Q & A with John Tecklin, Mountain Bounty Farm founder
Special to The Union
Here is a transcript of a question and answer session between Mountain Bounty Farm founder John Tecklin and freelance writer Laura Petersen:
Q: What sets Mountain Bounty apart from other local farms (ex: longest operating CSA farm, first CSA farm in Nevada County, largest CSA farm operation in Nevada County?)
A: Mountain Bounty was the first CSA in Nevada County and is now the longest running CSA. We are also the largest vegetable producer in Nevada County. But one of the most unique and valuable features of Mountain Bounty is our desire to work towards enjoyable and sustainable human economies as well as agricultural sustainability. Mountain Bounty is run by a team of 8 farmers along with 5 seasonal interns. This collaborative management style is unique among the local small organic farms.
Q: How have you grown from that first year (ex: number of acres, number of staff/ interns, number of CSA members, pounds of produce harvested, diversity of crops grown, etc.)
A: We started on about 3/4 of an acre and served 48 CSA members. Over the years, we have grown slowly to our current 16-18 cultivated acres and 700 members. I think slow growth has helped us grow carefully, which has hopefully helped our successes “stick.”
Q: How long has Mountain Bounty used the CSA model? Why is it a good fit for you? for the consumer?
A: I started farming full time in 1995, two years before founding Mountain Bounty, and from the beginning I was most drawn to the CSA model. I clearly remember hearing about and loving the CSA idea long before I got interested in farming. I like that it challenges our dominant capitalist system from within. CSA, by creating a partnership between producers and consumers, sidesteps the market and breaks down some of the ways in which our labor and produce are commodified. With the CSA, when we grow carrots, instead of having to compete with giant organic farms from the central valley or Mexico — which is what happens when we enter the marketplace, we can instead create a different kind of relationship, where the carrots (and all the love we put into them) are not broken down into a few pennies. With the CSA, we trust that the members will support us, and they trust that we will do our best possible job to give them the best possible food.
I think CSA is a great fit for the consumer because it is an opportunity to make a direct connection with a farm. In this era of so much marketing and hype, CSA offers people a chance to connect to something real. Its also means, of course, a lot of good fresh food.
Q: Why does Mountain Bounty offer a winter CSA? How long has the farm offered that? Why?
A: Our winter CSA shares started in 2002. In the early years of the farm, CSA members would lament to me that they dreaded the end of the season when they would have to go back to shopping for their produce. That got me thinking and I approached some friends who farm down in valley where winter production is more practical. It’s been great to offer year round produce through that partnership. Now we deliver CSA boxes for 50 weeks of the year, with Mountain Bounty producing 24-26 of those weeks, depending on the season.
Q: In your 19 years of farming locally, what are the biggest lessons? Biggest challenges?
A: I’ve learned a lot about persistence, about how long it takes to do things, and how long it takes (at least for me!) to learn to do them well. I have learned that working together with others, it’s amazing what we can achieve.
Farming is inherently challenging, which is probably what makes me keep coming back for more. There is so much need for creativity in dealing with the weather and the many other complexities of farming. I have really enjoyed the process of learning how to farm and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to do this work.
The drought and limited access to farmland have been some of the biggest challenges we have faced.
Q: What needs to happen for local food systems/ economies to be sustainable?
A: For local food systems to become more sustainable, everyone needs to build a stronger commitment to supporting local producers, cooking from scratch, and eating just a little bit outside their comfort zone. This may sound simple, but I am amazed by how many people I meet who still don’t really get seasonal eating, or who buy packaged convenience foods.
I am very gratified by the changes I have seen in recent years, but clearly we still have a long way to go.
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