Picks of the season: Local food choices abound this winter
Special to The Union
When winter storms hit the Sierra foothills and farmers markets shut down for the season in Nevada County, finding sources of food grown locally can feel like a challenge.
But with a little extra effort to seek them out, local food lovers will find a number of regional farmers and ranchers who continue to offer fresh vegetables, fruits and meat throughout the bleakest months.
“It can get pretty limited in the dead of winter, but the farms are doing more and more,” said BriarPatch Co-op marketing manager Stephanie Mandel.
Last week’s snow put an end to an extended warm harvest season for many area farmers. A hardy lot, farmers with cool season crops in the ground now brace themselves for moody conditions in the months ahead.
“Winter is very tricky. Very unpredictable,” said BriarPatch produce buyer Cia Harden.
Every year, the natural foods market works with area farmers to plan crops that will meet a growing customer demand. In the last few years, Harden has seen a dramatic increase in the number of local farmers providing produce to the co-op.
“They are learning as they go. I think our success rate will get better and better,” Harden said.
Often, the newest farmers provide food during the less competitive seasons: spring, fall and winter. Harden sees an opportunity for winter farming to become a profitable niche for the right farmer.
While many customers want local and make a point to spend their dollars accordingly, it’s a fine balance finding a price that will keep customers happy and farmers viable.
Right now, citrus is going strong despite some hard hits to valley farms with recent cold spells. Look for Meyer lemons, the last of the Satsuma mandarins fading into blood oranges in January.
“We’ll be getting things like loose beets, bok choy and loose carrots,” Harden said.
The last of the winter squash from Riverhill Farm and Indian Springs Organic Farm can still be found. Greens such as chard and dino kale will be coming from Filaki Farms in Oregon House and Nevada City’s Sunrock Farm will provide Napa cabbage. Higareda Family Farm of Browns Valley offers green onions and curly parsley.
Smit Ranch farmers of Linden make regular pickup truck deliveries of apples — Fuji and the favorite — pink ladies. http:// smitorchards.com/our-farm/index.html
Bevitori Garden of Smartsville will have sun chokes. The vegetables with a mild, rooty flavor similar to Jerusalem artichokes are best soaked in water and a little lemon juice prior to eating raw or cooked, Harden suggests.
French fingerlings and blue potatoes are available from Super Tuber. The Weimar Institute has three kinds of sweet potato: Jewel, Hana and Japanese.
“With the nutrient-dense method of growing, our sweet potatoes have a higher sugar content with outstanding flavor. We also have beets,” said farm manager Darren Greenfield.
A number of local ranchers offer pork, chicken, turkey, beef and lamb through the holidays and winter months. Family Friendly Farms has grass-fed beef, pasture-raised pork, low sodium bacon and sausage and grass-fed lamb. Customers can choose individual cuts or discounted bulk orders at 530-268-1937, email@example.com.
“We are harvesting lambs for Christmas and through the winter,” said Gay Columbel of The James Ranch.
Patty Bielen of Back to Basics sells eggs and chicken through the winter months. Besides direct from the farm sales, eggs are available at BriarPatch and SPD in Nevada City and chickens are available at BriarPatch and SPD, in Grass Valley and Nevada City. Call 530-432-3306 to learn more.
Nevada County free range beef will have standing rib roasts available for the holidays. They can be reserved at the BriarPatch meat department or at SPD in Grass Valley.
Wanderin Star Ranch in Penn Valley will have free-range Christmas turkeys up to 33 pounds at $5 a pound. Call Chuck for more details: 530-416-2083.
Just down the hill, Dinner Bell Farm of Chicago Park will sell heritage chickens at the Foothill Farmers Market in Auburn through January and possibly into February depending on how supplies last. People can also schedule an appointment to come out to the farm and buy direct: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dan Macon of Flying Mule Farm will also be at the Auburn market selling mutton and lamb.
Starbright Acres will open its farmstand through the winter with salad mix and radishes, dried hot peppers and garlic and beets. Farmers Ken and Aleta Barrett will have a winter produce email list to notify customers of any harvest. Contact them at email@example.com.
Folks can still sign up for Mountain Bounty Farm’s winter CSA, a weekly box filled with fresh produce all winter long. Learn more at: http://mountainbounty farm.com/ or contact Mountain Bounty’s CSA manager Kathy Dotson at 530-292-3776 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In his first year commercially farming, Greg Novotny of Mount Pleasant Farm in Lincoln has been making CSA deliveries to Grass Valley since May. To learn more visit: http://www.mount pleasantfarmfresh.com.
“It is our first year, but we have crops because of our lower elevation and bright sunny exposure,” Novotny said.
Contact freelance writer Laura Brown at email@example.com or 530-913-3067.
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