Farm Biz, Haight is providing support to six new farms in the form of two intensive meetings and ongoing monthly check ins.  He works with them on the realities of scaling up, meeting increased demand and even step by step assessment of infrastructure projects to see if they make sense at the farm’s age and stage.  Having been there himself, Haight is an invaluable voice of reason and experience.    

“I’ve made every mistake that a farmer can make.  And ended up with a fairly solid organizational structure with record keeping, budget, evaluation and planning.  It’s this perspective that I want to provide beginning farmers to help move them along this continuum more quickly.  Hopefully, they won’t make my same mistakes.”     

riverhill farm


Share a meal in the most picturesque settings

robinson ranch farm potluck 2018

Meet Nubian goats, Mangalista piglets, observe the ancient art of stone grain milling, and purchase organic produce and meat directly from the farmer and rancher this summer at the Sierra Harvest Farm Potlucks with the first one at First Rain Farm on Thurs., June 20th from 5:30-8PM!  

Share a scrumptious potluck dinner with other community members on breathtaking land while meeting our Nevada County small-scale farmers and ranchers, tour their fields and learn how they produce the best products to nourish us.  Bring your friends and family, a hearty dish to share and don’t forget your appetite too! And did we say, these events are free?

Info for all of the 2019 farm potlucks available here.

farm potluck at food love farm

CalFresh Market Match is Back – better than ever!

upick at food love farm The Department of Social Services is spreading the word about the 2019 CalFresh Market Match that will begin the first week of June!  For our sixth year we continue to partner with Connecting Point – Nevada County 211 to provide our CalFresh recipients with a market match program when they use their EBT dollars at our local famers’ markets.  This year there are three markets participating in the program:

  • Tuesdays ~ The Market at Pine Creek Shopping Center (Raley’s), Freeman Lane, Grass Valley ~ June 4th through September 24th, 8:00 am to 12:00 pm
  • Thursdays ~ The Market in Grass Valley at the corner of South Auburn & Neal Street, Grass Valley ~ June 6th through September 26th, 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm ~ NEW!
  • Saturdays ~ The Nevada City Farmers’ Market, Union Street, Nevada City ~ June 1st through November 23rd, 8:30 am to 1:00 pm. 

This year’s program will offer the same EBT match as last year and provide a huge benefit to our CalFresh customers.  Each household will be eligible to match up to $10 of EBT funds purchased at each and every market throughout the season while funds last.  This means that they could potentially receive up to $30 of free tokens each week!  Last year was a record breaking season providing our customers an additional $12,034 in tokens to help purchase additional food and produce!  This in turn helped our local economy by moving $24,068 of EBT funds to our local farmers.

Customers only need to present their EBT card and ID to participate in the program. Healthy food equals healthier individuals and less hunger in Nevada County! More info about CalFresh here

calfresh logo


Upicks at Food Love start this Tuesday June 4th!

upick at food love farm 2018Finally, summer is just about here and you know what that means!  Get your baskets and bags ready because Upicks at the Food Love Farm (16200 Lake Vera Purdon Rd., Nevada City) are starting up for the season.

Now in its 7th year, this popular weekly event draws visitors every Tuesday for a special harvesting experience. This year the fun will start Tuesday June 4th and will run every week through the end of October.  The Food Love Farm is Sierra Harvest’s educational site devoted to teaching kids and community members about growing and eating fresh, local food.

On Tuesdays from 4:30-6:30PM, the farm opens its gates to the public to share in the bounty that hundreds of local students helped to plant in the spring!  Each week the farm has an abundance of seasonal crops available- starting with late spring favorites such as radishes, lettuce, arugula, snap peas and strawberries which slowly give way to hot weather summer fare like zucchini, eggplant, peppers, onions and tomatoes and basil- finally ending with cool season treats of kales, beets, carrots, pumpkins and winter squash.  Additionally, the farm has lots of gorgeous cut flowers to make your own bouquets!  If you’re ready to have your family eat more fresh, healthy, food this year-make it your new Tuesday tradition.       

It’s a lovely family outing for people of all ages- there’s no minimum amount to purchase and it’s free to walk around, pet the chickens, make a wish in the magic tipi, nibble on new foods and enjoy being out in the garden together.  There’s even a big beautiful picnic table if you want to bring dinner and eat alfresco!  They say kids are more likely to eat food that they’ve planted or harvested.  Put this to the test at Upick this summer; you’ll be glad you did.

The Food Love Farm hosts Upicks every Tuesday from June 4th to October 29th.  To find out what’s on the menu this week, follow Sierra Harvest on Facebook.  Bring your own baskets and bags and come connect with your family and your dinner!  Make it part of your routine for a healthy summer and fall.  For more information, contact

volunteer Damien at upick at Food Love Farm